Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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STREATS: Starring D.C.’s homeless

“No smoking on the set! No smoking on the set!” yelled director Greg Wragg in McPherson Square Park Saturday morning. It’s a tough gig for a young director, especially when your actors are homeless.

Wragg is the creator of STREATS TV, a television series about the District’s homeless. The program was developed earlier this fall and now regularly airs on public channels. It stars the homeless, but the intended audience does not live on the street.

“We’re trying to . get you to think about things you do naturally and what does that look from a homeless person’s perspective,” Wragg said.

On Saturday, Wragg moved quickly around the set trying to inspire emotion in his actors – who have sparse experience.

“Martin, I need more emotion from you,” Wragg said to a homeless actor during a scene about meeting women. “These guys are all over your woman. And you just got this woman. And these guys are vultures!”

One past episode is called “Gotta Go,” and deals with the struggle of bathrooms for the homeless.

He tries to develop a script, but Wragg said the best material comes when the actors become comfortable. During one scene where they began speaking naturally, Wragg sent in new characters to improvise new conversations.

“Like we usually do, it’s an accident,” Wragg told his crew after a good scene. “You guys were on point with the lines. When I threw people at you, you were okay with that.”

Wragg tries to make the show both comical and serious, focusing on the everyday tasks that are extremely difficult for the homeless.

When he first proposed his idea to Street Sense, a homeless-produced monthly newspaper, he was laughed at.

“They thought he was nutty and fruity a little because he was gung ho about bringing light to the homeless, and normally these people don’t follow through,” said Brenda Lee-Wilson, a formerly homeless volunteer with STREATS TV.

Wragg returned within the month providing all necessary information and went ahead to fund six homeless people to go through intensive training with DCTV, a nonprofit public access station in the District.

The show is not an exactly replica of homeless life, Wragg said.

“(W)e don’t do it as harsh as they’re living it,” Wragg said. “When you see the individuals actually doing this they’ve had time to get up and shower, it’s a whole different look then the homeless would actually have.”

Brenda Lee-Wilson, one of the original six people involved, said the show has taught her a lot.

“I’d like this to be the beginning of television shows across the world,” Lee-Wilson. “Because I know that no matter what comes my way, with what career I may have, this will always be a part of my life in some capacity.”

Ralph Dantley, an actor in the program who used to be homeless, said it has inspired him to get involved in filmmaking.

“It’s opened up another area of exposure,” Dantley said. “It’s inspired me to get more involved in film work, to film a documentary. It would be about people in general and the whole thing could be ‘can you handle being homeless,’ a public perspective.”

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