Students and police officers get the chance to air their beefs about their lives, their jobs and their attitudes toward one another in an evening of original drama.

Art at Work, a national initiative piloted by the city of Portland to improve government through art, presents “Forest City Times” from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Dec. 9 at Rines Auditorium in Portland Public Library.

The program includes two original plays, “The Weeping City,” a youth play by Portland high school students exploring their relationship with police; and “Radio Calls,” a play by Portland police officers about their lives and work and their interactions with Portland youth.

The evening also includes a talk-back session.

Marty Pottenger, director of Art at Work, teamed with students and police to develop the shows. She hopes the project leads to better communication, less tension and improved relations between cops and children.

The idea of using art as a means for effective government is the root motivation of Art at Work. The program fosters creativity and individual expression by involving city employees in art-making processes.

The participation of the police is an extension of the popular poetry-and-calendar project on which Pottenger has partnered with police for two years. She and Portland Police Chief James Craig discussed other projects to do with the police. Out of that discussion came “Radio Calls.”

Pottenger developed the play from interviews, ride-alongs and workshops that she conducted with police.

“The police performers get the chance to communicate in a theatrical play what their job is like and what’s on their mind,” Pottenger said. “It shows them as human beings away from work and as officers. The play allows them to be both.”

In addition to the Dec. 9 performance at the library, both plays will be presented at Portland high schools.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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