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The Purpose ProjecT: Thao’s Library



Written and Performed by Elizabeth Van Meter

Directed by Joe Ricci

October 2012


Elizabeth is coping with a life-altering tragedy that has left her feeling hopeless, until one day she comes upon a photograph of Thao, a 25 year old Vietnamese woman born with life-threatening birth defects as a result of Agent Orange. Thao appears to have almost no legs and is sitting in her wheelchair outside of her family’s storage structure which houses pig feed, fertilizer and books. Despite her crippling physical deformities, Thao has created a library for the children of her village from found and donated materials. When the photographer who captured the image of Thao asks her, “If you could have anything in the world what would it be?”, Thao replies, “Three hundred dollars, so I can buy more books for the library.”


Elizabeth is haunted by the photograph along with Thao’s simple request and commits to fulfilling her humble wish. Armed with a suitcase filled with books exceeding Thao’s three hundred dollar request and searching for a way to reach Thao, with no phone number, email, or address, Elizabeth and Thao soon find themselves face to face in Trung Lap Thuong Commune, outside of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Elizabeth discovers a village where children who are first generation readers rush to explore the written word at Thao’s small library. There, too, is Thao’s family whose love outshines the poverty surrounding them. Through Thao’s simple request, these two unlikely friends have been brought together, forging a bond that eventually will change both of their lives forever.


Developed in part at AFOfest 2011 in the New Works Series, this piece returned to the All For One Theater Festival in 2012 as a brand new full-length production.



Photographs by Stephen Katz

Video by Elizabeth Van Meter, Stephen Katz, Chris Tyree and Kyle McKeveny



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ELIZABETH VAN METER (Performer/Playwright) is a documentary filmmaker, producer, actor. She directed and produced 40 short films for Gorgeous Entertainment documenting the lives of Japanese Americans living in NYC along with Japanese culture in the United States. Those films were screened at a major cultural event in the United States, Japan Day@Central Park 2009/2010/2011 for audiences of over 50,000 people. Ms. Van Meter was selected as a 5 x 5 emerging filmmaker for VisionFest 2010 and her short film DAVID screened at Tribeca Cinemas closing night of the festival. She also served as associate producer on the rock musical Deep Cover debuting at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. As an actress, selected theater credits include: The Dinner Party (Lincoln Center Institute), 10 Billionth Baby (9Thirty Theater), The Infliction of Cruelty (NY Fringe Festival Winner). Selected Film: The Institution, Three Women, Particles of Truth, Deep Six, Passing Stones (IFC, Domani Vision Best Actress Award Winner). Her voice can be heard in several popular video games and her face has been seen on billboards and ads throughout the US. She recently returned from Peru as director/cinematographer of a campaign to raise funds for a future health clinic to serve the Q’ero people living in remote areas of the Andes Mountains. Ms. Van Meter is in postproduction for her first feature length documentary, The Purpose Project: Thao’s Library. She is a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts.


JOE RICCI (Director) is directing two shows in this year’s AFO Festival as he continues his love affair with directing the solo form. Most recently, Joe directed The Panic Diaries, written and performed by four-time National Monologue Slam Champion Katie Northlich. This multi-character tour-de-force was presented at the Cherry Lane as part of the NYC Fringe Festival, where it received rave reviews and was named best solo show of the Fringe by Mateo Moreno. Excerpts, called Pieces of Panic, were presented at last year’s All for One Festival at Theatre 80 St. Marks. Prior to that, he directed the solo show Hardware Dreams at Theatre for the New City. Filled with music and dance, it follows a young woman from modern day New York to her childhood in Santurce, Puerto Rico. His love affair with the solo form started when he directed the solo dance show Dining Alone, performed by Tricia Brouk. It was a collection of solos that she had performed throughout her career. As an actor, he recently made his Broadway debut as Mike in the hit A View from the Bridge starring Live Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson. And he hopes to be returning this fall in Empire. He can also be seen monthly as the writer and Co-host for Vintage Variety at the Triad theatre.

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