Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The transformative power of theater.

Last night I returned to Pomona after being out of town for a week.  One word was at the foreground of my thoughts last night, "TRANSFORMATION."  So much had transformed while I was away and so much has transformed over the course of this rehearsal process.  Last night I saw our beautiful set which all of a sudden has created the "world" of this classroom and placed us in East Los Angeles.  The set creates the juxtaposition between the beautiful backdrop of the Los Angeles skyline with the ugly realities faced by the students of Garfield High School.  I saw the actors in their costumes and makeup for the first time - suddenly they weren't the young college students I've been working with for the last month but had been transformed into their characters - young and old.

This play is about transformation.  It is about a group of young kids who are transformed by their teacher, Jaime Escalante - transformed from kids who are in gangs and don't want to listen to kids who successfully pass the AP Calculus exam and know they can go on to do great things with their lives.  I have also seen the power of theater to transform the students who are in this show.  I have seen young, shy students who we could barely hear when we began rehearsing transform into the loudest actors we have on stage.  I have seen confidence grow in those who, for various reasons, may feel socially outcast.  So for those that think theater and the arts don't matter I would say that if someone can find themselves through the process of creating art and think that they deserve to take up space on a stage and deserve to have their voices heard loud and clear - that is no small accomplishment.  And if building someone's self confidence keeps them from being self destructive or harming others then actually what we are doing with art is saving lives - just like Jaime Escalante saved lives with math.

It is an honor to get to see the transformations that have taken place with this production and with the students participating in the show.  I am very proud of this project and look forward to seeing the show.

Adam, Rosy and November rehearsing a scene.

Punk rocker Hunter!