Soon playwright Michael John Garcés will be writing a work about school justice and zero tolerance, using material gathered during a series of “story circles” taking place this week with students, parents, teachers and school administrators in Kern County, California. Garcés is artistic director for Cornerstone Theater Company in L.A.
Meanwhile, something similar is taking place in Maricopa County, Arizona — where Xanthia Walker and José Zárate have been doing story circle work with 11 youth participating in a teen playwriting camp who’ll do a staged reading of their own original play as part of this year’s Hormel New Works Festival at Phoenix Theatre.
Walker and Zárate first met through Cornerstone Theater Company, a “multi-ethnic, ensemble-based theater company” with a 25-year history. Zárate plans to return to California, eager to pitch three spec scripts already under his belt and look for a television writing gig. Walker is co-founder, along with Sarah Sullivan, of Rising Youth Theatre – established just last year in Phoenix.
Zárate’s play titled “Some Are Begining,” was produced by Rising Youth Theatre in April. It’s based on interviews with Phoenix youth, who also participated in the playwriting process. Rising Youth Theatre performs at Phoenix Center for the Arts, and plans to produce two works with a “families” theme during its 2012-13 season.
Cornerstone Theater Company and The California Endowment are presenting “Talk It Out: A Community Conversation to Fix School Discipline” later this month in collaboration with the Black Parallel School Board. It’s a free workshop in “grassroots community building & theater-making” for Sacramento community organizers and local leaders.
Tomorrow’s “Teen Playwriting Camp Showcase” at Phoenix Theatre features the premiere of a work called “Here I Am,” which is designed to help people think in new ways about the issue of bullying. “The kids felt very strongly after we did our story circle,” recalls Zárate, “that most of the media focuses on victims.”
They wanted to explore bullying from the bully’s perspective — looking at how and why bullying happens. Even the “power structures at schools” warrant a closer look, according to these young playwrights, whose work will be presented Fri, July 20 at 4:30pm on the Phoenix Theatre Mainstage. Zarate notes that it’s about 50-55 minutes long.
Zárate is a third year MFA candidate in dramatic writing at ASU’s School of Theatre and Film in Tempe. He’s a fellow with the Latino Writers Lab, managing director for Teatro Bravo and one of five resident artists with Rising Youth Theatre. He’s written plays for “four or five years” and says the key to playwriting is “being true to the characters” rather than “writing stereotypes.”
Tonight festival ticket holders can see another Zárate project come to life, as the Hormel New Works Festival presents the first performance of his play titled “Smugglers” — which imagines a little girl’s peril amidst warring drug cartels along the Mexico-United States border.
“Smugglers” is directed by Pasha Yamotahari, whose own “I Am Van Gogh” comes to the Phoenix Theatre Little Theatre Sat, July 21 at 2pm for a “2nd draft reading” that’s free and open to both festival-goers and the public. “Smugglers” will be performed three times in coming days.
Note: Watch for “Bullying — 10 Who Took a Stand” in the August issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine
Coming up: Dye job meets doggy auditions, Exploring careers in the arts