Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dialogue/Diálogos: Storytellers Become Theatre Creators

Santa Ana residents participate in theatre workshop
Participants Maria Elena (quoted in article) & Desirée at Puppetry Workshop
Latino Health Access teaching artist Moisés Vázquez (center)
Santa Ana community artists & Diálogos participant Chilo (left)
Santa Ana residents sharing their stories
Playwright José Cruz González (2nd from Rt)
Santa Ana residents sharing their stories
Sometimes all it takes is a little invite to put great things into motion.

South Coast Repertory put out a special invitation: come share your stories. In response, more than 700 Latino residents of Santa Ana responded, and shared their stories of life and families in the community. Those stories are now helping create a community-inspired play through the Dialogue/Diálogos project.

“The story-sharing sessions felt like we were in the middle of a planned get-together with the family,” recalls Sylvia Blush, an SCR teaching artist. Blush listened as four different families, representing multiple generations, sat across from each other and told their shared stories of life in Santa Ana.

The two-year bilingual project is a community-based theatre initiative that so far has gathered stories from Santa Ana residents, presented play-making and play-development workshops, and now is set to bring back to residents the first draft of a play inspired by their stories. For many, the experience has been their first with theatre. The final play will be produced in fall 2014. The project is a partnership with Latino Health Access (LHA), with funding from The James Irvine Foundation.

José Cruz González is the Diálogos playwright-in-residence.

“We’re grateful to the Santa Ana residents for giving us the gift of their stories, passion and talent through Diálogos workshops,” he says.

“I am loving and enjoying [Diálogos],” says Maria Elena. “I am putting a lot of concepts into practice in my relationships, work and life in general. I have been learning how to
communicate more efficiently, how to accept and love myself and embrace the gifts that I have. It has brought the loud, dramatic, playful Maria Elena hidden inside my shell.”

González has long been a champion of SCR’s commitment to working with new voices in the Latino community, which includes the nearly two-decade long Hispanic Playwrights Project, which he led. That annual festival of new works helped create and nurture original plays written by Latina/o playwrights and provided
professional theatre development opportunities to many writers, launching the career of theatre artists including Octavio Solis, Karen Zacarías, Luis Alfaro and Anne García-Romero among others.

Lifelong Santa Ana resident Sara Guerrero has seen growth through the years in the Latino community’s role in theatre. In the 1980s, her mother took her to watch the careers of Latina/o playwrights blossom during SCR’s annual Hispanic Playwrights Festival. It had a profound impact on young Guerrero; today she is a playwright, actor, producer, founding artistic director of the only Southern California Latina theatre company Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble, a longtime faculty member of SCR’s Youth Conservatory, and Dialogue/Diálogos’ engagement director.

SCR and LHA have worked tirelessly to engage and excite the community about Dialogue/Diálogos. America Bracho, LHA’s chief executive officer, says she “believes that health is a state of physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being. We welcome SCR in this process to share the power of performing arts and make our communities healthier places.”

Marcela is a mother of four whose involvement in the Diálogos storytelling and theatre workshop sessions inspired her children to participate.

“At first, Marcela’s children were more interested in their electronic devices,” recalls Sara Guerrero. “And, as the minutes passed, each would put away whatever they were doing and like their mom they would take part in the workshop. Santa Ana residents from all generations and various walks of life show up not knowing what to expect, and soon fall in love with their involvement in the creation of a play about their community. As we’ve collected written and verbal responses from the community, ‘[we want] more’ has been the overwhelming response.”

In April, SCR and LHA will present a series of staged readings of the new play throughout the city of Santa Ana. The readings will be hosted by numerous project partners, including Santa Ana College, Latino Health Access, Bowers Museum, Orange County School of the Arts, and KidWorks.

Connie, a Santa Ana resident, is not only looking forward to the reading of the first draft of the play she contributed to, but also the production. She shared her stories a year ago, responding to a Dialogue Days flyer that a volunteer for the project left on her doorstep. 

“I'm so happy I took part in the beautiful ritual of story-sharing with my Santa Ana community,” says Connie. Now she looks forward to participating in the final culmination of the Diálogos production in the fall, in the hopes that “Santa Ana continues benefitting from more community-focused theatre in years to come.”

Find out the reading dates and times online:

View videos from Dialogue/Diálogos project.

No comments:

Post a Comment