Jake Arky is the co-founder of So Say We All. At the time that this article was published, he is completing a playwriting residency with TheatreWorks, Silicon Valley. The Young Playwrights Project involves writing new, original works for the stage and teaching performance/writing classes in local high schools.
Today felt like going back to those corny white-teacher-comes-to-intercity-schools-to-teach-minority-youth movies. It started out wild and crazy, with me running five minutes late and everyone wanting to know why I could be tardy but they get chewed out for it. It ended with us all on the same vibe, laughing and having fun.
Knowing that it was the end of the week and the hardest day of said week, a relaxation exercise was going to be the first order of business. However, lacking a co-teacher, it was harder than I thought. Cell phones were out, people were skeptical about getting on the floor, and even telling students they could nap was met with a screw-face stare.
But, always trying to evolve with the class, today was going to be about embracing the chaos. Thus, I gave them a fight scene to complete.
(Lights up on a parking lot in East Palo Alto, California. One group of girls is off one one side, talking with GABRIELLA, 17. Another group approaches, lead by SANDRA, 18).
SANDRA: Hey Gabby — ! Get over here. I got somethin’ to say to you…
GABRIELLA: Well say what you gotta say over here, unless you afraid.
S: You told the police that my brother was the one who stole your family’s car, but he didn’t. You lied!
G: I don’t care. He deserved it. What’s it to you?
S: He’s in prison…
From there, it was up to them to complete the scene. Again, I was met with resistance, even though we talked about this topic at length as something they wanted to write about. Things started to pick up when I took what little they had written, announced the author’s name, and read the characters out loud.
Everyone got a big kick of white-boy teacher talking the slang of two young Latina girls — in case you aren’t up on your inspirational teacher movies, this is the part where Hilary Swank starts dancing to hip-hop — but guess what? It got them to write more. They wanted to see their teacher make a fool of himself, which is fine by me, if not a daily occurrence in my book.
Here are some anonymous excepts from some of the work from this session at East Palo Alto:
S: So you’re saying that he didn’t?
G: Are you deaf? Yeah, I said that.
A police car goes to where Gabriella was standing. A POLICE gets out.
P.D.: Gabriella Sanchez?
G: Yeah…wait, don’t tell me. her brother already got stabbed or maybe the judge told him how many years he’d have to be there or…
P.D.: No, you are under arrest. You lied to the police and put an innocent in jail.
The police take Gabriella in the car and take her away.
S: I had this little mic that the police gave me so they could hear what I was saying to her and what she was saying, too. So they heard the truth come out and take her.
G: What, I didn’t know. Who else could of stole the car then?
S: I don’t know, maybe one of your friends that are very immature.
G: But your brother was always telling me he hate me and that I was gonna pay him back somehow…
S: I just know he would not have done that to you, because he likes you.
G: What!?! Why are you lying. He’s always rude to me!
S: He always talks about you. He just hates that you kick it with the guys from school.
G: Well, I want to believe you, but I still not sure. I think he stole my fam’s ride.
G: Look, you rip, don’t make me mop on yo shit you dum retarded ass broad!!
S: Shut up, you won’t do nothing! My brother is going to serve 10 years for your dum family!
G: You know what bitch! (POMP!!!!)
S: Fuckin’ bitch!
She blows a whistle and a pair of NINJAS come out.
S: I want you to kill her (shows the ninjas a picture of Gabriella). Go to her house and kill her.
NINJA: Yes, master.
S: That bitch don’t got nothing on me! YOU AIN’T GOT NOTHING ON ME MUTHA FUCKA (evil laughter)