East Palo Alto Storytelling, Part 12

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.

Class 12:

Just because a class becomes smaller does not necessarily mean it becomes easier. With only eight students in class and two teachers, one would think that teaching would be a breeze. One would be wrong and the breeze would knock him or her flat on their face.

Two of my favorite students were having trouble focusing during the warm-up exercise. One of them just meandered around the room while the other took every chance he could to chime in with some wisecrack. While I tried to get the wandering student to sit down, my co-teacher had to kick the disruptive student out. Right as she said it, the wandering student bolted from the class, grabbing the hall pass vest, and B-lined it for the courtyard.

I took the disruptive student down to the principle’s office, seeing the wandering student on a bench. I told him he’d better be back in class by the time I dropped off the other kid at the principle’s office. He wasn’t. He was trying to walk away with a buddy, but I caught up with him.

He told me I didn’t understand what he was going through, how he could care less about my class, and that something was weighing on his mind. I asked if he could help me understand, or at the very least, allow me to provide him an hour a day where he could either not worry about such matters or vent them on paper. It felt stupid to pull a Cuba Gooding Jr. on this kid, but I had to say it: “help me help you.”

We made a gentleman’s agreement. He could have five chill out minutes on the bench outside the class room, but only if I sat on the other side of the bench. We could talk or not, but at the end of five minutes we’d go back in to read the new draft of our play. He agreed and kept his word. The rest of the class period was actually productive, with our troubled, lost student participating as well as he does during most classes.

Though this was not written today, it’s one of the best things he’s produced so far in the class and I think show promise of a future storyteller with a lot to say:

As Zeus gave birth to Athena, Izel gave birth to Bullet through his head.

The legend of Bullet.

My pops, Izel, got shot in his butt one night. Seriously, right in his butt.

That bullet didn’t stop, yo. Traveled up his leg, through his spinal cord, and planted itself in his brain…where it grew.

One day, his head exploded and his son fell out. He named his pointy head son Bullet. He ran as fast as a bullet. I’m him.