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.
Going over and over one script, day in and day out, rewrite after rewrite, you can lose sight of what the whole storytelling process is about. I was on the verge of that with this project — I’d gone through so many drafts, worked with the East Palo Alto storytelling students and their thoughts for so long, I was beginning to see this piece as a bunch of jumbled letters on the page. It was all blending together.
But the last two days brought me back down to earth: yesterday, the final draft was solidified and we did our last read through with the class. The same complaints about “no happy ending” still popped up, but other than that, the students seemed good to go.
Cue the actors: five great actors from the Bay Area came with us to class and read the script to the students today. It validated their words and stories to a degree that none of the EPA students expected. I was impressed by the actors, with their ability to take the characters and stories to a higher level than we had discussed them in class. Everything I had been promising the students finally came to life before their eyes.
Not only that, but the actors commended the students’ work, asked them questions, connected to them in both English and Spanish, abolishing any thoughts in the room that what we were all doing was silly or pointless. On the contrary: at the end of it, we all ate cookies and cake, had an open dialogue about the play, and even applauded at the end.
Two days until the final performance of The Roof Tops of East Palo Alto.