East Palo Alto Storytelling, Part 8

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 8:

Thursdays are not the day for storytelling in East Palo Alto.

Much like last Thursday, the EPA storytellers were bouncing off the walls. Attitudes were long and strong while tempers were short and loud. It’s hard to focus on your play about having dinner with a historical figure, dead or living, when you are tossing around a condom filled with air, texting for an hour straight, and actively ignoring the instructors. Such is Thursdays.

Something about the fourth day in the work week is throwing off the flow of the EPA class. We went to the well today and for the most part it was dry. To be honest, this was a hard prompt and I knew it was going to be when I came up with it — honestly, the best answer I’ve ever heard is Wolfgang Puck. Still, I thought they’d be up to the challenge.

Prompt #8 -- Dinner with a historical figure.

(Lights up on a restaurant. Dinner time. YOU, a journalist, are sitting down to a meal with your FAVORITE PERSON from history. They can be famous, personal, dead, or alive. You are asking him or her questions while you eat, finding out more about their life, etc.)

YOU: Thank you so much for having dinner with me, __________________.

HISTORICAL PERSON: You are very welcome. It’s an absolute pleasure.

Y: My first question is how is your meal tonight and what are you eating?

To say that the image of Obama opened Pandora’s Box would be a colossal understatement. It was as if the universe had collapsed upon itself and everyone had an opinion on it. “He’s a liar” “Black man can’t be President! Give it back to the white people, at least they know how to get shit done!” “He said he wasn’t gonna send troops to the border and then he did!” Of course, only one of them actually wrote down what they thought. Perhaps a picture of our last Commander in Chief would have ignited more love?

Here is one anonymous except from some of the work from this session at East Palo Alto:

A conversation with President Barack Obama…

Y:…isn’t it good to eat and have a house…and a family?

BO: Yes it is —

Y: Think about those people you promised to help. Think about their families and also think about the children that are gonna end up as orphans because of you because you haven’t helped them like you said you would.

OB: I’m trying to, but there’s a lot of processes and the congress has to approve them and they don’t want to do it and —

Y: The truth is that you don’t care about that. Just remember that if it weren’t because of Latino people you wouldn’t be the President. They helped you and voted for you. They put all their hopes and dreams on you and…and you let them down.

OB: Yes. I know I had a let a lot of people down, but I’m doing my best.

Y: If you were doing your best I think that the things that are happening wouldn’t be happening. Before I believed in you, but now I see the truth. You lied so we could vote for you. You should be ashamed of yourself and I’m glad there’s people that are trying to kill you and I hope some day they make it, for what you did to us. You shouldn’t be what you are or have what you have. You suck! Oh, and if they don’t make it, God will punish you. Because if the man can’t then God will.