East Palo Alto Storytelling, Part 9

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 9:

The class saw the first draft of their project today, the one I had arranged using their work (most of them featured in the SSWA blog) and making them into a cohesive piece of theatre. It was received with mixed reactions, especially after one girl threatened to kill another girl after school and got everyone rowdy.

I was not in my top form today, coming down with a bout of food poisoning the night before and spending the majority of my morning in Urgent Care getting rehydrated with an IV and making sure the pain in my stomach was dwelling. Needless to say, I was up for no smart-aleck remarks and for the most part, my wish came true.

Two girls really got into the play, making suggestions about what to do in terms of structure and where some monologues should go compared to others. The way it is written now, we set the scene with East Palo Alto and who’s who — as So Say We All friend Gill Sotu would say, “bob-bob-bob our heads to the stereo types” — before looking deeper at what makes EPA such a unique place to grow up in.

If there was a demographic that did not invest themselves in the play, it was the boys in the class. I sat between a hyperactive kid who kept flicking a lighter and my other student with a propensity for drawing Swastikas. They couldn’t pay attention to any of it, never understanding that you don’t say the name of the character before you read the lines, or that you had to follow along for the entire reading. The hyperactive one was upset because I used a lot of his stuff, truly good writing, while the other one was mad because I used none of his (surprise, surprise).

For the most part, I know what they want to have come from the production. After dashing the idea about the show centering around the theme of “trust no one”, we all agreed that the final product should be about change in East Palo Alto will only come by changing yourself first. Not bad, for first time storytellers who are in way over their head.