Young Actors, Brave Activists

By Annie Sears

Who are we? What do we believe in? And how will we stand up for those beliefs?

These are big questions best explored through a big medium—a medium like theater. Our 2018–19 Fellows' cohort believes that theater is powerful because it’s not passive. Theater engages the full person: physical, emotional, intellectual, and relational. Theater is entertainment, and it's also immersive education, which is why we partnered with Bay Area nonprofit 826 Valencia to explore these big questions through theater.

A student from 826 Valencia performs his written work at the 826 Valencia Tenderloin Center. Photo by Bill Poole.

826 Valencia is dedicated to supporting under-resourced students with their creative and expository writing skills through individualized attention. They kindly invited us to lead two workshops on writing and self-advocacy for 24 of their sixth-grade students, working on becoming actors and activists.

Students first identified their core values. Then, they created poems speaking their truths, detailing ways they’d previously stood up for those truths, and imagining ways they can stand up in the future.

"I believe in the freedom of speech because everyone has a voice and wants to be heard. I speak up for people when they might be getting criticized by others."—Lizeth Mendoza

"I believe a writer should change people's opinions to their own because they need people to side with them."—Khrizel Gail Flores

These students not only wrote their declarations. They declared them. They practiced acting techniques—articulation, projection, emphasis, connecting with the audience—through theater games before putting them to good use by performing for one another. Four of these brave students also declared their beliefs as a prologue for our sold-out production of The Revolutionists by Bay Area playwright Lauren Gunderson.

"I believe there should be justice and freedom for everyone because everyone deserves to be happy."—Helen Cisneros

"I believe that rice is very delicious because you can eat it with multiple things and it's tasty. I can make people try it. If they don't like it alone, I can give them pork fried rice, beef fried rice, seafood fried rice, or chicken fried rice."—Kyle Amandy

We can’t wait to see what kind of change these articulate, powerful young people spark in their communities.

Want to get involved with 826 Valencia? Click here to learn how you too can get involved in your community. And click here to learn more about A.C.T.’s Fellowship Program.

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