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L.A. Students Confront Border Issues in World Premiere Drama

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Community Arts Partnership (CAP) presents behind barbed wire at Plaza de la Raza and REDCAT

Valencia, CA, April 27, 2009--Young people, collaborating with playwright Virginia Grise, blend personal experience with historical accounts to create behind barbed wire. A hard-hitting exploration of issues surrounding immigration in America, this original theatrical production receives its world premiere at Plaza de la Raza on May 1, 2009. This is the 19th annual production from CalArts Community Arts Partnership's (CAP) acclaimed theater program at Plaza de la Raza in East Los Angeles. Performances continue at Plaza de la Raza through May 9, with additional performances at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) located in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex on May 23 and 24.

Nearly 50 teenaged actors and writers worked together to develop the material Grise crafted into behind barbed wire. "Young people have powerful stories to tell us and are often ignored," said Grise.  "The students' words create a collage of personal and family stories--histories of immigration, deportation, incarceration and protest. They share their visions of the future. Speaking in a chorus and as individuals, the interwoven stories become a kind of music."

Beginning in fall 2008, students embarked on a collaborative process in which they combined their own stories with a larger political and historical context. Events such as the mass deportation of Mexicans during the Great Depression and the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII are woven together with accounts of boycotts led by farm workers in the 1970s, as well as the mass immigration rights marches of the present era.

During the creation of behind barbed wire, CAP/Plaza Theater students traveled south of San Diego, to a spot where divided families meet to communicate through the U.S./Mexico border fence. There, the students experienced the human face of today's immigration debate. For example, 15-year-old Alejandra Suayde observed a young couple talking to an older woman on the Mexican side of the fence. "The girl's fingers were holding on to the lady's fingers through the fence. They wanted to hold hands but they couldn't," said Suayde. The students took such observations back to the theater space at Plaza de la Raza and applied them to the writing and theater exercises that created behind barbed wire.

behind barbed wire
is staged by CAP Theater Program director B.J. Dodge and CalArts School of Theater movement instructor Marvin Tunney, with original music by composer Alexandro Hernandez. It is the 19th production created by CAP students in collaboration with distinguished theater artists. Previous productions have dealt with the Spanish conquest of the Americas, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and with the impact of the war in Iraq on U.S. soldiers and their families.

behind barbed wire will open May 1 at 7:30 pm at the Margo Albert Theater at Plaza de la Raza. The performances will continue at Plaza de la Raza on May 2 and 8 at 7:30 p.m., and again on May 9 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Additional performances will be presented at REDCAT on May 23-24 at 7:30 p.m.

Admission is free, but reservations are strongly recommended. Reservations for shows at Plaza de la Raza can be made by calling 323.223.2475. Reservations for REDCAT may be made online at www.redcat.org; via the REDCAT box office located at the corner of 2nd and Hope Streets; or by calling 213.237.2800.

Virginia Grise is a Chicana cultural worker, installation artist, writer and teacher who has facilitated organizing efforts among women, immigrants and the incarcerated, and among working class, Chicano and queer youth. An MFA student in the Writing for Performance program at California Institute of the Arts, Grise also teaches theater and writing classes to high school and junior high school students in the Eastside of Los Angeles through the CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP).

CAP provides participating youth with challenging learning environments for artistic experimentation and creates access to higher education. Approaching its 20th anniversary, this nationally recognized program is unique in its field. The employment of CalArts faculty and students as CAP instructors--and the location of classes in the neighborhoods it serves--set CAP apart from other community arts programs. Mirroring the disciplines taught at CalArts, CAP offers training in jazz, printmaking, photography, digital media, video, drawing, animation, dance, theater, puppetry, writing, chamber music, global music and graphic design. The program offers more than 40 in-depth arts programs free-of-charge for elementary, middle and high school students and annually engages 5,000 students while another 10,000 participate in short-term workshops.

CAP has received numerous awards, including:
The 2008 John Anson Ford Human Relations Award from the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations
The 2006 Ovation Award for Community Outreach from the Los Angeles Stage Alliance
The 2004 Coming Up Taller Award for outstanding community arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America's young people (a national award)

California Institute of the Arts is recognized internationally as a leading laboratory for the visual, performing, media and literary arts. Housing six schools--Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater--CalArts educates professional artists in an intensive learning environment founded on art-making excellence, creative experimentation, cross-pollination among diverse artistic disciplines, and a broad context of social and cultural understanding. CalArts also operates the Roy and Edna Disney/ CalArts Theater (REDCAT) located in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Last edited by Smith on Aug 25, 2010
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