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East LA Youth Theater Speaks Out on Public School Issues

East LA Youth Bring Today’s Hot Button Issues to Adaptation of a 17th Century Play

Fuente Ovejuna: The Legend of Lauren Lopez: young performers reinterpret a masterwork from Spain’s Golden Age to address the future of Los Angeles’ public schools.

Ripped from the headlines: diminishing arts funding, and conflicts between public and charter schools are among the topical issues explored in the play.

Inspired by such recent historic sources as the East LA Student Walk-Out of 1968, protest music, and the feminist movement, students reinterpret a timeless saga of triumph over oppression.

April 8, Valencia, CA—For its 23rd annual production, the acclaimed CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP)/Plaza de la Raza Theater program transposes  Fuente Ovejuna, a 17th Century play by Félix Arturo Lope de Vega, to a fictional High School in East Los Angeles. To create this contemporary adaptation titled Fuente Ovejuna: The Legend of Lauren Lopez, playwright Francisco Garcia worked with CAP students to bring their voices and experiences to Lope de Vega’s story of a village’s collective action in the face of injustice.

Performances: Plaza de la Raza’s Margo Albert Theater on May 3, 4, 10 and 11 at 7:30 pm, and May 4 at 2 pm; on May 24 and 25 at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) at 7:30 pm.

Glenna Avila, Wallis Annenberg Creative Director of the CalArts Community Arts Partnership, commented, “CAP’s theater productions take on the big topical issues. This is not conventional children’s theater, it is a collaboration between the young performers in our theater program and the playwright. The teenage students also collaborate with the choreographer and music director to create original dances and songs.  Because the students are full participants in the work they present, the plays produced in the program reflect the real concerns and real voices of young people today. ”

To develop the script, students tackled issues that impact their lives—dramatizing the loss of arts funding in their schools, the need for equitable public education and the rise of charter schools. Just as the villagers in the original work acted collectively to assert their rights, the students of the current play’s Cordoba High School must protest to retain their theater program and negotiate between the conflicting interests of the Mayor’s Office and charter school advocates.   

Original music and dance propel the story of heroine Lauren Lopez and her quest to save the arts at Cordoba High School. A cast of 40 students collaborated with composer Cody Henderson to create lyrics for original songs that bring a contemporary pop gloss to songs inspired by classic works of protest music.  Students collaborated on all aspects of the production—participating in the decision making processes of the director, and set and costume designers.

CAP/Plaza de la Raza Theater Program provides high school and middle school students with instruction in all areas of theater arts—and every year, for the last 23 years, a guest playwright has worked with the students to create an original work of theater. Students work with CalArts’ theater students, director B.J. Dodge, and choreographer and CalArts School of Theater faculty member Marvin Tunney to realize an original production.

CAP is a co-curricular program of California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), an acclaimed Los Angeles-area arts institution offering undergraduate and graduate programs in the visual, media, literary and performing arts. As one of the two original CAP partners, Plaza de la Raza is a vital example of the effectiveness of public/private educational partnerships.

Calendar Editors Please Note:
What: Fuente Ovejuna: The Legend of Lauren Lopez, CAP/Plaza de la Raza Theater Program Spring Performance; Playwright: Francisco Garcia, Choreographer: Marvin Tunney, Director: B.J. Dodge.

When: Plaza de la Raza’s Margo Albert Theater on May 3, 4, 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. on May 4; on May 24 and 25 at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Plaza de la Raza, 3540 N. Mission Road, Los Angeles, CA 90031; REDCAT Theater, 631 West 2nd St., Los Angeles, CA, 90012

Cost: Free. Reservations are strongly advised. Call Plaza de la Raza at 323.223.2475. Call REDCAT's box office at 213.237.2800.

CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP) The CAP program involves youth between the ages of 10 and 18 at 52 sites throughout LA County—employing some 60 CalArts faculty members, and nearly 300 student instructors to deliver free instruction in fine art, photography, printmaking, graphic design, digital media, animation, video, jazz, world music, chamber music, theater, dance, and creative writing. Educating more than 7,500 youths each year, the CAP program has received numerous accolades—including the John Anson Ford Human Relations Award from the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations in 2008, the Ovation Award for Community Outreach from the Los Angeles Stage Alliance in 2006, and in 2004, the Coming Up Taller Award—a national recognition of outstanding community arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America's young people, providing the youth learning opportunities and chances to contribute to their communities.

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) CalArts 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) in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Last edited by sgoforth on Apr 11, 2013
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