Press Releases

Teen Theater Explores Undocumented Youth Entering U.S.

Students in CalArts Community Arts Partnership’s (CAP) Theater Program Originate a Phantasmagoric Tale Contrasting the Lives of Young People in “UsLandia” and “The Rest of the World.”

U. S. Border Patrol estimates 39,000 unaccompanied children to cross southern border this year.

Valencia, CA, April 3—Teen participants in CalArts Community Arts Partnership’s (CAP) Theater Program at Plaza de la Raza respond to the recent influx of unaccompanied Central American youth entering the United States with a premiere work of theater. Titled UAC ETA TBD, aka “Undocumented Alien Children, Estimated Time of Arrival, To Be Determined,” the play launches CAP’s 25th anniversary year and the 25th production of the CAP/Plaza Theater Program. CAP is a co-curricular program of California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). 

UAC ETA TBD runs from May 1st through 9th at Plaza de la Raza and at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater) on May 22 and 23.  See complete calendar listing below.  

According to the Los Angeles Times, the U. S. Border Patrol is “on pace to catch about 39,000 unaccompanied children and about 53,000 family members on the southern border this fiscal year.” CAP/Plaza theater students worked with guest playwright Nancy de los Santos to originate a phantasmagoric tale contrasting the lives of young people in “UsLandia” and “The Rest of the World.” The characters of Destiny, Fate and Free Will intervene, and the Wheel of Fortune spins, as the young protagonists make their hazardous journey northwards. UAC ETA TBD features original choreography and five new songs composed by Airborne Toxic Event co-founder and CalArts alumnus Noah Harmon.

To create this ripped-from-the-headlines production, de los Santos worked with the program’s middle and high school students to develop the script. She conducted writing sessions and visualization exercises with CAP/Plaza students to explore ideas of home, safety and travel. They wrote in response to such questions as “what is your perfect home?” “what is your safe place?” “what would you put in your backpack?” Additionally, theater program participants learned research and interview techniques, interviewing sources who had crossed illegally into the U.S. as children. De los Santos crafted the students’ material into UAC ETA TBD.

For the play’s expressionistic atmosphere, de los Santos drew inspiration from the stark landscape of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and the epic musical journey of Berthold Brecht’sMother Courage and her Children. Other influences include the politics and heart of Luis Valdez’ actos, and Shakespeare’s gender bending heroines—fictional precursors to present-day girls who make the dangerous trip north dressed as boys, and to the character of Lizbeth in UAC ETA TBD.

CAP offers free, after-school and school-based arts programs for youth ages 6-18 at 40 sites throughout Los Angeles County. Glenna Avila, Wallis Annenberg Creative Director of CAP commented, “Our theater productions take on the big topical issues. This is not conventional children’s theater, it is a collaboration between young performers in our theater program and the playwright. 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.”

Noah Harmon, who recently left Airborne Toxic Event, was a CAP instructor at Plaza de la Raza while attending CalArts as a student. Coming full circle, he has returned to Plaza to compose songs with lyrics drawn from material students developed during writing sessions, and to work with the students on their musical performances.

CAP/Plaza de la Raza Theater Program provides high school and middle school students with instruction in all areas of theater arts. Each year, for the last 25 years, students collaborate with highly regarded theater professionals to create an original production. This year, CAP’s teen participants are working with CalArts’ theater students, director B.J. Dodge, and choreographer and former CAP student Mayra Ponceto to realize an original production.

Calendar Editors Please Note:

UAC ETA TBD, aka “Undocumented Alien Children, Estimated Time of Arrival, To Be Determined,”
The 25th Anniversary production of the annual CalArts Community Arts Partnership’s (CAP) Theater Program/Plaza de la Raza play


Plaza de la Raza:
Friday, May 1 7:30 pm
Saturday, May 2 2:00 pm
Saturday, May 2 7:30 pm
Friday, May 8 7:30 pm
Saturday, May 9 7:30 pm

Friday, May 22 7:30 pm
Saturday, May 23 7:30 pm

All performances are FREE.
Reservations are strongly recommended.

Plaza de la Raza: (323) 223-2475
REDCAT: (213) 237-2800

Plaza de la Raza, 3540 N Mission Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90031
REDCAT, 631 W 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012