The Backlot Theatre
While it had been ages since we had been in contact with Gabriel, when Krishen and Davin asked if we knew a good hair stylist we knew who to call. While, yes, Mike was still cutting hair in the area … we also were informed of a theatre production going on that evening. So…
Melissa, Joe, Patricia, and myself got to enjoy an excellent performance by the students of Richard Milburn Academy. Under the direction of theatre instructor Gabriel Ortiz, musical director Kregg Edwards, and set designer (school security officer) Ernest Lovely, the eleven students put forth an incredible performance on inner city life, “Beats on the Streets of Life of Death” (read the review by the Bradenton Herald).
Starting with a collection of poems written by the students themselves, the play slowly took form as the poetry was melded into the voice of the “hip-hop” generation. Discussing topics such as drugs, shootings, pregnancy, jail, death, and war … we slowly began to see some of the dynamics facing teens here in the states. Things that are only seen in the major cities back home are even prevalent in the small towns of the US.
Melissa put it best as she stated that while growing up she discussed and spoke about the topics of teen pregnancy (before and after) but those issues seemed so small when compared to wondering if your brother, sister, mother, and (if your lucky enough to have one) father is going to make it home that night.
The topics were real, the actors were real, and the director (and teacher) himself pulled himself out of the inner streets of L.A., so this play carries a lot of impact. It was one of the best theatre pieces I have seen in a long time. Speaks to the time, the place, and the culture … what theatre is all about.
Congrats goes out to all the high-school students, and we all wish you the best of luck as you undertake the next challenge in life.