Everyone has a story and everyone’s story deserves telling. Alex Luu conducts workshops with young adults that guide their planning, structuring, and telling their stories to an audience in an evening of theatrical expression.
Stories emerge raw and in the vernacular the students live daily. It's a no-holds-barred world and the writers let loose.
A girl stands in the dark, glamour images projected behind her show a pretty, fit beauty. She screams words she hears when she dresses like the pictures, “Whore!” “Can it be any lower?”
Another girl projects birthday portraits remembering each year’s gifts and parties. Absent always was her one perfect gift, the presence of her father. Other children’s autobiographies express the same single-parented pain.
One boy wants to be a musician but hears his mother’s angry voice that he’s wasting his. Another boy listens to his soccer ball's consejos and taunts in a funny, imaginative piece.
A lot of the students speak of abandonment, loneliness, powerlessness, helplessness, and others of their dreams, plans, visions of a happier future.
Teenagers have the worst and best of two worlds, childhood and adulthood. The impacts of their parenting simmer and accumulate until the children reach their teens and young adulthood. Now the consequences of those experiences, and their influence upon decisions, will reverberate far into their adult future. It’s the divergence of two roads and there’s no going back.
There is in creative non-fiction. Luu coaches his performers to fantasize. Several presentations engage scenes where the kid's persona works up the gumption to tell off an overbearing adult. Spirits soaring, the speaker turns to the audience and admits “I didn’t really say that but I wish I had.” And presto, they have. It’s a South El Monte story and this is why you tell them.
Bringing mostly bad experiences, and how the person feels about them, to life can bring a person to a skidding halt, a good thing if matters are running on inertia, or have taken a bumpy path.
Writing about a situation becomes a way of handling and making sense of one's daily storms. For numerous exigencies, expression offers the sole means of gaining control over a problem.
After the performance--they ran three nights--the standing room only audience keeps their seats for a Q&A. Most questions wonder how the students worked up the confidence to share such intimacy with strangers, publicly. A couple answer they started out withdrawn but opened up and forged community with their workshop peers. Being of the group loosened them up in private and it was easy progression to public expression.
A questioner says she's with drama students from another high school. These students have learned from South El Monte and leave encouraged to tell their own stories. The South El Monte Storytellers brim enchanted that their voice has found listeners outside the confines of their South El Monte universe. This is, after all, why one speaks.
Audience packs the house
Taking a Bow