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Inside Out Community Arts brings theater to middle schools with a touch of real life

by Kevin Ferguson | Off-Ramp®

Dana Middle School students rehearsing for a play coordinated by Inside Out Community Arts Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

On Saturday, May 19, middle schoolers from all over the South Bay will go on stage at Lawndale's Centinela Valley Center of the Arts for a very different kind of school play. Students write, design and act out real-life situations dealing with suicide, rape drug use, domestic violence, and more.

It's all part of a free after school program called Inside Out. Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson went to Dana Middle School in Hawthorne to talk with some of the students and organizers involved with Inside Out.

Varina Bleil, Executive Director of Education for Inside Out Community Arts
"Inside-Out Community Arts provides free after school arts education with disadvantaged youth all over Los Angeles County. We got to the schools after schools working with multidiscipline arts education. Primarily we focus on theatre arts but our approach is different we don't necessarily go in and take a play like 'Our Town' or Shakespeare, we really spend the first half of our program doing a lot of team building, education. Then half way through we stop and we ask the kids to vote on a theme of something thats going on in their life or their community or their families thats important to them, and in that group they come to a unanimous decision, then they spend the next 6 weeks building a play that expresses their thoughts and ideas and opinions on that theme."

Eli Bedford, 7th grader
"I play the character Chris Williams and he is bullied at school and he is also bullied at his dance studio where he wants to become a professional dancer, and his mother is a drug addict and he wants to get support from his mother and brother but they keep shunning him away telling him he's no good so he feels the need to run away and do bad things like suicide. When i knew I was signing into this I was like ' oh, ok.' They said that I have talent because I did another play during the school and so far I like it."

Jaemarie Tabuada, 8th grader
"I have two characters. I am both a bully and a street performer. I play guitar, violin, drums and a iI sing. For the bully I have to basically bully the main characters and for the street performers I am going to be performing a song and hanging out with some of the druggies on the street. I first got introduced the program when my teacher called me in during class to watch an introductory meeting. I found out that I really liked acting so I kept going with the program and now i'm here. This is my first play."

Desire Mitchell, 8th grader
"It makes you show your emotions in a way you can't do by just talking. In this play it really talks about how people do things, like they have tv show like 'Glee' and all these other shows where they spread truth might be a little bit off, like here at Dana we have kids who have been hit by cars and lived and still go here. To us its kind of like we need to be ready for this kind of stuff because we need to be learn different things. We have people here who have been raped, and this play is kind of saying, 'hey, look, we can be raped, we can be beaten, we can do all these things but we're still going to stand tall and be strong.' Hopefully they help we don't want to put anybody down, ya know."

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