For 25 years, California Institute of the Arts’ Community Arts Partnership, or CAP as it’s known, has provided public schools and community arts groups with arts education programs.
Since the start of the program, CalArts has partnered with Plaza de la Raza in East L.A. to put on a yearly theater production.
“What we do each year is work with a well-known playwright who comes and meets with the students, and together they write an original work of art,” says Glenna Avila, CAP’s creative director.
This year, that playwright is Nancy de los Santos-Reza. According to her, many of the students she’s worked with aren’t getting any arts education elsewhere.
“Probably 90 percent of them don’t have arts available to them,” De los Santos-Reza says. “And even if they did, that’s not what’s being stressed in their curriculum or even at home— it’s not there.”
Not your typical youth theater program, CAP and Plaza de la Raza’s productions tackle topics many would deem as too complex for young writers and performers.
This year’s show, titled "UAC ETA TBD," aka "Unaccompanied Alien Child, Estimated Time of Arrival, To Be Determined," considers the current youth migration crisis by pulling facts straight from the news.
De los Santos-Reza says several of her students had experienced immigration hardships within their own families. “Two of the people we interviewed in fact were parents of some of the kids who are in the program,” she says. “Which was very brave and very wonderful for them to tell us about their ordeal.”
B.J. Dodge has directed the CAP/Plaza de la Raza shows for more than two decades now and she's mentored countless students over the years. “I see talent that grows, I see talent that they didn’t know they had,” Dodge says.
For Dodge, one of those talents was Sayda Trujillo. Twenty-four years ago, Trujillo was a student in the Community Arts Partnership program. She went on to graduate from CalArts and has now come full circle as an instructor. Trujillo still remembers her first time working with B.J. Dodge.
“I had only been in the country for four years,” Trujillo says. “And I didn’t speak English well. She said, 'do whatever you want to do, and you can do it in Spanish.' So I sang a song in Spanish. I just felt seen by her and understood, even though we didn’t speak the same language.”
Trujillo has traveled the world as an actress, student and arts educator. But she still sees her days at the Plaza as indispensable.
“This is not common. This doesn’t happen,” Trujillo says. “You know, people make plays with kids and it’s something else. I feel that the training I got here was real. It changed my life and I know people say that about a lot of things, but it really changed my life.”
"UAC ETA TBD," aka "Unaccompanied Alien Child, Estimated Time of Arrival, To Be Determined" will be at Plaza de la Raza:
Friday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m.