Student’s reenact East Los Angeles walkout

By Erik Luna

Imagine a day when Chicanos and Chicanas had little to no help in school, and were neglected at school.

In East Los Angeles circa 1968, the racial climate had reached its highest point as Chicanos and Chicanas were being treated unfairly by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Bathrooms were off limits during lunchtime, the schools’ curriculum was biased and Latinos were being led to a life of hard labor instead of college.

That is the topic of Through the Ages’s new play written by students of Monterey High School, Garfield High School’s neighboring continuation school.

Through the Ages is one of many educational programs created by About… Productions.

The play entitled “2011 Meets 1968” is based on the interviews the participating students had with artist Ofelia Esparza, educator Paula Crisostomo and journalist Luis Torres. All three interviewees participated in the 1968 walks outs of East Los Angeles.

The classroom had been empty, yet in a couple of minutes a bell rang and eager students sat down to await further instructions and continue working on their scripts.

Six students had been working hard on these scripts writing and editing all of them by themselves with a little help from Through the Ages mentors.

Marco Rodriguez, who has been with Through the Ages for three years, encouraged the students to make corrections when they felt they needed to and was on hand to help anyone out with any problems they had.

Some of the students sat down, and started working right away, stopping only for the occasional question from Alison De La Cruz, Administrative Director of About… Productions.

“We hope the audience gets inspired by the stories they [the interviewees] told us,” said student Eneida Ortega.

“I’m proud that I’m doing something like this, it’s opening my eyes to the possibilities I can have,” said Michelle Sanchez.

Once students and mentors got situated in their seats, the place transformed from a normal high school classroom to what looked like a professional Hollywood table read. While the table read was happening, both mentors and students made changes to the script as they read along.

Rose Portillo, program director and founder of the youth educational program Young Theaterworks, and professional actress, lead the class in a reading of their scripts.

Once Portillo began reading their words with much vigor, it made the students of the class want to participate.

Along with Portillo was Laurel Ollstein, Program Director for Stages, an educational program that brings senior citizens and playwrights together so they can tell their stories.

They co-teach Through the Ages.

Tomas Benitez was another mentor that helped students Jorge Leal and Virginia Garcia perfect their script dealing with Ofelia Esparza’s struggles in the LAUSD school system.

“Tomas helped us a lot, but we had to write the whole script.

“We also corrected it by ourselves as well. He put some input and helped us out with the facts, but the rest was us,” said Leal, one of the young playwrights.

One of the oldest students, Benjamin Villarreal, wrote one of the funnier plays which deals with Luis Torres explaining what was going on in the world, and talking to Christopher Columbus.

There will be a performance on tomorrow at 7 p.m. The play is free admission and it will take place at Plaza De La Raza’s Margo Albert Theater, 3540 N. Mission Rd. Los Angeles, CA 90031.


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