Rising Spirits for Latinx Students

Screenshot from "Juntos y Unidos" written by Brenda Zapata and performed by Lucy Valero (South Coast Repertory/YouTube)

Creative Connections creates a platform for Santa Ana High School students to tell their stories

By Jezebel Ramirez-Robles

The collaborative project, “Rising Spirits: First Draft,” brings together UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts Creative Connections program with student-run Brown Bag Theatre Company (BBTC) and Santa Ana High School (SAHS) to give Latinx students a platform to show off their creativity and voices. Along with BBTC and Creative Connections is South Coast Repertory’s (SCR) commUNITY, a new digital platform, which features “Rising Spirits” on their YouTube channel through April 30, 2021.

The Student-Run Project 

“Rising Spirits” is a project focusing on the struggles that come with growing up Latinx. SAHS upperclassmen students wrote the scenes and monologues performed under the guidance of Creative Connections Teaching Artist Interns Lucy Valero and Meghan Marshall.

The student-run project consists of two 30-minute-long videos. Performing the work created by SAHS are students and alumni from the BBTC. A few monologues are presented in Spanish, while others include Spanish phrases or accents. Each performance ranges from two to six minutes long and tells a unique story. 

With Valero and Marshall as their teaching artist interns, the SAHS students did most of the work for “Rising Spirits.” Going into break-out rooms after their weekly lesson, the students worked together with the actors from the BBTC. 

“As the teachers, Lucy and I weren’t necessarily in the room watching the process, but that gave the students freedom because they were also directing their pieces,” said Marshall. “That really allowed them to make their own choices.” Marshall continues to explain that the SAHS students chose the lighting, costumes, acting style, tone, and many other elements that went into making their performance come to life. 

But “Rising Spirits” didn’t start this grand. It required a lot of collaboration and community support.

Collaboration in the Making 

The Creative Connections team originally planned to provide students from SAHS with performing arts lessons. Their main project would be to write a monologue or a scene all with the same theme, but after the collaboration between CCTA and SAHS began, so did the expansion into what is now “Rising Spirits.”  

Both Valero and Marshall are drama majors, Creative Connections Teaching Artists Interns, and work with the BBTC. After networking with the SAHS students’ teacher, Terry Schwinge, who was working with Valero and Marshall, they discovered Schwinge had connections with SCR. This led to SCR’s commUNITY joining the team.

“SCR wanted to start reaching out to younger audiences within the community around SCR,” said Marshall. “They wanted to highlight Santa Ana and its students there.” 

Through “Rising Spirits,” the predominately Latinx SAHS population got the opportunity to express their struggles, experiences, and messages they wanted to share. But this first draft is not where SAHS students’ stories end. 

Only the Beginning 

With the month-long project complete and published, the end of this collaboration is still far on the horizon. 

“The plan is to keep developing the monologues over the year. This is something that SCR is interested in,” said Valero. The SCR team isn’t the only one interested in continuing its work with SAHS students. Valero and Marshall hope to keep working with the students, even those graduating. 

“I was blown away by the talent and the passion the students have for theater,” said Valero. “I think it’s important that we got to work with them in this way because they got to see their work done in a more professional way. This experience showed them that there are ways they can do their art and can transfer it outside of the classroom.” 

With vaccinations on the rise, the hope is to have the students complete the project and begin working on a real stage for an in-person performance next winter. 

To learn more about “Rising Spirits: First Draft” and where to watch, visit South Coast Repertory's event link: www.scr.org/calendar


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