Students express neighborhood struggles through performance

CSUN+students+take+the+stage+in+a+performance+with+a+live+audience

Students performed about the struggles they experience in their neighbors on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Photo credit: Robeal Tesfamichael

Robeal Tesfamichael

CSUN and R.U.T.H YouthBuild collaborated to create a two-part event at the VPAC’s experimental theater for students to talk about their struggles living in their neighborhoods and the misconception of Hollywood.

R.U.T.H. YouthBuild is a leadership development program based in Canoga Park. R.U.T.H. stands for the program’s core values (Resilience, Unity, Transformation and Hope). They work to provide an opportunity for youth between the ages of 16-24 to earn their high school diploma, receive career training and develop leadership skills.

The students took the audience on an exploratory adventure by performing different plays in areas around campus. After one play was finished the audience would walk with the students to another site where they would perform their respective plays.

During the first part of the event called “Nonviolent struggles,” students from the program explained the troubles they face living inside of their neighborhoods through scripted plays. Students told tales of personal hardships primarily revolving around impoverishment, gang violence and parental abandonment.

The second part of the event, entitled “La La Land,” was based on the book “Concrete and Dust,” written by the director Jeamine M. Minge.

The performance used heavy narrative, poetry and cultural geography. The performance depicts how different cities within Los Angeles County are capitals for different career fields in Hollywood and how those pursuing their dreams within are pressured to relinquish their individuality and submit to societal norms.

The performers shared their personal backgrounds and how the pursuit of their dreams in Hollywood forced them to face their insecurities and self-doubt.

“Everyone has their own story and deserves to be heard,” said director Minge. “But everyone needs their own individual spaces to talk about and deal with their own problems. Hollywood is a vast space, and many people have different stories of personal hardship.”

Faculty member and assistant director Mikaela Fleming performed about Chatsworth, Calif. due to it being a popular site for making pornographic films.

The character she portrayed depicted a woman who was sexually assaulted during her youth and attempted to overcome her traumatic experience by being vibrant with her sexuality in pornography. However, it had the opposite effect and lead her down a path of constant thoughts of worthlessness and depression.

“The biggest thing we want the audience to take away from this is that you are strong,” Fleming said. “At some point in our lives, most of us are faced with thoughts of self-doubt but they are only thoughts. The most important thing is to always believe in yourself.”