In the play, “Welcome to Our World,” written by D.C. high school students in The Young Playwrights’ Workshop, the actors are trying to explain to an audience of “aliens” why the aliens should not take humans for only being dirty, selfish and neglectfulof Planet Earth.
“I’m glad that you are here,” the play’s narrator, Reyna Rios, explains to the audience.
“You know our species has been looking for your kind, for what feels like an eternity,” she continues. “Let me tell you a little bit about us. We are selfish most of the time. We live in this world, but cause a lot of damage to it. We cut down its plant life and punch holes in it. We kill its smaller, less advanced species called animals.”
People inhabiting this planet commit other selfish deeds, the narrator explains: “We argue a lot and if we don’t get what we want, we fight for it. ‘Why shouldn’t you kill us off?’ you ask. Well if you ask my inner evil-self then I would say, ‘What are you waiting for?’”
She considers a few redeeming qualities. “If I look around for a second, I see something beautiful. I see families sharing a fun evening together. I see our species walking around showing their affection through small actions, like holding hands or simply sharing a laugh.”
Aliens, she pleads, give Earth a second chance. There are signs of hope. “When I look around I see these egocentric people but I also see love, friendship, and joy. And that I wouldn’t want you to destroy.”
The high school students will present the play, “Welcome to Our World,” at 7 p.m., Monday, June 11, at GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th Street NW. The cast is made up of a nine-member ensemble of students who are both actors and writers.
The students spent about eight months writing and rehearsing the play as part of a play writing workshop run by Young Playwrights Theater, an in-school and after-school program that focuses on teaching students to express themselves through play writing. As part of the workshop, students learn to improvise; they learn about stage combat, clowning and performing. They also learn how to mine the world around them for tension points that can inspire new plays that impact their community.
During the fall, while students worked on drafts, “the students discovered they were fascinated by strangers. That became the jumping off point for the play,” said Nicole Jost, program manager for Young Playwrights’. “They wondered, ‘Who are the people we pass by everyday?’ From there, they created 25 different characters imagining the inner-life of a wide variety of people—from a barista to a prostitute to a celebrity. There’s even a dog in the play.”
Patricio Juarez, 18, a senior at Columbia Heights Education Campus (Bell Multicultural High School), said the play is transformative. “The play is about meeting new strangers,” Juarez says. “It’s kind of like sci-fi with aliens. Basically, we are trying to give the illusion the audience is made up of aliens coming to Earth. It is fun and it has a twist. We are trying to explain human emotions…. and coffee shops.”
The nine actors play 25 different characters, who are from a range of backgrounds, including: Salvadoran, Mexican and African-American. “We want the audience to understand that so many different types of people live in this world,” Juarez says. “You meet them everyday. Sometimes you might get in a fight and become an enemy. Sometimes, you become friends. At some point, we are all strangers. We don’t know anybody. At the beginning of this program, I was a stranger and now we are friends.”
Morena Amaya, 16, an 11th-grade student at Columbia Heights (Bell), explains, “I would want the audience to understand that everyone is strangers. They come and go. Only some impact your life.”
Reyna Rios, 17, a senior at Columbia Heights, says, the actors are trying to explain deeper emotions to the audience of aliens. “We want the aliens to know about our lives. Two things are important: empathy and openness about how people perceive things. There is no single perspective. We want the audience to understand our impact individually or as a whole on the Earth, itself and on each other.”
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