"I dropped out of school, but I didn't drop out of life. I would leave the house each morning and go to the main branch of the Carnegie Library in Oakland where they had all the books in the world... I felt suddenly liberated from the constraints of a pre-arranged curriculum that labored through one book in eight months."
On Saturday, we wrapped the final performance of the How I Learned What I Learned (HILWIL) Outreach Tour and the final performance of HILWIL at TheatreWorks as whole. I wanted to take a moment to congratulate everyone on a successful first run of this format of Outreach Tour at TheatreWorks. With this tour we were able to reach Eastside Prep in East Palo Alto where students are prepping to be the first in their family to attend college. We then reached Overfelt High School in East San Jose where we shared this story with a predominantly BIPOC student body – many of whom had never seen a professional live stage play before. Then we performed for the community at Sacred Heart Community Service in downtown San Jose where I could not help but be moved by moving from one wing of the community center where they are providing cell phones for those in needs, then moving to another wing where they are distributing food during their daily food bank hours, then moving to yet another wing where they are collecting clothes for those in need and finally making it to the community room where they were setting up chairs for Steven Anthony Jone’s (SAJ) marvelous performance. Finally we partnered with the wonderful team at Oakland Theatre Project (OTP) who opened their doors to us and allowed us to present August Wilson’s story for their audience including a handful of TheatreWorks audience members who loved the mainstage production so much they had to come back to OTP to see it once more in this newly intimate setting.
On a personal note, one of the moments that made this week truly special for me was getting the chance to set up this tour in places of my childhood. Overfelt High School is in East San Jose, right across the street from Most Holy Trinity where my mom would take me to the Tagalog Mass every Sunday at noon. When I was in high school, I volunteered every Saturday at the Sacred Heart Food Bank. It was during this time in my life that I discovered theatre and therefore discovered my voice. I then think about the young student at Overfelt High School who asked SAJ for some advice on being an actor and shared with us, “I want to be an actor and I think this is the first time I’m admitting this to myself.” Moments like this are why we do what we do and why Theatre and TheatreWorks is special.
"I want to be an actor and I think this is the first time I’m admitting this to myself."
Special shout outs:
- A big big big thank you to Karen Altree Piemme and the team at Red Ladder Theatre company for setting up our high school performances and for doing the leg work of putting us in contact with different correctional facilities we hoped to perform in. Although we needed more of a lead time to perform with the county jails, your initial contact has set us up for the future success of this program and hopefully we will get the chance to perform for them in the future. Thank you for everything you and Red Ladder does for our community and thanks for partnering with TheatreWorks on this project.
- Big shout out to Randall. Your flexibility, super game attitude and willingness to do whatever was needed to make this tour happen from the stage management end of things was HUGE and I know that we all felt ready and able to do this in large part because of your contributions.
- An eternal thank you to Reed for everything he does for TheatreWorks and for what he did on the outreach tour. You were with us for every performance, ready to load in and load out, run the light board when needed and be the enormously capable hand we all need in our lives.
- A huge thank you to the production team. Karen Szpaller, Chris Fitzer, Bryan Clements, Jill Bowers, Lisa Claybaugh, Dan Holland and others who supported in ways that I missed – for doing what needed to be done to get the production elements of this show ready to tour on top of loading the mainstage HILWIL out and loading Hershey Felder in. You all are incredible.
- Finally, none of this could have happened without the one and only Steven Anthony Jones and his incredible performance. Thank you so much SAJ for gifting us your talents, your art and your craft and for being so willing and game to take a 10 minute look at a random space and then say, “cool. I got it.” and give us a brand new performance in a brand new space. Your performance was so moving to everyone who witnessed it, from our mainstage to the outreach tour and I learned something new every time I watched you this week.