Incarcerated Youth Get a Voice in Rising Youth Theatre's aDoBe in Downtown Phoenix This Weekend
"Arrested 48 times . . . Future don't exist . . .Don't ask me about my personal stories, because they all have the same ending . . . One soul lost, two weeks ago this Friday, last seen hitchhiking to Flagstaff. If found, please return to this school of schools . . ." Actor Willa Eigo (Arizona Pastorela: Mission to Mars) hesitates for a moment. "Can I just say 'this school' instead of 'this school of schools'?"
Julie Peterson These youth are not incarcerated, but they play kids not unlike most other kids in aDoBe. Left to right: actors Willa Eigo, Xavier Ramirez, Sabrina Proffitt, and Maxx Carlisle-King
A production staffer calls back to the stage, "Okay. It's supposed to be 'this school.' That's a typo."
"Please return to this school," Eigo continues her character's monologue, "located somewhere between childhood and adulthood."
See also: PHX:fringe Week 2: Homeless Young People Serve Food for Thought
Young people confined by the juvenile justice system to a corrections facility (where they must also receive an education) were brave enough to share their stories with Rising Youth Theatre this fall, and professional actors and other artists have been working alongside two casts -- one made up of incarcerated kids and the other, of young actors on the outside -- to present the resulting play, aDoBe, by José Casas. The show's première is offered to the public this weekend only at Phoenix Center for the Arts, Third and Moreland Streets.
At Wednesday evening's technical rehearsal, the ensemble's fine-tuning a few sticky moments under the direction of Rising Youth co-founder Xanthia Angel Walker (who also directed Woman and Girl). They struggle to stay focused on recent script and blocking changes while lights go on and off, techs zip together last-minute scenic elements with power tools, and a huge aluminum ladder co-opts part of the stage.
Rising Youth Theatre
Rising Youth was formed two years ago to work with youth and artists in the community to create theater that comes directly from the true stories of young people. The company, which received the first Phoenix Mayor's Arts Award last December, believes in increased access to the arts (for both practitioners and audiences) and also that, as the statement of core values on the website explains, "youth deserve to see themselves, their values and their experiences reflected onstage in making great art."
Often, the performers in the resulting shows are the people whose lives are depicted by the script, but kids in jail can't just check out for the weekend for a gig. Along with the actors, the duties of assistant designers, stage managers, stagehands and tech operators, and other production roles are also performed by young theater-loving folk.