Student drama confronts hard realities in North Minneapolis

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With only a few seats empty in the Capri Theater, PYC Arts & Technology High School students showed us what one could say, borrowing from the dialect, was some “pretty heavy shit.” Getting Out, a Story of Hope, Forgiveness, & Redemption, performed one time for the public, November 11, and was videotaped for possible playback in schools.

Written by the students in an ensemble-style collaboration, it tells a story of a reluctant youth, Carlos, befriended by an eager police officer, Smith, who sees a lot of himself in the undirected kid. Their affiliation has unintended consequences – will the trust survive? The story grew out of several meetings between the students and police officers. As Luther Redus, who played Officer Smith, said, “There are always two sides to a story.”

Olivia Evanovich, also a student, was stage manager. “My job was to show all those sides, those perspectives.”

 

Coming soon-Migration Blues

Olivia Evanovich and some of the other students in the Getting Out production also worked on a student film, Migration Blues, which will be shown at the Capri Theater Friday, November 19, 6:30-8:00 p.m. free. The film explores what might happen to the blue herons that nest along North Mississippi Regional Park, if they travel south to the area of the BP oil spill.

Our Community, Our Home will also be shown Nov. 19. Both films were screened earlier this summer and have been re-edited to be “broadcast ready,” according to adult mentors Walter Anderson and Ed Irwin. Craig Laurence Rice collaborated with the student effort as artist-in-residence filmmaker.

The films involved PYC Arts & Technology High School’s Discovery Crew, Kwanzaa Church’s Freedom School, and Minnesota Transitions Charter School.

Part of the back story, the part that Carlos didn’t see, unless Smith told him, is the stress that police work puts on a marriage. Crime Prevention Specialist Rowena Holmes (who hatched the idea for the play) said that at a dress rehearsal Police Chief Tim Dolan attended, she heard comments such as, “That could have been my household.” She said, “The kids paid attention. Cops want to go home and be regular people, like anyone else.”

“And the cops listened to the kids,” Holmes said.

Lieutenant Bret Lindback, Holmes’s supervisor and the police lead on the project, said that while the first few meetings were “chaos,” after they got to know each other, he found, “The kids are deadly smart. They ask good questions and listened. It’s easy to get in a mode of dealing with a call. I learned a while ago but this reminded and reinforced for me that each student has a distinct outlook on life.”

Redus said the most profound memory from the experience was going on a field trip to a simulation room. In the room, he said, “You take the gun. I prematurely shot a guy. It shows the split decisions they have to make.”

Sarah Wehrenberg, the PYC lead teacher on the project, and the students spent “every class day from January to June developing characters, a story line, and eventually a script that reflects the realities of our community, yet inspires us to believe in a different way of thinking.”

Lakita “Tia” Bennett, who played Larae Smith, the officer’s wife, said, “It was okay. We rehearsed a lot.”

Michael Beasley, who played Carlos, said he’s on to playing basketball for the Farview team.

Larry Cook, Jr., who played Marcus, the more straight-arrow friend of Carlos, got a shout out from Director Kevin West. With about eight days practice, he assumed the role after another student dropped out. His campy, deliberately overplayed gestures in the graduation speech scene drew laughs from the crowd, which was apparently about half family and friends of participants, and half others from the general community.

West, in his stage introduction, called it “a wonderful, hard, joyful, stressful and happy experience.” He, Wehrenberg, Evanovich, Redus and Lindback answered audience questions in a discussion after the show. They all said they hoped the work could inspire bigger and bigger groups of people to see that as Lindback said, “It’s by building relationships that we can start to solve things.”

Redus said, “This should be spread everywhere, or at least, the moral, the point.”

Evanovich said “everyone needs to be involved. The littlest job makes a difference. It’s like building blocks. We need to keep moving with it.”

PYC Arts & Technology High School is at 2210 Oliver Ave. N., phone 612-643-2018.