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Local high school students tell the stories of their lives through this summer theater program.

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Student-actors rehearse for Las Memorias at CSUMB

Student-actors rehearse for Las Memorias at CSUMB.

Celia Jiménez here, thinking about how valuable it is to see diverse people at work across industries—including in art. Today, a group of 11 students from across the county will take the stage to perform Las Memorias, a minimalistic theatrical performance where they will share pieces of their lives. 

To be part of Las Memorias, students answered several questions including: When have you had to take a risk or a leap of faith? When have you had to face adversity? And what dreams do you have for your life? Then, artistic director AnaMaria Correa took the students' stories to “make a particular theatrical experience of those words,” as she puts it.

Dressed in black, the actors take the stage and perform with colorful backgrounds and symbolic movement. The whole performance is sprinkled with background music—Javier Tamayo, a Salinas-based musician, created the score together with the student actors. 

The end result is a kind of collective memory that also shows the actors' singularities: Wearing glasses, having scoliosis, dreaming of being on Broadway or becoming a scientist. 

Sharing these kinds of experiences and dreams can be vulnerable, so I asked the students how they felt about being in front of an audience. “At first it kind of made me feel naked,” says Asher Gomez Vazquez, 15, a student at Seaside High School. But Vazquez sees the value of that vulnerability too: “It might make people understand other people's struggles, or disabilities, or any of that, and not to judge other people.”

As I wrote in my story about Las Memorias in this week’s print edition of the Weekly, I learned not just about the making of this production, but the program Performance as Education. The program aims to expose and prepare students for higher education—and also help them gain self-confidence. John Fraire, Performance As Education co-founder and interim vice president of student affairs at CSU Monterey Bay, says the actors transform as the days pass. “They get a real sense that their life stories mean something to people and that's validating to them.”

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During their time in the program, the students have been living and rehersing at CSUMB. Most of them are minority and first-generation high school students. “At the beginning it's a little scary because I've never been this far from home for so long,” says Marrow Flores, 15, a student from North Monterey County Unified School District. Flores says when they shared the news they had been accepted into the program their mom immediately asked: “Is it free?” (It is, including transportation.)

For artistic director Correa, the goal is that the actors walk away with a vision for their lives, and with the confidence they can make it happen. Fraire, meanwhile, hopes the audience can see the beauty of the actors’ stories. “I just want folks to be open to hearing these stories because they're not stories that are shared very often, or at least put on in a play culturally,” he says.

If you are interested in seeing Las Memorias, it goes on at 7pm tonight, Aug. 5, at the World Theater at CSUMB (5260 6th Ave., Seaside) and 6pm tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 6 at Robert Stanton Theater at King City High School (720 Broadway St., King City). The play is free and open to the public.

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