Gary Soto’s IN AND OUT OF SHADOWS February 2 – 17, 2013

It is estimated that 65,000 undocumented teenagers graduate from US high schools each year.

IN AND OUT OF SHADOWS, a new play by famed Chicano writer Gary Soto, is about the lives and experiences of a group of undocumented teenagers from Richmond and Pinole, California. Very funny, in a format loosely based on the Canterbury Tales, members of Marsh Youth Theater’s (MYT’s) talented Teen Troupe not only perform the play, but also gathered the oral histories from around the Bay Area on which it is based, and which Soto has transformed into this vibrant, musical theater production. Above everything, Soto wants to give his audience, many of who may never have been to a play before, a really good time. So it’s loud and colorful, with an exuberant original score, inspired by Mexican Mariachi, jazz and hip hop.

Directed by Cliff Mayotte (The Wave), with music by MYT Director Emily Klion and Bay Area luminary George Brooks, the show plays from February 2 – 17, 2013 at The Marsh Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia Street in San Francisco. For exact days and times, see the Calendar Items below. For tickets the public may visit or call 282-3055.

The teens are preparing their personal statements for an AB 540 conference at UC Berkeley (AB 540 allows DREAMers, as they are known, to attend school at in-state tuition rates.) We meet Angel, who arrived in the US alone via a sewer when he was 13. And Juan who, as a determined six-year-old, had to be doused asleep with cough syrup during the crossing because he adamantly refused to give his cousin’s name as his own. We watch a newly urbanized vaco loco teaching an undocumented Chinese friend how to speak street Spanish. 

Running through everything is the fear of deportation. Many families in the show have mixed status – undocumented parents whose documented children were born here, for example – who live in constant fear of separation. Even under AB 540 or President Obama’s recent two-year deportation deferral for certain undocumented youth, students who get to stay may suddenly be left alone with nobody to take care of them. The diverse group of young actors, many whom are directly affected by the issue, mix English, Spanish, Tagalog, Spanglish and other languages as they unfold the unwieldy human effects of this messy political issue.

Gary Soto is a nationally acclaimed poet and novelist of young adult fiction. Born and raised in Fresno, the son of Mexican-American farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley, he has a keen personal interest in Latino youth and first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing low-income immigrant populations, from whose lives he draws extensively in his stories. The blend of humor and Spanglish vernacular in his fiction has captured the largest readership of Latino youth in the nation. His books have been translated into five languages and sold nearly four million copies, with 48 million textbooks featuring his writings. He currently lives in Berkeley.

MYT’s Teen Troupe has performed critically acclaimed productions of Kim Epifano’s Fears of Your Life, Ron Jones’ The Wave, and Emily Klion, Lisa Quoresimo and Danny Duncan’s Siddhartha.  It is extremely diverse in race, class, ability, national origin, sexual orientation and, most significantly to this project, immigration status. MYT has provided musical theater education and performance opportunities for youth without regard to financial circumstance or past experience for the last decade.

In 2009, Soto attended a rehearsal of MYT’s Novio Boy, one of Soto’s two humorous short plays. Aware of MYT’s neighboring Mission District, with its low-income, largely Latino population, many of whom surely come from undocumented families, he and MYT Director, Emily Klion, developed the idea for IN AND OUT OF SHADOWS. This piece is supported by the Creative Work Fund and NALAC (National Association of Latino Arts and Culture.)

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