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A last special play for Clara Choi

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Photo by Sandra Luna

We love working with youth, gardens and food and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed connecting with the students at LAHSA.  We’re observing this play transform into a powerful and truly meaningful apart of their lives. Through our weekly interviews with them, we have learned about their motivations and appreciation for theater, their aspirations for college and beyond and how this play has changed how they see food and its place in school and society. We feel blessed to be a part of this amazing Cornerstone production and are excited to see a play reflect so many of the daily experiences of  high school students in Los Angeles.  We hope you enjoy getting to know these amazing students as much as we have.  – Rosa Romero

When did you start theater and why?

As a freshman I went to a different school, LA Senior High, but my house is closer to this school. They said the acting class is mandatory, and I didn’t know anything about theater or acting. I was like ‘Oh my god it’s mandatory,’ but when I started taking the class I found myself really enjoying it so I started auditioning and being in plays. I’ve been in like 8 or 9 plays.

So why did you decide to try out for this play?

I’m a senior and I’m graduating, so I wanted my last play to be something special. I already did the New Play Festival two  years ago and Lunch Lady Courage is a play with a professional theater company. Since I’m thinking of majoring in theater when I graduate, I thought this would be a great experience for me. The experience has been good. It’s amazing working with real professional actors and adults, because I’m used to doing plays with student stage managers, student costume designers and now I get the opportunity to work with professional people.

Has the play made you think about or change your views about school food?

Yes, because I never thought about the point-of-view of lunch ladies and lunch gentlemen. I never thought about how hard they work. I always thought, ‘Oh this food is so nasty! I’m so hungry, why is it so nasty? I can’t eat it!’ But after meeting Frank [a fellow actor in the play] who is a lunch gentleman, I feel like I know more about their experience.

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Clara Choi as Ivette in Lunch Lady Courage. Photo by Kevin Michael Campbell.

Have you experienced lunch food changing from your freshman year to your senior year?

Yes, at first it was edible and it tasted good. The taste was great and they would give out these lasagnas that tasted great. I remember the lasagna, the spaghetti with meatballs, and how they changed it. I guess they were trying to make it healthy but it doesn’t taste like it’s edible, it tastes like …rotten. Even the fruits and the carrots …oh and last time I had the juice — it was expired! It tasted weird so I looked at the expiration date and saw that it had expired.

Did you tell them?

No. I ate an apple once and it was all moldy inside. I took a bite and inside where the seed is, it was all moldy and there were maggots in there….and I took a bite of that! I took it to the lunch lady because it was just so disgusting. I showed it to them and they were like, ‘Ooo, do you want another apple?’ and was like ‘Nooo, I don’t want another apple’ [laughs]. That’s my experience in the cafeteria.

So do you usually eat the lunch at school?

Fruits and juice sometimes because I’m hungry, so I’ll eat a little food. I bring lunch from home sometimes, like every couple months. My parents work and I get up late so I don’t really have time to prepare a lunch.

Tell me about your character in the play.

My character is Ivette. And she would totally do what I’m doing right now [she’s putting on eyeliner]. She would be sitting in class, fixing her makeup not listening to the teacher. This is my character [poses with make up in hand and laughs].

Clara Choi as Ivette in Lunch Lady Courage

Photo by Kevin Michael Campbell

The main thing about this character is that she wears 3 inch heels to school everyday. I don’t wear those to school, I don’t wear makeup to school, but on the weekends, I do have a lot of heels, and I do wear makeup, so I do kind of relate to her.

There is a scene in the play, where Ivette is helping in the garden and wearing heels. In this scene, I can totally feel what Ivette is feeling, because I’ve been there. Once, I was in my heels and I was walking on grass and the heels were really sharp and they kept going into the grass and I stepped on some poop (laughs). In the scene, Mia [the school garden activist in the play] is talking about putting worm poops everywhere in the soil and I’m like ‘Oh my god.’

Anything else you would like to share?

It’s really hard to do theater for me, even school plays, because my parents own a restaurant and I have to help out every Friday, because Fridays are so busy. I also have rehearsals every Friday too. I can leave sometimes during regular rehearsals, but I can’t go help out during tech rehearsal or Friday shows. It is really hard for me to continue theater but it’s what I really love – it’s the only thing that I would enjoy as a job!

BUY TICKETS to Lunch Lady Courage.

Interview by Rosa Romero, Lunch Lady Courage Scholar.

Rosa Romero is the Scholar in Residence for Cornerstone Theater’s Lunch Lady Courage. Rosa is an active community organizer for healthy food access and green space around Los Angeles. She is the Farm to Preschool Program Manager at the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) at Occidental College in Los Angeles and was recently awarded the 2012 Recognition award from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Childcare Initiative. She is also a Board member of the South Central Farmers Health and Education Fund and a Certified Master Gardener through the University of California Cooperative Extension and co-founder of Seasonal, Organic Local (SOL) Catering Cooperative. She is a UCLA graduate in the Politics of Urban Education and currently working on her Masters in Early Childhood Education at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Click here to see Sandra Luna’s Lunch Lady Courage Photo Gallery.

Sandra Luna is an educator, photographer, blogger, school garden advocate and environmentalist living in Los Angeles. She is an immigrant from Guatemala and has grown up in Pico Union/Mid City. Since 2010 she has been teaching seven classes and manages the Horticulture Program at Crenshaw High School in South Central Los Angeles. She is a board member of the South Central Farmers Health and Education Fund and is a certified Master Gardener through the University of California Cooperative Extension. She is a graduate from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona with a degree in Urban and Regional Planning and is currently completing her Masters in Natural Resources and Environmental Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her blog displays her love of photography, gardens, people, environment, community, art, travel, food and the beauty of life in general.