August 2, 2012
From Story Circles to Real Solutions
Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in Cornerstone Theater Company’s Talk It Out story circle, which featured students from the community of Arvin, California and their responses to personal experiences they’ve had with suspensions and expulsions throughout their education. As a student participant in Cornerstone’s 9th Institute Summer Residency, I have to admit that having received the background of story circles in class and then having the opportunity to witness one first hand definitely put everything into perspective.
The intention of the story circle was to bring students together to hear their side of the story and to explore possible alternatives and solutions to the issue; which will eventually be illustrated in a play, written by Michael John Garcés and directed by Peter Howard. The conversation began with “cultural mapping” activities that allowed the group to get to know each other and gave the facilitator an idea as to where to begin the dialogue. I noticed that this was a great opportunity for students who felt more comfortable speaking in smaller groups to express themselves without feeling pressured or intimidated.
The group then came back together as a whole and that’s where all the magic began. I was surprised to learn that the numbers of suspensions and expulsions in Arvin are some of the highest in the state, which clearly reflected the experiences of the students. The conversation then evolved to students relaying stories about positive and negative relationships with teachers or administrators that empowered them one way or another to not give up on their education.
At the end of the conversation, students were given the opportunity to continue being part of the process by potentially sharing more about their story or participating in other capacities of the creation process. This, I have to admit, is the moment where the students felt that their stories mattered and that they contributed to bring light to an issue that administrators haven’t solved. That is why, in my opinion, Cornerstone Theater continues to empower people through theater, because by listening to ALL sides of an issue, you can find REAL SOLUTIONS.
Jeanette Godoy is currently performing in FLOR, August 2, 3 & 4, 2012 @ 8:30pm. Arvin High.
Jeanette Godoy is a teacher, costumer, and actress. She was raised in Inglewood, CA and received her B.A. in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Chicana/o Studies from San Diego State University. She is an advocate for social justice and believes that you must know your past in order to embrace your future. “Nimitz tlacuiquilia ica noche yohlotzi ome yocan”-OMETEOTL