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Old Globe Helps Underserved Communities Tap Into Their Inner Playwrights

The cover page of the script for the play

Photo by Tarryn Mento

Above: The cover page of the script for the play "Ethel and Eleanora," by Jonathon Mello, Nov. 20, 2018.

A split with a significant other can be a painful time that many may not want to publicly share, but Miki Vale is transforming her break-up experience into an on-stage production. Vale is writing her upcoming short play "The Ex Games" as part of a storytelling workshop through The Old Globe Theatre.

The company's Community Voices program brings playwriting instruction to residents of neighborhoods who don’t often attend its productions and hires professional actors to perform the stories on stage at venues across the county. Upcoming presentations are scheduled in the San Diego City Heights neighborhood this week and in the city of Chula Vista next month.

The free workshops and performances introduce more San Diegans to theater and have created additional opportunities for some past program participants, including Vale.

The disc jockey and hip-hop artist said she's no stranger to performing, but never saw herself as a playwright until she enrolled in one of the program's beginner cohorts.

"Myself, friends I know — so many people have been involved with the Old Globe and it’s opened a pathway that none of us ever saw ourselves taking," the Sherman Heights resident said.

She saw her first brief play performed on stage a few years ago and was later hired as a sound designer for an Old Globe program when a company employee happened to see her in action as a DJ. Vale joined an advanced workshop and is now writing "The Ex Games" for an annual festival at the Globe in January.

That's where Jonathon Mello last year premiered his brief play about the Rosenbergs, a real-life American couple accused of and executed for working as Soviet spies.

The City Heights resident and union organizer said he also didn’t see a playwriting future until he enrolled in Community Voices.

"Seeing the power of theater, the experience as a watcher but also thinking through how you create those experiences for people — so it’s somewhere in the process, I got the bug,” Mello said.

Live Vale, that that bug led him to an advanced workshop and earned him a substantial prize at the festival; The Old Globe commissioned him to write a full-length version of his play.

Actors will perform stories written by the latest Community Voices cohort at the City Heights Performance Annex on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and at South Bay Community Services on Dec. 12. The stories audiences will see are from first-time playwrights who may follow in the footsteps of Vale and Mello.

Reported by Katie Schoolov

Plays written by residents in communities that don't frequent the theater will appear on stage as part of a storytelling workshop that can lead to professional opportunities.

The Old Globe's Community Voices program is funded by the James Irvine Foundation, which also supports KPBS.

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