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The Playhouse invites you to a 'gender-ful' forest of Arden

S1: Mexican immigration officials say a new policy will speed up border traffic.

S2: Mexico does have a really vested interest in in getting people through quickly.

S1: I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jane Heineman. This is KPBS midday edition. San Diego considers banning the sale and use of Styrofoam.

S3: That would affect restaurants that everyone already knows about , but also a lot of retail stores.

S1: What happens when science gets involved in museum design ? And a review of a gender bending production of As You Like it at La Hoya Playhouse. That's ahead on Midday Edition. In what's being called a binational collaboration exercise. Mexican immigration officers will now be screening northbound traffic at the San Diego port of entry. Mexico says it's an effort to help speed up border traffic. It's hoped the Mexican officials will stop travelers who don't have valid entry documents from progressing toward the U.S. border. But checking documents has long been the job of American border agents. Immigration advocates are concerned the move is aimed at stopping asylum seekers from making their claims at the border. Joining me is Kate Morrissey , who reports on immigration for the San Diego Union-Tribune. And , Kate , welcome to the program.

S2: Thanks for having me back.

S1: This program is set to begin tomorrow.

S2: And so far , we've we've gotten this information from a number of Mexican officials. U.S. officials have been pretty quiet about what's going on. But our understanding is that Mexico is going to set up immigration officials at checkpoints about roughly 100 yards from the actual border line. So if you're familiar with the San Ysidro port of entry right at the border line itself , there's a big yellow line on the ground. In the car area , there's like little raised bumps on that yellow line so you can physically see where the border is. So they'll be about 100 yards into Mexico from that checking documents in both the sentry lanes and the ready lanes. So the century is that is the trusted travelers program for people who want to be able to cross more quickly. They go through a pretty rigorous background check to be able to do that. And then the red line is for people who have the more sophisticated travel documents. So it's not clear what , if anything , is going to be happening in the general lane. But now tomorrow , it's likely that travelers in the century and the ready lanes will pass through this checkpoint with Mexican immigration officials. Then when they reach that yellow line , there will probably still be U.S. officials doing an initial document check before you get to the the booths , which is where the actual immigration revision to enter the United States officially happens , where they see who you are and whether you can enter or whether they're going to send you for further inspection.

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S2: We're still hoping that they might provide some more information today or tomorrow.

S1: Now , the Mexican immigration officials checking for documents will be accompanied by security forces.

S2: I think most likely people would end up in Mexican immigration custody if they're going to end up in custody. So if someone is trying to enter the United States who doesn't have entry documents for the United States , Mexico is going to be checking if that person has status or permission to be in Mexico. So they could very well end up at some kind of Mexican immigration station.

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S2: It's been maybe a year and a half that we've seen them stationed there. And that was in response to asylum seekers who were driving through the car lanes to try to reach U.S. soil and request protection because the U.S. asylum system is based on this idea that you must reach U.S. soil and that once you are there , you can say , I am afraid to go to my home country. I qualify as a refugee. And then the U.S. does a screening to see if that's true. And so with a lot of recent border policies , the access to that system has been incredibly restricted , particularly since the pandemic. It's pretty much impossible to walk up to the port of entry and make an asylum claim. And so one of the alternatives that asylum seekers found that wasn't quite as didn't feel quite as risky as , for example , climbing the wall or or climbing through a desert mountain region was to drive cars through. And so when they did that and they reached U.S. soil , they were sort of forcing that process to begin and also often slowing down the line when they did so.

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S2: And in terms of what is required by the United States , there's a long standing lawsuit about the act of turning away asylum seekers who are in the process of arriving on U.S. soil. So someone who's like walking up or driving up to the border line to request protection. And the most. Recent ruling that we have in that case from from a federal judge is saying that the US government cannot turn asylum seekers away when they're in the process of arriving at U.S. soil to request protection. That that goes against the US's obligation under its own laws as well as under international treaties. And so now that the US is asking Mexico to do some of that work for it , it's bringing Mexico into that already sort of questionable legal situation. And when I spoke with a with an attorney who's actually a mexican attorney familiar with , you know , so more familiar with the particular laws and constructions in Mexico , she's also very concerned about Mexico getting involved in this and thinks that will likely open the country up to its own lawsuit over this issue.

S1: Now , a mexican official has made the claim that this new policy is in Mexico's best interests.

S2: People are able to visit family , people able to go shopping. People are able to do to go to work. And there's been a lot of of studies over the years looking at , well , like in the moment when when the border was closed , how much money was lost in the in the shared cross-border economy or even when you look at , you know , how much traffic backs up into Tijuana because of the wait times like there's there's a lot at stake when it comes to moving travelers through efficiently at this port of entry. It's it's the busiest port of entry in the hemisphere. And some years the world , depending on the statistics that you look at. And so Mexico does have a really vested interest in in getting people through quickly so that it can facilitate that economy , so that it can keep traffic in Tijuana from getting so crazy so people can get to work. All of those things.

S1: I've been speaking with Kate Morrissey. She reports on immigration for the San Diego Union-Tribune. And , Kate , thanks a lot.

S2: Thank you.

S4: San Diego could soon be saying farewell to Styrofoam as the city council is set to hear a proposal tomorrow that would ban the sale and usage of the product within the city. The proposal , long delayed by litigation from restaurant groups and container companies , has already received a unanimous vote in favor of the ban by the city's Environment Committee. Joining me now with more is San Diego Union-Tribune reporter David Kirk. David , welcome back to the show.

S3: Thanks for having me.

S4:

S3: It wouldn't just apply to what we picture. It's like Styrofoam food containers at restaurants , but it will apply to egg cartons and coolers made out of foam and ice chests and pool toys and that floats and lots of other things. So it would affect restaurants that everyone knows about , but also a lot of retail stores.

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S3: And if you're a business that has a low number of employees or you have $500,000 or less in gross sales. You'd actually have even longer to comply with it. The city has sort of a a grace period for businesses that can claim hardship.

S4: And to be clear , it's not just a ban on the sale of these kinds of products , but also the use of them as well.

S3: I think if you have one that you've already bought in advance , you're still able to use it. But that's something the city has to it has to spell out a little more clearly. I agree.

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S3: And then we as humans eat it , and that's a carcinogen. So it's killing wildlife along the beaches and then eventually it's damaging human health.

S4: To that point , environmental groups seem to be unanimously in support of this ban.

S3: There's about 130 cities in California that have done it , but San Diego is the largest. Los Angeles is talking about it , but they haven't quite done it yet. And the environmental , I guess , coalition is sort of led this charge for a long time in and locally , Carlsbad , Anthony , just along the beach , Del Mar and Imperial Beach have already banned it. And it's not a coincidence. Those are all coastal cities because that's sort of the areas where it gets the most attention because of the impact on fishermen and sea wildlife. Right.

S4: And conversely , local restaurant groups not so thrilled about the prospect of Styrofoam going away.

S3: It really affects the smaller businesses , the sort of one off taco shop or pizza place or , you know , takeout joint that , you know , still serves the foam containers because they cost a little less money , you know , and they're trying to save money here and there because they don't have deep pockets like a national chain. So , unfortunately , it's the national change you can most afford to deal with. This already have dealt with it , and it's going to fall on the little guys. And I think that's why the city has these hardship exemptions , because they understand that a lot of these little taco shops are making barely making ends meet , barely staying in business. And so to add a new expense on to what they're already facing would be , you know , a hardship.

S4: In this proposal was wrapped up in litigation for years.

S3: They decided to use San Diego as an example. They said , we're going to stop this one. San Diego is the biggest city that's done this. We're going to sue San Diego. And basically , they were just trying to stall , I guess , because I think they knew that their suit probably wouldn't be successful. But they forced San Diego to do a comprehensive environmental analysis of the ban to make sure that it wasn't causing any extra environmental impact. And a lot of people thought that was kind of ironic. But their argument was that for for the companies , for the restaurants to get the paper products , the trucks would have to travel farther and the paper products weigh more. It was kind of a convoluted argument , but they ended up completing the analysis in the end , determining that there wasn't an impact.

S4: Wow , what a stretch there. And as you mentioned , you know , groups had argued that a study needed to be conducted to see how bad Styrofoam really is for the environment.

S3: So it just last forever. And the interesting the state has actually passed a sort of a I guess you call it's not a ban , but because the foam industry says that they can recycle it and reduce the amount of it that appears in landfills , there's a state law that would ban it that basically at 2025 would be completely banned if they if those sort of arguments about reduced amounts of foam in landfill don't come true. So are calling the industry's bluff.

S4: Local lawmakers have proposed some suggested amendments to this ban.

S3: The band does not want to make it clear , does not , that the new form law does not ban those. But she said that even though they're sealed and that's the city's reasoning for not banning them. So a lot of times the seal breaks and the foam does get out and does end up in the mouths of fish and sea life. I don't know whether the city will add that. Seemed like there wasn't a lot of enthusiasm about it , but Dr. Campbell did propose that. And Marni von WILPERT proposed that the city ban the use of plastic straws completely. The foam ban does address plastic straws and utensils , basically saying that you can the restaurants can no longer hand them out unless the customer requests them , which would be a significant change in San Diego , because now they just hand you the straw. They don't even care if you want it. So under the new law , you will have to actually request it. But Wolpert wants to go even beyond that and say no plastic straws , even if people request them.

S4: I've been speaking with San Diego Union-Tribune reporter David Garrick. David , thank you for joining us.

S3: Thanks for having me.

S4: You're listening to KPBS Midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. Ever since museums have existed , directors have tried to imagine the best way to arrange and illuminate the objects on display. But now art museums are getting some help from science. KPBS Sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge has this story about an experiment that tries to determine what Museumgoers really want to see.

S5: A video taken at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art shows museum visitors at a pottery exhibit. They approach a display case , circle it , and stand for a short time looking at it before moving on. The video is one small piece of visual data the Salk Institute will examine to find out how people interact with art objects. Professor Tom Albright , a neuroscientist at Salk , says the people in the videos are converted by a computer to stick figures to analyze their movements.

S6: Like pointing or standing in front of an object for some extended period of time or turning and talking to a friend who came into the museum with them.

S5: Albright says this experiment , funded by the National Science Foundation , has two goals. One is focusing on creating a good museum exhibit.

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S6: The second goal is to understand how people behave , how visual information and access to to the motor access to the space affects the choices they make.

S5: The Salk Institute is partnering with the L.A. County Museum of Art , where people's behavior in the gallery is being examined. Victoria Bonar is director of exhibition design at Lacma's. She says for all the anecdotes they've heard in observational studies they've done. She thinks this study will provide better information about how to engage museum visitors.

S2: This study will provide us with some really great data that we can then use towards future decision making. And then when we go , well , we know that this is what happens , but we want to do something else anyway , and at least we know what we're doing. And as we move around it , the work really changes.

S5: In La Hoya. At the Museum of Contemporary Art , San Diego senior curator Jill Dougherty shows me an eight foot tall sculpture made from resin. You know.

S2: When you're standing straight on , it has rounded corners. And yet as you move around , you see the sides have sharp edges.

S5: This sculpture is clearly the star of the exhibit. As you enter the gallery , it's the first thing you see. It's translucent and changes color as you move around it. And as the gallery's natural light fades or brightens. Dorsey says just putting two artworks in the same space makes a statement about the story you want to tell.

S2: And so we think carefully about how we are creating meaning. We think about the pacing of art objects , how much space goes between them. We think about sight lines and how we are going to stage an artwork to pull a visitor forward into a room.

S5: And she says , You've got to put a sculpture in a place where a visitor isn't going to back into it when they're looking at a painting on the wall. Dawson looks forward to the findings of the Salk Institute study.

S2: I think it would be fascinating to see what they learn , because in my experience , visitors , you know , navigate the museum in their own idiosyncratic ways. But it would be helpful to know , you know , the pace at which people are moving through the galleries and how often artworks really do serve as conversation pieces.

S5: The Salk Institute's Tom Albright says scientists will manipulate the exhibit at the L.A. County Museum of Art to see how that affects visitor behavior. Descriptive text alongside the artwork will be shortened or expanded. The location of artworks will be moved around. The exhibit is called Conversing in Clay Ceramics from the Lacma's Collection. It will be open until May 23rd of next year. Thomas Fudge , KPBS News.

S4: A maximum security prison might not be the first place you think of to celebrate a wedding. But it's where Edmund Richardson is marrying the love of his life. Evelina. In this excerpt from the podcast , Uncuffed host Greg Eskridge and Tom Tran speak to Richardson the day before the wedding about masculinity , vulnerability and the prospect of love while incarcerated.

S3: I really want tomorrow to go to go. Perfect. I think I'm more nervous meeting her mom for the first time. Oh , Mama , meet Mom. Those those first impressions is everything. And I know I'm would do well reading the vows like the whole ceremony , but it's like , was that first conversation going to be , like , with her mom ? Is she going to like me ? Which is So what ? So what part do you feel insecure about , for lack of a better word ? Like , what do you think the mom might not like about you ? I mean , the fact that I'm in prison and her daughter chose me at every man in the world to marry. Wow. Wow. I can only imagine what a mother mother is going through right now. I'm saying like , hey , mom , I'm about to get married. Probably excited. Like , to. This guy that's in prison for.

S7: A is funny , but that's. That's literally what it is. It is. Is I'm not about to go marry a doctor , lawyer or this pillar of the community. I'm marrying someone who committed a crime and who is incarcerated. Wow. Not only incarcerated , but serving a long time. Right.

S3: A life sentence.

S7: A life sentence , man. Wow.

S3: Wow. So , Emmett. So I have a question. I have a question. So it's the day before your wedding. What are you doing to prepare for this wedding ? Yeah.

S7: Never , ever look sharp.

S3: So I'm waiting. So I got my clothes ironed. I'm so prepared. Like , I'm so prepared. I'm so ready for this moment. There's just one last thing that I have to do. And that's something that you suggested to me yesterday , was adding a paragraph just about who she is and what she means to me and the impact that she's had on my life. In your vows ? In my vows ? Absolutely. I've been saying you've been practicing your vows for like more than a week now. And it is bananas to me just watching you like this. I've just been seeing you. Just head now , focus type and retyping. And finally. Yes. And I'm my brother. You've been working on this thing for , like , a week. Well , let me. Let me get a bar of these vows , Ben. Right , Right. Let me get a bar this thing for. See you. So it says , I think now I got to get a sample. Man. I don't care if I'm the best man over here. They. And then you read it for me. And I swear to God , I teared up. I felt like I was getting married. I felt like I was going to try to propose me or somehow like , this is too good. This is far. And it's crazy. Is being incarcerated and having this big moment , like all the things you do to prepare and all the things you can do to prepare. You know. Yeah.

S7: Yeah.

S3: It's hard to be incarcerated. And tell someone that you love them. Hmm. And have them genuinely believe you. I do feel limited because of my incarceration. There are things that. I genuinely can't give her. But what I can do. Has let her know that I'm working towards my freedom , so I am able to give her the world.

S7: And it does takes like there has to be something special about someone who is incarcerated and can still reach out into the world and find love. Hmm. Like. Love. Like , there are a lot of things that that just cannot get inside of a present , Right ? But love seems to be one of those things that can get through any crevice , to get through any barbed wire or any security fence , assault rifle. It doesn't matter. Love will truly find its way mad.

S3: My fiancee asked me a couple of weeks ago , How do you know I'm the one ? Hmm. And I really sat there and just thought about it. And I didn't have no profound answer , but it was like a feeling. Like , I just. I just know. I just know. And she was not content with that answer. Yeah.

S7: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I'm so not. I'm not. I'm not going to let that man know. I just know. So he stopped , said that 50 years ago.

S3: But it is like something that I can't put into words. Like , when I look at you , I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Mm hmm. When you are ready to make a commitment , you just know. During my ten and a half years incarcerated , I've been more familiar with heartbreak than with love in here. Right. So to hear you're getting married , for me , it brings up all this joy for you. But when I reflect on myself and my experiences with relationships since I've been incarcerated. Like , I get kind of scared. Like , how do you deal with that ? Like , don't. Do you even feel even a little bit afraid that she might eventually just say , I can't do this no more ? That , Oh , I don't want to be your wife anymore , or I can't write this baby with you anymore. Like , do these feelings come up for you ? Because I know they came up for me , and. And it was a root. A lot of. A lot of my heartbreak. Not us. That's a good question. I think for me , kind of like you , I just had relationships , breakups , heartbreaks. There was a point where , like , I just gave up on love completely. Mm hmm. I don't want to do this. It's not for me. Like , what's the point of me ? Like , even trying to nurture and cultivate a relationship in prison ? I know that is gone. I know that it's going to fall. Mm hmm. It's going to fall apart. But with this relationship , I think. I think I really just want to say it's something that we built together over time. And it hasn't always been peaches and cream. We've had our moments where those thoughts came up , like , I don't have the energy. I do not have the time to put into this relationship. Go to just the daily stresses of being in a relationship. However , being able to communicate my needs , especially in relationships , is hard for me to like open up and express how I feel and like be vulnerable with a woman. I feel like it's easier for me to do that with a man than with a woman , because I always feel like there's going to be some type of judgment and I'm going to be viewed as being weak. Mm hmm. So when and I never got that from her every time that I was vulnerable and told her my needs and communicated what I was going through , regardless of what it was like , she held their space for me , vice versa. I was able to hold that space for her. I was. I was able to recognize that I'm not perfect. She's not perfect. Can we agree to step into this relationship and be fearless , to grow together regardless the outcome ? And that's what we've been doing since day one. Man has built and we've built like a strong foundation that I feel is unbreakable.

S4: That was an excerpt from the Uncut podcast. It's a partnership between Cal W and inmates at San Quentin and Solano prisons. You can hear the full episode wherever you listen to podcast.

S1: This is KPBS midday edition. I'm wearing Kavanaugh with Jade Heineman in Shakespeare's romantic comedy. As You Like It. Rosalind and Orlando meet at court , but don't truly fall in love until they're banished to the forest. La Jolla Playhouse offers a reimagined play where identities can be fully explored through a cast of trans , nonbinary and queer performers. KPBS arts reporter Beth ACCOMANDO spoke with the play's dramaturge Regina Victor about giving the Bard's 423 year old play a gender full makeover.

S2: Regina , you are a dramaturg on this. So explain what that role is for people.

S8: Yes , So this is my favorite question , but I always say a dramaturg comes in three categories , right ? There's world building dramaturgy where you work on a new play and you're figuring out the rules and dynamics of the world. And then you have historical dramaturgy , which you might think of for Shakespeare , right ? Of what was happening with kings or politics or whatever might be helpful to the play that you're working on. And then cultural dramaturgy , which I think is culturally specific and very much about if I'm working on an August Wilson show , then I might be there for my black experience working on this show. My trans experience is a value.

S2: And for this particular production , it seems like you're kind of hitting an intersection of two of those dramaturg areas , which is the historical and the cultural.

S8: What I mean by that is King James's ruling at the time and this play was written in 1599 and I think it ran in 1623. King James had died in 1625. So this forest versus the court motif grabs you like it sets up is really the Catholic forest of the resisters and the free spirits and the Protestant court , which is very rigid at the time. And so for us , our production is the binary court and the free gender forest. And so getting to translate some of those historical pieces to the current text , like we had a joke about a vicar because that was one of the only things that grounded us in that historical context versus our new one.

S2: And also talk a little bit about how Shakespeare's plays were produced and how that may have influenced this play in the sense that there were young boys playing the female role. So there was already this kind of gender bending going on in the production.

S8: I think what Shakespeare's original productions had to do , that this one also has to do is get down to the essence of the person. It's a lovely Peter , whose playing Rosalind talks a lot about in the forest and become a lover. And that identity transcends gender. And so when you get down to the core of who these people are and the story that they're actually trying to tell , you need that to do Shakespeare well , anyway. So I think this is a more human production , more humanist production.

S2: Well , and Rosalind is an interesting character , too , because there's multiple layers of of gender swapping because she's a woman who dresses as a man who then pretends to be a woman.

S8: It's like if we've offended men , if we friended women , we're so sorry. And we went back and forth a lot about should we take out the language about if I were a woman and if if I were this and if I were that , and we ended up only making one small change because what ended up being more delightful was giving this trans performer the ability to put that gender panic back on the audience and to say like , it's not actually for me to make sense of this for you. It is actually for me to invite you to make sense of it yourself. And I think that's kind of threaded through the entire piece where there are moments where the gender play with Rosalind is really an invitation to other people that like , just because you present one way doesn't mean your gender has stopped. It doesn't mean you've arrived at it means that you are now fluid between. And that's been really exciting.

S2:

S8: A lot with Shakespeare on. The words themselves. And we worry that it's not accessible because it's poetry. But I find that once you get inside it , you break it down. It's some of the most relatable topics that you could ever think about. So falling in love for the first time ever. Learning to express yourself through words for the first time. From the anger , right in Orlando's experience. These are all people who are striving to get to that next step of human evolution. And it really is an everyman story in that way. I think most of Shakespeare's plays in the way they do with class and race and money and just in love and the things that we traffic in every day never gets old.

S2:

S8: It is the most fun to me. It is the most reckless in a lot of ways , I think. I would argue , as you like , it is the most politically reckless because Rosalind is kind of set up as Queen Elizabeth versus Duke Frederick's course in this King James energy. And I find that so juicy and exciting and and on the edge of a lot of things that we're playing with now with theater and political comedy. So it's really fun that way.

S2:

S8: And I think that this play , because it is so gender ful and therefore so humanist and this specific , you might hear this play for the first time. And I really mean that. I think we allow the story of the bodies and the images and the music and all the things we dress Shakespeare with to tell the story. I think in this one you'll get to really delight in the words and the text and the romance between them. It's so delicious. All the things that they're finding and also the music. Shakespeare's populist theater. And so what Carly's composer is doing is taking all the 90 songs out and replacing them with modern contemporary pop songs , because that's what they were at the time. So we have this beautiful motif , too , of like , what do these songs mean to the general population , to the queer community ? And it really grounds the show in any way.

S2: And you'll be understudying a couple of the roles. Talk about Orlando's character and what you find kind of interesting or challenging about it.

S8: Orlando is a beautiful character in that he gets this really great strongman journey that really mimics Hercules and he goes through all of these labors of love and he fights a lion in the forest and he reconciles with his brother because all these beautiful things that happened to him. And at the end of the play , he's really this lover and this poet. And I think especially if we're talking about black masculinity. It's a beautiful thing to get to show in my body. And that shows body what that journey can look like from having to put on this countenance that is so strong and tough and then moving into a softer place that is still the person you started out as in many ways.

S2: All right. Well , thank you very much for talking about us , your work.

S8: Thank you. Thank you so much. I'm excited for you to come.

S1: That was Beth ACCOMANDO speaking with Regina Victor La Hoya Playhouse's , as you like. It begins preview performances tomorrow and then runs through December 11th at the Parker Theatre. As we head into the season of Joy , A recent children's book tries to capture the spiritual quest for joy and contentment. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu , two of the most significant spiritual leaders of the last century , shared their wisdom in the little book of Joy. The story centers on the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu , whose lifelong quest to find and share joy. The book also features illustrations by San Diego artist and muralist Rafael Lopez. Lopez spoke about the collaboration with KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon. EVANS And here's their conversation.

S2: So the Little Book of Joy began as a book for adults , published in 2016. And it was based on a visit between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

S3: So at one point , I think that Douglas Abrahams traveled to South Africa and met with the archbishop , a bishop , and he said , Have you ever consider getting together with the Dalai Lama and have a sit down conversation because you two have so much in common ? And he jumped at the opportunity. He said , Of course , you know , I am there. So eventually they worked all the logistics out and they got together and it was pure magic. I was privy to some of the earlier takes of the video because they sent it to me to get a little bit of a feeling of their relationship and the bantering between the two of them , the sense of humor that they both have and the conversation. It was just so refreshing to see these two people that are so human and we perceive them as this amazing , vigorous champions of humanity. But they're sitting down and they sound like the person that you want to be really close friends with. So it was it was magic in the making.

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S3: And even in today's everyday life , with people that are not facing those horrible challenges , we do find things like lack of understanding , solitude. You know , all of us have faced that. And I believe that the message of artificial Tutu and the Dalai Lama is that regardless of what you face , because let's think about it. I mean , these two people have faced incredible challenges in their own life more than you and I could ever face , I think , you know. So the fact that they were able to find joy by looking very hard and looking around and seeing joy in the most and the more insignificant things that surround us , you can find tolerance , you can find forgiveness , you can find reconciliation , like in the case of South Africa. And if they could if they could do it , why not send that same message to kids that face maybe a different level of challenges their lives and remind them that the human character is very resilient and that we can find joy even at the darkest of time. And and joy has the power to to bring like it through the darkest of times.

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S3: And I think , yes , you know , rainbows is especially the beautiful diversity and diverse colors that we see after the storm , after everything is over , and then the sun comes out and we see the rainbow. But I wanted and we all agreed to that. We needed to actually not find it so easy because joy sometimes is not easy to find. So we conceptualized the idea that rather than having from the very beginning this rainbow , which by the way , if you look at the book , once you see the book , it's not going to look like a rainbow. It's more like Ribbons of Color , which I was inspired by the beautiful ribbons and and flags that you see in Tibet. But if you start the book in the beginning , you can't see the joy , you can't see a color. You need to find that it's there , but it's very hidden. It's whether it's either the color of this chimney here is a little bug or where there was a little football made out of like rags , the color. But it's very far away. And I wanted to create teachable opportunities for teachers to of teachable moments where they can actually open the page and tell the kids , where is the joy ? Can you find the joy here ? I mean , and you know that my characters look sad and lonely , but there's joy out there. So we thought it was an incredible opportunity to do that metaphorically. Joy could be hidden. And slowly it starts to evolve as a rainbow of colors until it becomes very , very evident. And it's right there in your face.

S2: So you have illustrated a lot of children's books , and so many of your books center on encouraging and inspiring young changemakers.

S3: And they said , you know , they want you to be the illustrator for this two champions of peace , the world peace and world understanding. So I was I was pretty floored. It took me a couple of days to realize the significance of doing this and incredibly honor. I thought that I needed to do my best work to really represent their message as best as I could. And I've always been attracted to stories of underdogs. I mean , being a an immigrant myself , my mother was wanted to become an architect when she was in the 1950s in Mexico , where no one , no woman would ever dare to become an architect. At the time , you know , they were all getting the man and , you know , having a kid with special needs as well. I like stories of people that can survive and become stronger and overcome so many challenges. So those are the stories that I'm attracted to when I read books. And this is definitely on the very top. I mean , because if you are aware and familiar with their stories of both , both of their journeys since childhood is just amazing what they have been able to accomplish , not just for them , but for the rest of us in a very moral way to , you know , their incredible messages about this hopeful message of peace , tolerance , reconciliation , compassion and kindness. So , yeah , everything just fell into the right place. And the challenge was a little scary , but I thought I could do it with a little bit of time and lots of meditation and relaxation.

S2: Rafael , thank you so much.

S3: Thank you , Julia. It was a pleasure talking to you.

S1: That was KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans speaking with Raphael Lopez , the San Diego based illustrator of a new children's book , The Little Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In Shakespeare’s romantic comedy "As You Like It," Rosalind and Orlando meet at court but don’t truly find love until they’re banished to the forest. La Jolla Playhouse gives us a re-imagined play where identities can be fully explored through a cast of trans, non-binary and queer performers.

Gender at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

While construction was taking place outside the Playhouse’s rehearsal room last week, some deconstruction was happening inside.

Take the court versus forest motif of Shakespeare’s "As You Like It." Dramaturg Regina Victor pointed out that Elizabethans would have seen it as restriction versus freedom, perhaps even Protestant versus Catholic. But how could that be redefined for a modern audience?

"And so for us, our production is the binary court and the free gender-ful forest," Victor said.

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Beth Accomando
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KPBS
Dramaturg Regina Victor at a rehearsal of "As You Like It" in which they also understudy the roles of Orlando and Oliver. Nov. 2, 2022

A dramaturg has some key duties: world building for a new play, historical context for an old one and acting as a playwright’s advocate even if he’s dead.

Which prompted Victor to ask: "What do I think Shakespeare would have wanted? What was his intention in writing the story? And how can our interpretation honor that without distracting from it?"

So while gender fluidity wasn’t a topic of discussion in Shakespeare’s time, the playwright was obviously interested in ideas about gender and identity. At Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a young boy would have played the female lead of Rosalind who then must disguise herself as a man who pretends to be a woman so that the man she secretly loves can woe her.

"I think what Shakespeare's original productions had to do, that this one also has to do is get down to the essence of the person," Victor said. "Peter (Smith) who plays Rosalind, talks a lot about in the forest, I become a lover. And that identity transcends gender."

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La Jolla Playhouse
"As You Like It" co-directors Christopher Ashley and Will Davis. Undated image.

Creating a 'gender-ful' production

"I would say our production is even more 'gender-ful' than original productions because we have this amazing group of actors, trans actors and non-binary actors and queer actors. And there's all of these options for how does this production construct the possibilities for that character," said Christopher Ashley, one of the play’s co-directors.

And that meant rejecting the idea of a world defined in binary terms.

"And it just seems like so much of the conflict in our society is about this idea that it can only be A or B," Ashley said. "When it comes to gender, this idea that there has to be only men and women and there's no other options. I've been looking at different Shakespeare plays to think about, is there a play that really brings that idea to life? And it feels like these ideas are really coming organically out of this play."

Co-director Will Davis liked Ashley's idea about using the text of "As You Like It" to investigate ideas around the binary and what life could be like if it was not binary.

"So we started talking about what would happen if Rosalind in fact was not pivoting from one thing to another, and no one else was seeing her in that way, but that actually she was shedding an idea, shedding a binary idea," Davis said. "And actually, her experience in the woods is accumulative, that she's becoming more and more herself, which is more and more complex."

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Beth Accomando
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KPBS
Set design for "As You Like It." Undated image.

Using production design and costume

And what if that was reflected through the production design — a circular stage offered as a challenge to binary ideas — and costumes?

"How we can make a show that is body forward and about making sure that the kinds of bodies who are in this show are being cherished and adorned and really lifted up in that way and so there's also a journey for the clothes from a place of stricture and binary-ness?" Davis said. "You can be one thing or the other — and then again, pushing back on this idea that Rosalind puts on men's clothes and that's how we see her for the rest of the show.

"In this production Rosalind starts to shed layers, courtly layers, and then starts to accumulate other things and we're watching her transform over time. And that this is mirrored in the clothes of the other characters too. We're finishing building a moment right now where everyone gets a chance to take something they have that they don't want anymore and give it to someone else who they think it would look great on."

Because the image we choose to present can have an impact.

"The more I can imagine something and believe in what I'm imagining about myself and for myself, the more the world is going to respond to that," Davis said.

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Carlos Castillo
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KPBS
Will Davis directs Peter Smith and Esco Jouley in La Jolla Playhouse's "As You Like It." Undated image.

Finding joy

Many new plays that tackle trans and non-binary stories explore the trauma that can accompany that identity in a society that still suffers from stereotypes and prejudices. But in re-imagining Shakespeare's classic romantic comedy, the directors are finding something fresh.

"It's been interesting, at this moment in history to make a production which is very joy forward and in which no one's going to be bashed, no one's going to be traumatized, it's really a journey of discovery of the possibility," Ashley said.

So trauma is not part of Rosalind and Orlando's narrative.

"We've really set out to make sure that this production is pushing in every possible way against that," Davis added. "Generally speaking, if two trans women go on an adventure in our current sort of cultural storytelling, something bad is going to happen to them and instead (here) they find themselves and fall in love. It feels important for the production. I think it's also important for these performers."

For Regina Victor, Rosalind's gender play can be an invitation.

"Just because you present one way doesn't mean your gender has stopped. It doesn't mean you've arrived, it means that you are now fluid between. And that's been really exciting," Victor said.

And while the production has added some contemporary music it has not really altered the text of Shakespeare’s play, even when Rosalind’s epilogue returns to the binary language of male and female.

"Because what ended up being more delightful was giving this trans performer the ability to put that gender panic back on the audience. And to say, it's not actually for me to make sense of this for you, it is actually for me to invite you to make sense of it yourself," Victor explained.

Shakespeare’s plays have proven endlessly adaptable because they are not about the past.

"Their main thing is the human imagination and the possibility of human relationships, which feels like it never dates," Ashley said.

So let La Jolla Playhouse take you to its gender-ful forest where you might experience Shakespeare from a fresh perspective.

"As You Like It" begins preview performances on Tuesday and then runs through Dec. 11 at the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre.

For more about what a dramaturg does, listen for my interview with Regina Victor on Monday's Midday Edition.

The Playhouse invites you to a 'gender-ful' forest of Arden

I cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.
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