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Newsom Announces State Budget, Nervous Theatre Stages 'The Maids'

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California Governor Gavin Newsom announced his $222 billion state spending plan. Also, the Nervous Theatre describes itself as a nomadic company. That means no venue to call home. But the company is in town this weekend to perform Jean Genet's "The Maids" at Tenth Ave Arts Center.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:01 More money to house the homeless in the governor's new budget and on today's roam table, a discussion on new middle East tensions. I'm wearing Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition.

Speaker 1: 00:23 It's Friday, January 10th governor Gavin Newsome unveiled his new budget proposal today and two of the big ticket items would address homelessness and wildfires. The $222 billion budget will also expand health coverage to seniors living in the state illegally and moved towards state manufacturer of prescription drugs. New swim has the benefit this time of a projected budget surplus, which is on track to add about $7 billion to the state's resources. Joining me is reporter Merissa Lagos' with KCU, [inaudible], California politics and government desk and Merissa. Welcome to the program. Thanks for having me, Maureen. Now this budget showcases Newsome's focus on housing and homelessness. He's allocating 1.4 billion towards programs. How are those funds to be used? Yeah. I think the main sort of thrust of this is that he feels like the state hasn't always done enough to get money quickly and directly into the hands of local governments and service providers who can actually make a difference on the ground.

Speaker 1: 01:26 And so we're talking about things about half that money or a little more than half, um, is essentially going to be, you know, aimed at actually getting, you know, to the, these local governments for things like emergency shelters. He also wants the state to open up, um, surplus lands and handout trailers that had already has on hand to help with those efforts. Um, and, and, and you know, there's a lot in here too around sort of connecting the idea between mental health and homelessness and the idea that if people are mentally or physically ill, they really can't get the help. And so he's kind of, I think changing the way in some ways that the state policy really imagines those connections as well. And another thing he wants to change is the number of firefighters in the state money for hundreds of new firefighters are included in the budget. What else has the governor proposing for wildfire and disaster relief?

Speaker 1: 02:20 Yeah. We're talking also about investments in new technology to help sort of track and monitor fires. Um, home hardening money that could actually go directly, you know, to people who live in these wildfire prone areas and maybe need some financial assistance and making their homes more fire safe. Uh, vegetation management, which is never the sexiest thing to talk about, but as a super important. Um, and I think just generally, you know this, there is a sense in this budget he talks in at one point about PG and E's bankruptcy and the fact that the state really needs to keep a close eye on utilities and what they're doing and, and continues to hold out the idea that if the state isn't happy with their, you know, reorganization plan when they exit bankruptcy later this year, that they would sort of reserve the right to come in and exercise more control over that privately owned company.

Speaker 1: 03:07 One of the more controversial aspects of these proposals, these budget proposals, is that Newsome is doubling down on his effort to extend health coverage to people living in this state illegally. How does this budget expand that? Yeah, so this would, um, we've seen in past years sort of a, a tick up, um, starting with up to 18 year olds, children who are undocumented now that goes up to age 26 that folks can qualify for medical if they're undocumented. Uh, the governor wants to expand that to low income adults over the age of 65. Um, he's putting in about $80 million for this coming year, uh, to fund that. Um, and he really gave a full throated defense of that in his comments this morning, essentially saying, you know, some people don't think that there's a connection between healthcare and sort of larger societal healthiness. Um, and also that he thinks it saves money to do preventative care.

Speaker 1: 03:57 So I think you're right, it will be controversial outside of California, but I think within the state Capitol, um, we've seen lawmakers actually pushing him to do that. Staying on the subject of healthcare. The governor is really quite a unique proposal to reduce healthcare costs in California. He wants the state to have its own drug label. Can you tell us about that? Yeah, I mean, I think this is one of those areas where, um, uh, Newsome is trying to sort of throw a lot of things at the wall and see what sticks. I mean he's already talked about, um, going and doing more sort of direct negotiating with drug makers, um, in terms of the prices and sort of consolidating the power around the state to do that. Um, and you're right, he wants to work with existing generic drug manufacturers. So the state would essentially have its own label.

Speaker 1: 04:41 He thinks that the sort of buying power of California could really lower those prices for everyone. What other issues were as were highlighted in this budget? Yeah. You know, I thought I was actually really interested that he really opened his now going on two hours of remarks. I'm really focusing on kids in education, which is something he came into office stressing. Um, and I think the wildfire crisis, and obviously our homelessness crisis have really, you know, kind of overshadowed that, but he's talking about a wide range of programs. One, um, his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsome has helped craft, which is to expand by 40% the state's nutritional program in schools. That's $70 million a year. Um, he's talking about more than a billion dollars to really focus on high poverty school districts, which we know tend to be where African American students are clustered. Um, and he wants to really go in and help support and train teachers, uh, reform the special education system, um, and sort of create more broad plans for how to support kids who either have mental health problems or just in these low performing schools.

Speaker 1: 05:47 And finally, how does this year's budget compare with last year's budget, which was Newsome's first as governor of California? That's interesting question. I think, I mean this is a 300 page budget. We're still kind of going through it. Um, I think broadly that even though he tried to really go, you know, to, to stress a lot of the sort of wide range of things, we are seeing a little bit more focus from his administration on these twin issues. You know, crises sees a homelessness, um, and climate change, which of course wildfires is part of. Um, and again, I think we are the, the complaint you heard in Sacramento, uh, the first year was that it wasn't always clear what the administration's priorities were. Lawmakers felt like there was sort of too much. Um, and I think that here we, we, we are seeing a little bit more focus. Um, and also some, you know, I think still sort of the governor's very optimistic about California and its economy, but he continues to warn that that could contract and that, you know, we have to keep saving. Um, and so maybe not different from last year, but continuing on, um, putting more money in the rainy day fund, really trying to cap that out. Um, and paying down debt is something that we also heard them talk about. And I've been

Speaker 2: 06:59 speaking with a reporter, Marissa Lagos' with KQ [inaudible], California politics and government desk. Marissa, thank you so much. My pleasure. Students from California's native American communities have long had low college graduation rates. Lack of support and mentoring for native American students are often cited as a reason. So now more universities like Cal state San Bernardino are appointing tribal liaisons. Hey PCCs, Adolfo Guzman Lopez has more. There aren't

Speaker 3: 07:34 20,000 students enrolled at Cal state San Bernardino, but only 45 are native Americans. Enter Vincent Whipple, the university's tribal liaison.

Speaker 4: 07:44 I am native American. I'm a Lakota through my father. Uh, Denae Navajo through my, through my mother.

Speaker 3: 07:49 Tribal identification is important is as, because it shows native Americans that one of them is in a leadership position in a mainstream institution.

Speaker 4: 07:58 Be a native, really gives native people a point of contact here on the campus. I'm a few of our partners have told us in the past that because they didn't know who to contact here, uh, they didn't feel comfortable, you know, uh, encouraging their students to come to this campus.

Speaker 3: 08:13 Whipple wants to build what tribal liaisons have done at other campuses like Cal state San Marcos, where students can now graduate with a degree in American Indian studies. Tish mal Turner became tribal liaison there 13 years ago.

Speaker 5: 08:25 We went from having a minor to having a major, being able to offer programming on our campus to support and attract American Indian students.

Speaker 3: 08:36 Three of Cal state's 23 campuses have tribal liaisons. San Diego state university is recruiting one and will be the fourth system wide. The six year graduation rate for native Americans is 50%. Jacob coin, the vice president of public affairs at the San Manuel band of mission Indians says that may be a legacy of destructive government policies such as the federal boarding school program that separated native American youth from their families and their culture. I think that experience left many generations, uh, of, of native people. Just a little bit shy and a little bit suspicious about education. Generally, Coyne says his tribe has donated millions of dollars over the years to area universities at Cal state San Bernardino. Tribal donations have gone to build the student union. The campus observatory and funded the tribal liaison office. Coyne says the tribe is now pushing campuses to match funds, shouldn't just be tribes funding native initiatives at universities.

Speaker 3: 09:35 It should go way beyond that. That way he says the entire institution has a stake in lifting up native American students and incorporating native knowledge into its mission. One of the goals is to create environments with more of the communal values and tight knit family relationships that mainly native youth grow up with. So I was born and raised on the Los coyotes reservation, which is in San Diego County. UCLA student Daniel streamer says it's been difficult to find those valleys at his campus. It led to a very difficult time when he learned a relative on the reservation, had died days before his first year at UCLA. I felt pretty alienated I guess because my family is at home dealing with our loss and my siblings and I were up here at school. UCLA has a strong native studies department and added a tribal liaison last year. Cal state San Bernardino liaison. Vincent Whipple says it's a model for what he wants to accomplish, which is to double native American student enrollment in the next two years. For the California report. I'm on old fool Guzman Lopez in Los Angeles.

Speaker 6: 10:41 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 10:46 there's a new theater company in town, at least for this weekend. Nervous theater is presenting. John Shanae's, the maids at 10th Avenue arts center. The newly formed company describes itself as nomadic, which means it has no home base and travels from city to city. KPBS arts reporter Beth OCHA, Mondo speaks with artistic director Connor ber compass and actor Dillon Waylon. Connor nervous theater company is described as a nomad company, kind of a place, a rootless company. What does that mean?

Speaker 7: 11:19 We kind of set out to be intentionally rootless in the sense that we're not really interested in having a theater that we call our own. Instead we're, we're interested in creating works and making productions and then taking those productions kind of wherever the wind takes us. So the play you have chosen to be your first touring production is John Shanae's, the maids, which is, I must say I congratulate you on not taking something that's very mainstream and crowd pleasing on an audio on an obvious level. So remind people a little bit about what this play was about. It was written in 19 seven, um, it was written in 1947 after a fairly scandalous real life murder took place. The two, uh, sisters, they very brutally slaughtered their employer and her daughter. So this was kind of the big tabloid sensation of the time and a bunch of writers kind of seized on that, including Janae and created this fictional account of what he thought might've been going on psychologically and Dylan, you go by sympathy the clown in the program and you are going to be playing one of the female characters. So this raises a lot of issues, especially today where people are very concerned about who plays what roles. And I understand that Janae had expressed an interest in having men play the female roles. So what is kind of the reasoning behind this productions using men to play female roles?

Speaker 8: 12:45 Well, I think when the play originally came out, uh, society was a little more rigid and a little more structured and it really focused on the class divide between the maids and ma'am, but now society's a little more fluid. Uh, so I like to think that our production is tackling not only the class struggle between these characters, but also what it means to be oppressed and what you're allowed to express yourself as. And the ways we present ourselves and the places we're told to be in society. These classic plays that we love and Revere have to change and grow to continue to be played to different audiences. So I think we're trying to do that with this production

Speaker 7: 13:24 and the play itself. I mean this is theater of the absurd and part of what he's doing is calling attention to the whole idea of role playing and gender and a lot of other things. So Connor, how were you? What were you thinking about in terms of directing this and using this kind of casting? It's so theatrical and we kind of wanted to capitalize on that. So our, our production kind of jumps through these different genres as, as the sisters put on these different roles and as they're forced to kind of present themselves indifference to whoever else is in the room. So we kind of jump from genre to genre and style to style throughout the evening. And this was a play that was written in French. And so the translation of the play is important. Sometimes it's given a very kind of modern translation, uh, what kind of a translation did you decide to work from and does it kind of play up the poetry or play up more of the kind of bluntness?

Speaker 7: 14:21 Yeah, the, the translation that we're using Bernard Frackman, it absolutely kind of leans into the poetry of Jennay's original texts. And I think that that's kind of what makes it so ingenious because it doesn't shy away from Jennay's extremely sometimes flowery language, which I think it would be a disservice to the play to pretend it's something it's not. And instead we're choosing to lean into that while still making it highly contemporary and highly, um, rooted in the here and now. So let's hear a little snippet from the play. You are playing the two sisters, correct? Yes, that's right. I play Solange and I play Claire. This scene takes place in the ceremony. So the sisters perform the ceremony every night when their employer is away. One of the sisters puts on the madames outfit and the other assumes the role of maid,

Speaker 8: 15:12 those gloves, those eternal gloves. I've told you time and again to leave them in the kitchen, you probably hope to seduce the delivery boy with them. Oh no, no, no, no. Don't deny it. No point in lying. Hang them over the sink. When will you understand that this room is not to be contaminated? Everything. Yes. Everything that comes from the kitchen is spit. Get out and prepare my dress.

Speaker 7: 15:39 The red Madame will wear red. I said the white with the sequence. I'm terribly sorry. Madame will wear the Scarlet velvet dress this evening. Y madames curves under the velvet folds are unforgettable. Particularly when she size.

Speaker 8: 15:57 You dare deny me the wide County wide is the morning of Queens. Claire, you are too ignorant to know that

Speaker 7: 16:06 Madame will wear a red. Quite all right. Well thank you. And what do you hope audiences are going to take away from this? This is a play from 1947 about an incident that happened in 1933 and we are now in the 21st century. So what kinds of things do you think people are going to connect to? It's, it's hard for us to answer this question just because um, we've talked so much about universality and how that's not something we're always interested in in making theater just because we think that can kind of take away from understanding someone else's circumstances. Sometimes we absolutely hope that people will find things to relate to and we hope that everyone will get something out of this. What's more important than relating to it on an individual level is watching these two people struggling and kind of having an evening where we just exercise our empathy.

Speaker 8: 16:57 So much of this play is the dichotomy between what, where we are in our lives and where we see ourselves in our lives. And I don't think anybody who walks into this plate can't relate to that. And I think the big question of the whole night is how the what makes us, who we are is how we go about getting those things. And I think that's the giant question Mark on this play. And obviously I want everybody to take their own individual experience with it, but I think that's the overarching question the entire night.

Speaker 7: 17:25 All right, well, I want to thank you both very much for coming in and talking about the maids. Thank you for having us.

Speaker 8: 17:30 That was Beth Armando, Mondo speaking with nervous theaters. Connor Burke compass, and Dylan Wayland about their production of the maids running today through Sunday at 10th Avenue arts center.

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KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.