Breaking Down Stereotypes

by Allyson Yoder

Julia Cannon and Brinley Nassise are infectious laughers. So it’s fitting that, for the light rail plays, they have created a comedy—a caricature that pokes holes in some common stereotypes about the light rail. If this is your first time riding the train, they want you to know: you’re going to be okay!

julia and brinley






Julia Cannon

What do you when you’re not doing Light Rail Plays? “You mean like my real job? I work in software development to build databases for nonprofits and foundations. Outside of RYT, I don’t have a theatre practice right now. I studied theatre in college, and I’ve done other productions around the Valley, but right now RYT is the only thing outside of my 9-to-5.”

How did you get involved with RYT? “Well, I stalked them! No, I specifically went out looking for groups that were doing Theatre of the Oppressed, one of the styles that I was really excited about. Through my previous job, I met one of the former theatre faculty at ASA, and they told me about Xanthia and Sarah and what they’re doing, and then I found them, and told them I wanted to learn more about what they do. My first production with them was “Finding Family,” the first show of their second season.”

How is the experience on Light Rail Plays different? “Well, in “Finding Family” we were working with a shelter that accommodated undocumented, unaccompanied youth. We were going to their facilities and working specifically with them to create stories around their experiences and their journey to the U.S…and then there was a playwright who put it all together and created a script. So even though we created it, the words and blocking were more like traditional theatre in that it was given to us…as opposed to this, where we’re creating everything from scratch.”

So, from scratch—how have you done that? What’s your process been like?  “For our particular piece, the discussions we had in the room before we went out to the light rail was extremely informative too. Sarah and Xanthia had asked the group, generally, you know, what are the rules of the light rail, and what kinds of people are on the light rail, and what disrupts the functions of the light rail? And things like that. So we kind of got this before and after comparison of what people typically thought of and what they expected and what the stereotypes were. We went into this with the idea that people on the light rail are unfriendly, people on the light rail don’t talk to each other…so we devised this experiment to determine if those assumptions were true…and it turns out from our experiment that they aren’t.”

What’s one thing that has surprised you? “Well, I don’t want to say that this whole process was easy, but it was still easier than I expected! I think we came up with something that we are really proud of, and really excited to do, in a very short amount of time. And that was surprising.”


Brinley Nassise

What do you do when you’re not doing Light Rail Plays? “I have school obviously at Scottsdale Christian Academy (8th grade). And I hang out with friends, I like to go see movies, and read, and write. I like fiction mostly, my dad’s an author, so that’s where I get it. My favorite book is either The Perks of Being a Wallflower or The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.

How did you get involved in RYT? When I was 8 I did this theater class at Phoenix Center for the Arts, and my mom got an email when I was ten, and it was about Rising Youth Theatre’s first play, and it was Summer Beginning, and I was in that. It was really fun, and that’s, I think, what got me into acting, when I started doing it outside of school, and I really liked it. I was also in a play called Woman and Girl, that was directed by Xanthia, and that was just a two-person show.”

Do you think you’ll continue with theater? “Yeah, definitely. It’s really fun, and it lets you be creative and meet a lot of new people, and experience new things.”

Can you talk more about the experiment you and Julia did on the light rail? “We each talked to five different people, and we tried to start a conversation. And we were seeing whether they would continue the conversation, or respond and then stop it, or not have a conversation at all. And I got that four out of five people were friendly and they would continue the conversation, and one didn’t at all. I was surprised at how wrong all the stereotypes of the light rail were.”

Had you ever ridden the light rail before? “Once or twice, but not a lot.”

What something you’ll take away from this experience? “Memories, definitely. And just the whole thing… I’ve never done something like this, where it’s actually on a moving train. That’s really new and fun and cool. Normally you’d just be on a stage with an audience there, but on the light rail it’s people you don’t know, and you can’t expect their reactions, and you can’t know what’s going to happen, and you can’t know, with the movement, if you’re gonna fall or something… and I think that makes it more fun.”

If you could tell a stranger one thing about the Light Rail Plays, what would it be? “That it’s not like anything else that you would expect for a play. It’s something completely new, and completely different, and something that would be really intriguing for them to see.”

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