DISENGAGED Opening December 5, 2014

Disengaged Postcards

RISING YOUTH THEATRE PRESENTS AN ORIGINAL PLAY ABOUT ARIZONA’S HIGH SCHOOL DISENGAGEMENT CRISIS

DECEMBER 5, 6 AND 7TH AT THE PHOENIX CENTER FOR THE ARTS

More and more youth are leaving high school without a diploma. Arizona has one of the highest dropout rates in the US. As a community, we need to ask why. This original play from Rising Youth Theatre looks at this big question of why our dropout rate is so high from the perspective of current high school students, exploring both why teens are dropping out and what we can do to change the statistic. Tucson based playwright Milta Ortiz wrote the play Disengaged based on workshops with young people and interviews with adults who work to address the dropout rate. The cast is comprised of professional adult artists and youth who have re-entered high school after disengaging earlier in their school experience

(Phoenix, Arizona) Rising Youth Theatre, a new theatre company that creates socially relevant original plays with youth will present the world premiere of Disengaged by Milta Ortiz on December 5, 6 and 7, 2014 at the Phoenix Center for the Arts, 1202 N. 3rd Street. Arizona’s high school dropout rate is among the highest in the nation. Knowing the long-term negative impact that dropping out of school has on both individual students and our community overall, RYT took on this project to explore the stories behind the reports, talking directly to young people who are disengaging from school. Performances will be held on December 5th at 7:00pm, and December 6th and 7th at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. A closed performance for participating school partners will be held on December 5th at 9:00am. A talkback will be held following the performance, engaging the audience in dialogue about Arizona’s dropout rate and what we can do to impact it.

The play was created through interviews and workshops with several organizations, including College Depot at the Phoenix Public Library and North High School. The primary partner, however, was Genesis City, an alternative high school who “empowers its students to enter college or the work force with skills, behaviors, and attitudes necessary to become lifelong learners and contributing community members.” Five of the cast members, as well as the assistant stage manager and two assistant designers are students at Genesis City, young people who disengaged from their previous schools before ending up at Genesis. Paula Alvarado, who plays Nuvia in Disengaged, explained that she was excited about her character because she knows a lot of people can relate to Nuvia’s story. “It feels true – it gets at the realistic things people go through in life every day. There are a lot of immigrants, a lot of Latino students, dropping out and people aren’t talking about it.”

Another student, Alyssa Baeza who is working on the play as the assistant stage manager explained that it was hard to commit to school while balancing challenging life circumstances. She explains, “I was fed up with drama. I just wanted to leave school, run away, and not come back. But my little brother looks up to me, and I feel like it’s up to me to show him that path. I saw my friends go down a different road, and I didn’t want to choose that life. I want to be a good role model.” Ultimately, she felt that finding the right school made a big difference. “What got me to re-engage was finding a school that actually helps you, that cares about you, that will talk to you about your options. They’ll even still help you after you graduate, because it’s not like it suddenly becomes easier after you’re done.”

Stories from young people like Paula and Alyssa helped to build the framework for Disengaged, and to create a portrait of young people who are dropping out of school. Playwright Milta Ortiz used these stories as the springboard for creating the play, and worked closely with the youth participants and RYT’s artists to ensure that the play felt authentic to their experiences. While there aren’t specific answers or solutions built into the script, Rising Youth Theatre hopes that it can inspire a dialogue about why young people are disengaging from education that can lead to real, positive change.

Tickets to Disengaged are $10 or pay what you can – no one will be turned away for inability to pay. For ticketing information visit http://phoenixcenterforthearts.org/events/

Fast Facts about Disengaged

  • A play exploring Arizona’s high dropout rate from the point of view of current high school students
  • December 5, 6 & 7 at the Phoenix Center for the Arts, 1202 N. 3rd Street Phoenix AZ 85004
  • Performances are held at 7pm on Friday, and 2pm and 7pm on Saturday and Sunday
  • All tickets are $10 or pay what you can
  • For more information visit risingyouththeatre.org

About Rising Youth Theatre

Rising Youth Theatre (www.risingyouththeatre.org) is a professional theatre company based in Phoenix, Arizona that operates on a model of youth working alongside professional artists. Under the direction of co-founders Sarah Sullivan and Xanthia Angel Walker, the company offers young people the opportunity to participate in the arts in a unique way, using a youth development model to increase their potential for personal growth. As an organization, RYT believes that when youth participate in the creative process they become engaged, passionate citizens of their community and advocates on their own behalf.
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