On Monday, April 18, Patterson High School’s Auditorium was filled with students along with the energy that can only comes at the end of the school day on a Monday afternoon. But today, the students were attentive and engaged as they took time away from classes to view a special play produced by Imagination Stage and performed in Baltimore for the first time. This was the third performance for the day reaching around 300 Art, Language Arts, and ESOL students total.
Prior to the start of the act, Alina Collins Maldonado, of Imagination Stage, got up in front of the audience to set the stage for the play by explaining, in both English and Spanish, that the performance was about four high school students immigrating to the United States from various parts of Central America. One of Arts Every Day’s newest partners, Imagination Stage, based out of Montgomery County, was performing for the first time in a Baltimore City School.
“¡Óyeme! is a collaborative project that responds to the surge of refugee children fleeing violence from Central America” and by bringing up relatable topics in a school with a high international population, Imagination Stage hopes to foster a safe space for youth to express themselves.
¡Óyeme! strives to provide a creative arts outlet for young people, utilizing best practice culturally-based, trauma-informed theatre and arts activities to create a sense of community among the participants, and provide a safe space for immigrant youth to share their stories. Our hope is that as a result of our efforts not only will the children feel welcomed, but they can begin the healing process that will allow them to assimilate into their new community. There is no better way to connect to another human being than through the arts.
At the end of the play, actors introduced themselves to the students, sharing their real names, where they are from and then shared a little about the characters they played- Estéban, Laura, Rubén, Valentina. Afterwards, the audience broke into 4 groups and each actor worked with students as they shared hopes and wishes (esperanzas y deseos) they had for the character played by the actor. Some of those hopes and wishes were to find love, protect their brother/sister, reunite with family, get a good job or to become a nurse. Students were then given an index card and were instructed to place themselves in the actor’s position and write a postcard “home” to family, friends, etc. The actors read some of the letters to the entire audience noting that some were written in Spanish. The actors read each letter in both English and Spanish.
Imagination Stage also works with schools for 12 week long residencies where they visit the classroom once a week to work on theatrical skills, language fluency, and effective methods of storytelling all while building communication skills.
Arts Every Day is excited to welcome Imagination Stage to the growing family of Arts Partners who work with City Schools throughout Baltimore to help bring the arts into the lives of every student, in every school, every day!
For more information about Imagination Stage and this play, visit: https://imaginationstage.org/in-your-community/oyeme/