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 Theater Trip Gives Incarcerated Youth a Holiday Treat

Students from San Diego County Probation’s Girls Rehabilitation Facility were treated to a day at the theater recently when La Jolla Playhouse hosted eight incarcerated young women to a production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The Nov. 26 visit to the La Jolla Playhouse started with backstage tour of the theater, prop room, and set. The girls learned that over 50,000 nuts and bolts were used to construct the set and over 1,200 feet of rope are used during the production of the play.

“The kids might only think of actors when they think of the theater,” said Alison Urban, La Jolla Playhouse associate director of education and outreach. “It takes a lot of people to put on a production. We want them to know that there are many career options in the theater besides being on stage.”

The San Diego County Office of Education runs the educational program at the Girls Rehabilitation Facility in San Diego. It's one of its Juvenile Court and Community Schools.

Before the stage performance, the girls were treated to a “Power Plays” workshop where they participated in interactive sessions that taught them about acting, stage blocking, and thematic expression. The kids learned what it was like to be an actor, how significant staging is to establish a characters station in life, how critical character demeanor is, and the importance of working as a team.

Workshop leader James Pilar had the girls stage-block a scene where one of them was more powerful than the rest of the group. He then asked them what it was like to be the “powerful one.” One of the students commented that she felt like it was cool and then she felt bad; another said that when she was the most powerful, she felt the most alone.

The girls also learned that even though the book the play was based on was written almost 200 years ago, the themes in the play were the same as some of the things they go through today: love, jealousy, friendship, balance of power, frustration, helplessness, and exclusion.

By the time the play started, the girls were ready for a great show, and they were not disappointed. By intermission, they could not contain their excitement and many referenced some of the lessons they learned in their workshop. By the time the curtain fell, they were discussing the multiple themes in the show. 

The theater trip was organized by Amanda Wallace, Juvenile Court and Community Schools lead registrar. “I have a passion for theater and I want to share that with our kids,” said Wallace. “This partnership with the La Jolla Playhouse is fantastic and allows us to show our students what is possible.”