Creating a show about the multifaceted issue of contemporary borders and international boundaries is a big task, but the students of Dale Dunn and Lynn Goodwin's playwriting class have risen to the challenge.
For the past few years, Dunn and Goodwin, local playwrights and actors, have worked together to create and build up Just Say It Theater, a writing and performance collaboration effort featuring students from Santa Fe University of Art and Design, the New Mexico School for the Arts and the Santa Fe Indian School. Their latest play, Borders: Crossing the Line, takes the stage at Warehouse 21 this weekend.
"We explore the boundaries that separate individuals, races, religions and nations—what drives them apart and what helps draw them together," says Dunn.
Goodwin wants young artists in the community to have a stronger voice.
"We feel it's important for young people to have a forum in which to develop their viewpoints on topical issues in a thoughtful, creatively articulated way," she says. "The forum provides a place for the community to hear these young writers' viewpoints."
At JSIT, the shows are written by the students with guidance from Dunn and Goodwin, who compile and organize the script.
"The most unique aspect of this company and this play is that it is student written and performed in a way that permits our own voices the chance to be heard," says NMSA student Tilcara Webb, who has worked with JSIT for three years.
The new show, Borders, challenges students to put themselves in the shoes of characters who range from cheerleaders to a military drone operator to even a bomber.
"The students have created some memorable and often humorous characters which take us through a richly textured and varied landscape that explores many of these issues and the students' personal response to them," says Dunn.
In Borders, scenes jump from locations in far-flung countries to confession booths to school cafeterias. Nothing is as black and white as it seems. But the audience is pulled along just as quickly.
"Exploring the topic of borders is important because it deals both with cultural and personal boundaries," explains Goodwin.
Last spring, the duo and their playwriting classes from SFUAD and NMSA mounted Left to Our Own Devices, a show centering on cyber-bullying and the advantages and disadvantages of living in such a technology-obsessed world.
"It was a powerful theater piece," says Goodwin. "[The fact that] it generated broad interest from the audience is a testament to the students' creative work and dedication to the collaborative process."
The show was such a huge success that Desert Academy teamed up with Santa Fe High to put together their own production last November and toured it around local schools to engage students with the issue.
"I really believed in the message," says Randy Bennett, chair of the performing arts and film department at Desert Academy who spearheaded the effort. "That's what Just Say It Theater does best, I think, is pinpoint social issues that are very relevant to young people."
The playwriting class, spread between the three schools, consists of a variety of majors, but mostly actors and creative writers. Everyone is required to both write and perform in the show, which challenges the students to expand their comfort zones in terms of artistic expression.
"It's a different level of criticism," says senior creative writing student Nick Martinez of the difficulties of acting. "In both mediums—when you're being critiqued—with writing its personal stuff, but with acting, they're critiquing your very nature."
"It was a nice challenge, a nice outlet," saysSFUAD performing arts major Hamilton Turner.
The students and teachers are optimistic that the play will make the audience examine their own place in the world.
"At the very least, a recognition that there are more borders than they might realize," says Turner. "Physical, mental, and it could be that there's a mental boundary that's creating a physical boundary."
"If somebody can stop for a minute and think about their role in the world," says Martinez. "I think–mission accomplished,"
Zoe Baillargeon is an intern in SFR's newsroom and a writer for Jackalope at SFUAD.
BORDERS: CROSSING THE LINE
Warehouse 21, 1641 Paseo de Peralta
April 30, May 1 and 2 at 7 pm
May 3 at 2 pm
$10/$5 for students