CULTURE MATTERS: Yo Miss tells many young stories

By on February 18, 2014
Judith Sloan brings immigrant youth stories to the stage.
Judith Sloan brings immigrant youth stories to the stage.

Judith Sloan brings immigrant youth stories to the stage.

JACKSON, WYO – “Yo, Miss.” That is how the students at the international high school where Judith Sloan works in Queens, N.Y., address her.

One, who recently arrived from Ecuador, told her how he expected to meet people from all over the world when he moved to New York. It turned out he lived in a community full of others from Ecuador.

Another boy arrived from China and stepped off the plane saying an expletive followed by the word “cold,” because they were the only English words he knew. When Sloan asked him where he learned them, he told her the The Titanic.

A girl from Pakistan who Sloan grew close to was being shipped back to her country to marry a man much older than herself against her wishes.

These are the stories Sloan gathered in the hallways and classrooms of the high school and they are also the stories that make up Yo Miss, a play Sloan wrote and stars in. The production is directed by Jackson resident Bob Berky and will be staged in Jackson at Pink Garter Theater Feb. 28 and March 1.

Berky taught Sloan years ago and when she wrote Yo Miss she sent him a copy and requested he direct her in a production. The script is beautiful, poignant and funny, Berky said.

While the students are a big part of the show, Sloan also weaves in her personal experiences, such as her time working in a prison with young men.

“It’s the stories of the kids and the struggles to adapt in the new world and Judith’s own struggle to adapt in her own world,” Berky said.

Sloan plays all the characters. She also has incorporated musicians into the piece. Coming to Jackson with Sloan are beat boxer Chesney Snow and violist Adam Hill.

“To think of the viola as a hip-hop instrument might be a stretch, but it’s not,” Berky said.

There will be two public performances of the play. The show Feb. 28 is recommended for those 13 years and older with a few expletives taken out. The show March 1 is recommended for those 16 years and older due to some adult language.

“These are the real words of real kids from all over the world,” Berky said. So while the language isn’t offensive, it also isn’t censored.

The performances are part of the residency Sloan is doing in Jackson, which includes a free writing workshop at Teton County Public Library, performances and student workshops at the high school and middle school and a workshop at Red Top Meadows.

“A piece of theater should be like a snow storm,” Berky said. “It should blanket the whole town.”
The piece is relevant to people in Jackson, despite its New York setting.

For instance, the comments made by the boy from Ecuador show how we seek out those we feel are like us and sometimes divide ourselves. While funny, many of the comments are thought provoking and provide insight into happenings in our own community and also in the larger world, Berky said.

“What we are laughing at is usually what we understand or what we recognize,” he said. “It’s relevant to all of us.”

In a free writing workshop on Feb. 27, Judith Sloan, accompanied by musicians Adam Hill on viola and beat boxer Chesney Snow, will explore the interplay between storytelling and music, having participants create short pieces and ways to speak the stories out loud. Writing workshop, 6:30 p.m., Feb. 27, Dancers’

Workshop Studio No. 3. Free. For more info, contact Oona Doherty, 733-2164 ext. 135;
Yo Miss, 8 p.m., Feb. 29 and March 1, at the Pink Garter Theater (Friday recommended for 13 years and older and Saturday recommended for 16 years and older). $15; $10 kids. 733-1500.

About Kelsey Dayton

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