Our 2016 Season is Here!

In 2016, We Players is celebrating
Shakespeare 400,
the NPS Centennial,
and our own Sweet Sixteen!

Our season of stunning site-integrated theatre is full of love,
masquerade balls, sword fights, gorgeous poetry and – of course –
fantastically beautiful California landscapes.

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Shakespeare 400: Performance companies and publishers
the world over are honoring 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy.

We Players Sweet Sixteen

We Players has been staging large-scale, site-integrated experiences of classical plays
since the first production in 2000 at Stanford University.
That first We Players show?  A roving Romeo & Juliet which moved from Tressider Student Union throughout the campus courtyards and pedestrian thoroughfares to Memorial Church, The Quad, and ultimately arriving at a collection of Rodin sculptures, “the Burghers of Calais.”

We Players cycles back and digs deeper into the play that began it all,
celebrating 16 years of creating stunning works of site-integrated theatre
in spectacular and historically charged locations, with
Romeo & Juliet performances, inspired special events, and parties throughout 2016!

Mask Making Salons: presentation + hands on mask making workshop; March – April
Sword Fights & Sandwiches: performance, workshop, social gathering; May & June
The Capulet Ball: elegant masquerade ball and performance; May & June
Romeo & Juliet: full scale production at Petaluma Adobe; August & September
Romeo & Juliet: full scale production adapted for Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, CA; October

~~ More details below ~~


7th Annual GALA

On the Vernal Equinox: Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 6:30pm

Intrigue will flow from every corner of one of our favorite indoor spaces!
Savor potions prepared by our underground Franciscan Friars; send secret messages to your lovers and esteemed friends via our cupid courier service; visit the Apothecary’s Lounge to stimulate your five senses; and outbid your frenemies at the silent auction – featuring new and special treasures to thrill and delight.

Gala Tickets

Romeo & Juliet

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Ava Roy
Produced by Lauren D. Chavez and Ava Roy
Original Score by Charlie Gurke

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Continuing nearly 10 years of unprecedented partnerships
with the National Park Service and California State Parks,
We Players once again integrates a classic story into the environs
of a national historic landmark.

This summer, journey to wine country to experience this
beloved story of star-crossed lovers set into the historic

Rancho Petaluma and surrounding grounds.

We Players, in partnership with California State Parks presents:
Romeo & Juliet
at Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park
Sonoma County, CA
August 12 – September 25, 2016

* * * *

Later in the fall, head south to Saratoga
to experience the play adapted for the stunning mansion
and grounds of the illustrious Villa Montalvo!

We Players in partnership with Montalvo Arts Center presents:
Romeo & Juliet
at Villa Montalvo
Saratoga, CA
October 6 – 16, 2016

In Residence at Montalvo Arts Center
We’ve received an astounding invitation from the Montalvo Arts Center
to workshop our upcoming production of Romeo & Juliet this April.
This residency is as part of the Lucas Arts Residency Program and
Montalvo’s 75 year history of supporting artists and the artistic process.
We love you, Montalvo!

* * * *

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“We Players actors have the ability to draw power out of their
surroundings, channeling it into spectacular, immersive experiences”
– SF Weekly “Best of the Bay” 2015 awards

We Players connects people with place through site-integrated theatre.
Support for the nonprofit arts and education organization is provided by
Grants for the Arts/ General Fund Portion of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund,
The Fleishhacker Foundation, Fort Mason Center Presents, Kenneth Rainin Foundation,
The San Francisco Foundation, The Zellerbach Family Foundation and generous individual contributors.
Our 2016 Romeo & Juliet season will be developed while in residence
at the Lucas Artist Residency Program, Montalvo Arts Center.

We Players celebrates 2016

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2016 is a year of special anniversaries…

We Players’ Sweet 16,
the National Park Service’s Centennial,
and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

We are honoring all new mailing list signups with
a discount code for 10% off tickets
to this year’s (soon-to-be-announced) site-integrated theatre production!

And as a member of our list, you’ll also receive early access to tickets for our public events.

Join us in connecting people with place
through immersive site-integrated theatre
and engaging community programs.

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the heart of generosity

Today is #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back.
On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

Please support We Players with a tax deductible contribution in any amount, and join us in celebrating site-integrated theatre, community, and nature. We have been building participation in the arts and exposing audiences to the layered history, beauty, and complexity of local parks for fifteen years. Help us continue this good work and seed our exciting programs planned for 2015. Thank you!

Give to We



Winter Reflections

As nights grow longer and winter rains seep into the earth, those of us at We Players find ourselves turning inward, reflecting on hearth and home, our past accomplishments, and our plans for the near future. With audience and community support, we have achieved remarkable things this past year:

· We leveraged our strong partnerships with the National Park Service, and pushed the boundaries of creative place-making with unique site-integrated performance, including: Macbeth at Fort Point; Canciones del Mar on the tall ship Balclutha; Vessels for Improvisation aboard ferryboat Eureka, and the roving performance of King Fool – our distilled version of King Lear.

· Since fall 2013, we have worked directly with over 300 students from diverse Bay Area communities via our Aesthetic Education Program (AEP). In addition to workshops offered on high school grounds, We Players directors have served as outside experts and guest lecturers for college-level courses at California College for the Arts and Stanford University.

· We inspired 2,840 audience members to connect with the precious gems of our local landscape, reminding residents of the spectacular beauty and cultural relevancy of our parks and inviting their repeat visitation and stewardship of local public resources.

Thank you for helping us accomplish all of this!

So, what lies ahead? In 2015, We Players celebrates its 15th year of creating art in public spaces. We promise to bring you more site-integrated theatre; more incredible visual art, music, and dance via our Presenting Series; and an ever-deepening relationship between audience, art, and place. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park will continue serving as a “floating classroom” for our growing AEP program. And in spring 2015, we will stage Ondine, a devastating love story, at the dramatic ruins of the Sutro Baths and Sutro Heights Park.

Thank you for supporting We Players in connecting people with place through site-integrated theatre!

Give Today

2014 Run of Rime of the Ancient Mariner CANCELED

Dear Patron,

We are deeply disappointed, and have had to make a very difficult decision to cancel all performances of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on Alma. All tickets and fees will be refunded this week.

We were saving this for a surprise, but our production of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on historic schooner Alma was built on the central image of an aerial performer as the Albatross, flying high above the deck, descending her apparatus in a painfully beautiful dance after being shot by the Mariner’s crossbow, all while sailing the San Francisco Bay.

Unfortunately, due to safety concerns related to the aerial performance that we and our partners at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park were unable to overcome, we are unable to proceed with the project at this time.

Alma's wake - sailing the Bay

Over the past several weeks of rehearsal we’ve made great strides in our development of the poem for performance. We have discovered rhythmic and imagistic gems while plumbing the currents of the text, we’ve written songs, we’ve stocked up on salty lingo, and are prepared to get wet. This has been valuable work, and we intend to make use of our investment. We set our sights on a new horizon and trust that we’ll find the time and the place that will best serve our vision for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

We sincerely apologize for this situation and the disappointment it may cause. We truly value you, our audience, and your support of and participation in our work. We don’t exist without you.

Thank you for your understanding and for staying the course with us.


Ava Roy and Lauren D. Chavez

King Fool’s Treasure

As part of our King Fool events, we gathered with our audiences for conversations after each performance.  King Fool’s content sparked discussions about many related topics: elders and dying, caring for people as they move towards death, and how our culture is beginning to incorporate ways to make it a healthier process for everyone. We came away with a number of resources that we are pleased to be able to share with our community.  But this is an incomplete list! Please use the comment feature on this post to add additional resources you’d like to share.

thank you!

– Lauren


King & Fool


Hospice of the East Bay, Pleasant Hill, CA

Hospice of the East Bay is committed to providing the hospice and palliative care services that support and comfort people and their loved ones through the final stages of life.

Hospice of the East Bay provides compassionate end-of-life care to terminally ill patients, while offering emotional, spiritual, and grief support for the entire family. As a not-for-profit organization, we accept all medically qualified patients, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. We also offer free bereavement services to the entire community. Since 1977, we have served over 20,000 patients and their families.

A Yelp reviewer says:  “I couldn’t imagine a better place for my father-in-law’s final days. It is located in a converted home that completely melds into the rest of a beautiful quiet neighborhood. My father-in-law had his own large room. Staff were attentive, caring, and respectful.

Most of all the beautiful gardens in the back complete with memory stones is so tranquil and peaceful. It still brings me comfort two years later to remember our own memory stone my son and I left for grandpa in that beautiful place.”

Sobonfu Somé – keeper of Dagura grieving ritual

Destined from birth to teach the ancient wisdom, ritual and practices of her ancestors to those in the West, Sobonfu, whose name means “keeper of the rituals” travels the world on a healing mission sharing the rich spiritual life and culture of her native land Burkina Faso, which ranks as one of the world’s poorest countries yet one of the richest in spiritual life and custom.

Dagara rituals involve healing and preparing the mind, body, spirit and soul to receive the spirituality that is all around us. “It is always challenging to bring the spiritual into the material world, but it is one of the only ways we can put people back in touch with the earth and their inner values.”

Zen Hospice Project, San Francisco, CA

Our mission is to help change the experience of dying.  We create a space for living that offers the opportunity for individuals, their loved ones and caregivers to find comfort, connection, and healing in this shared human experience. Through our pioneering model of care, we inspire each other to live fully.

Frank Ostaseski and the Metta InstituteSausalito, CA

Metta Institute® was established to provide education on spirituality in dying. Inspired by the Buddhist tradition, we encourage the integration of the spiritual dimensions of living, dying and transformation, through professional training, educational programs and materials.

Our Institute was formed in 2004 as an outgrowth of the Zen Hospice Project (ZHP), nationally recognized as a pioneering model in the movement to improve end-of life care. Our Director, Frank Ostaseski, helped form ZHP in 1987, and guided the program for 17 years.

Currently, the Metta Institute’s primary program is the End-of-Life Practitioner Program. The goal of the innovative training is to establish a national network of educators, advocates and guides for those facing life-threatening illness and the individuals and systems that serve them.

Judith Redwing Keyssar

Judith is the Director of the Palliative Care Program at Seniors at Home, a program of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties. Her book, Last Acts of Kindness (2010), is a collection of her experiences being a self-described “midwife to the dying”—working in both palliative care and end-of-life care and supporting people through their personal dying processes.


Healthy San Francisco

A low-cost health care option for San Franciscans, with elder care protections recently restored via the work of faith groups in the Mission striving for a Covenant of Care

Improv for Alzheimers

Karen Stobbe offers workshops on how to use the tools of improv with people who have dementia.

On This American Life on NPR, Producer Chana Joffe-Walt talks to a woman named Karen Stobbe and her husband Mondy about a plan they’ve recently enacted in their family. Karen’s mother lives with them and she has dementia. Karen and Mondy are actors and they stumbled upon a skill they have that is incredibly useful in communicating with Karen’s mother – improv.

You can listen to the story at http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/532/magic-words?act=2#play  – if you have trouble with the link not playing the story, play the Act 1 audio above for the “Magic Words’ story, and jump to 36 minutes in.

Advanced Health Care Directives

An “advance health care directive” lets your physician, family and friends know your health care preferences, including the types of special treatment you want or don’t want at the end of life, your desire for diagnostic testing, surgical procedures, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and organ donation.

By considering your options early, you can ensure the quality of life that is important to you and avoid having your family “guess” your wishes or having to make critical medical care decisions for you under stress or in emotional turmoil. This site by the California Office of the Attorney General offers a helpful checklist and additional resources for assembling your own AHCD.

The Coalition for Compassionate Care of California

The CCCC promotes high-quality, compassionate care for all Californians who are seriously ill or approaching the end of life.

We provide our expertise, tools and resources to families, patients, policy makers and healthcare providers to help ensure that all Californians receive high-quality palliative and end-of-life care. We also lead efforts to train healthcare professionals about Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), as well as cultural diversity and end-of-life care in California. The CCCC helps them develop the skills they need to talk with seriously-ill patients and families facing decisions about goals of care. We work with and support local coalitions throughout the state that provide support and education to healthcare providers and those facing treatment and care decisions.

We bring together people with a passion for increasing access to palliative care to spark growth of community-based palliative care throughout California.

King Fool and Night Walk this Friday!

We Players invites our community to join us in a Night Walk through the Mission in advance of our final San Francisco showing of King Fool, this Friday.
(Our 9/26 event – including performance, conversation and festive closing reception, will begin at 8pm, in a private warehouse just south of Mission Bay. The address will be revealed upon placing your reservation)

One of the things that has come up in our post-performance conversations is the truth that we cannot know when we will die.

Many of us hope that we will be blessed with a full life and well cared for by those we most love as we age and approach death. In our adaptation, Lear is blessed in this way, and yet his story is still heartbreaking.

It is a far greater tragedy for young people to die from violent crime.

The faith communities in the Mission – with whom we shared our opening performance of King Fool, have been making a positive impact in their neighborhood by being present and peaceful.

Our creative team is inspired to connect the timeless themes of death and relationship with current realities and join these communities for this Friday’s Night Walk.

We welcome your participation.

More info below.

For over a year now, several faith communities have been regularly walking some of the more violent streets of the Mission with a simple three-fold message:

  •  We care
  •  Stop the violence
  •  What do you need?

At this next Nightwalk we will also celebrate the re-emergence of an important street-intervention organization in our neighborhood. This organization, called CALLES (meaning “Streets”), has been one of the Mission’s most effective organizations reaching high-risk youth. It has been dormant for the last few years, but makes its comeback as part of our next Nightwalk.

When: Friday, September 26, 6-7:30pm

Where: Starting with a short ceremony at Instituto Familiar De La Raza (IFR) // 2919 Mission St, SF, CA 94110 and walking to Centro del Pueblo // 474 Valencia St

Gold from King Fool post-performance conversations

Our King Fool project is an experiment on many levels.

I’ve been kicking off our post-performance conversations with a brief summary of We Players’ mission: connecting people with place through site-integrated theatre and using our art to provoke thought and stimulate conversation on the shared themes of play and place.

We are sharing King Fool in a variety of locations, which does two things:

1) stretches our site-integrated practice to make the piece seem to emerge from and be at home in the place, without a lot of scouting and on-site rehearsal time; and

2) reinforces that the core theme of death, and supporting one another as we approach death, is not unique to any one place.


Our post-performance conversations have largely flowed without much effort on my part as a facilitator. Ava and John’s acting, the narrative of father-child relationship and Shakespeare’s rich language plucks at our heartstrings. Nature, in her constantly shifting vibrancy, holds us in the present moment. A respondent shares what struck them in witnessing the piece, and offers some insight garnered through encountering death and loss in their daily work. There are so many directions to go!

We’re halfway through the run and I’m looking forward to attending all the remaining performances! No live theatre event is ever the same. Performing outdoors, We Players really embraces and celebrates that truth in all of our work… but since the audience is different each time ‘round, our conversations take the concept of experiencing something “fresh and new” to another level.

I’m heartened that our mission appears to be working. Most people are yearning to talk about death and loss, and theatre is forging the container for an informative and inspiring conversation between folks from very different backgrounds. Below are short summary bios for two of our respondents, demonstrating the very different directions our discussion might take.

Join us for one of the remaining King Fool performance and add your voice!

Friday, September 19 – Cara Rose DeFabio

Cara Rose DeFabio lives in San Francisco and makes experimental performance that examines how technology mediates human experience. Her solo work After the Tone examines how digital debris has transformed the mourning process and how the technological capacity for memory may be shaping our ability to forget. Weaving together newspaper headlines, tweets, forgotten choreography and audience contributions via their cell phones, the show uses multiple platforms to weave together the story of our new digital afterlife. Her latest work, DARKNET explores the deep web, anonymity online, the expectation of privacy and how we behave when we think no one is watching.

Sunday, September 28 – Lois Williams

I am a hospice chaplain in the East Bay. I am also an Episcopal priest, and have at times been considered to be a little mystic. I work with both dying patients and their family or friends helping them come to terms with their terminal illness. I do this from a background of psychology, philosophy and theology. I will assess their spiritual needs, and journey with them as someone who holds hope in a future – whatever that looks like, while allowing them to find and share their own meaning of life with their family and/or myself.

I respect everyone’s faith tradition, or spiritual concepts; we are too complex, and the universe is too amazing for there to be only one way to be. My God is a loving one who does not reject anyone, and I desire to walk in love as Jesus did, as Buddha did, as Martin Luther King has, along with many others, and I do this one conversation at a time.

King Fool site notes – San Anselmo

KF Event 4

While our gracious site hosts don’t know much about the history of their land specifically, here is some interesting information they shared about the land now known as Sleepy Hollow:

The first recorded history of the Hollow is from 1839. A Mexican land grant was given to Domingo Sais, a soldier at the Presidio is San Francisco. His land consisted of 6,659 acres, including part of San Anselmo, Fairfax, and Sleepy Hollow. Domingo Sais died in 1853 leaving his land to his widow and six children. Sleepy Hollow went to his oldest son Pedro.  

Anson P. Hotaling bought the land in 1887. A wealthy San Franciscan, his son Richard developed a beautiful estate and called it Sleepy Hollow. He built a mansion at the end of Butterfield Road, which reflected his love for the theater. The living room had a stage complete with a Romeo and Juliet balcony. Many plays and Bohemian parties were held there.

It wasn’t always parties in the Hollow, however, in 1939 the golf course closed due to lack of water. For a time during World War II, the U.S. Army occupied part of the Hollow as a secret ammunition storage depot.  Barracks housed 30 men. There were two batteries composed of four-inch antiaircraft cannon manned by five soldiers on a 24 hour basis. One battery was on Stuyvesant Drive and the other on Oak Springs Hill. At war’s end, the Army departed.

Our land was undeveloped before we built our home.  The hills had been used as ranch land, but now lie open with oaks, coyote brush and wild flowers running up to Open Space maintained by Marin County.  The paths around the property were set by the deer.  The coyotes keep our deer population in check.  The turkey vultures clean up the remains.  Leaving us the stage upon which We Players sets King Fool.

Synopsis of Shakespeare’s King Lear


The story opens in ancient Britain, where the elderly King Lear is dividing his realm amongst his three daughters: Cordelia, Regan and Goneril. Lear plans to give the largest piece to his favorite, Cordelia, and has devised a public ceremony to assure the loyalty of the various factions. Of the three, Cordelia refuses to engage in Lear’s game. Enraged, Lear disowns Cordelia completely and banishes his dear friend Kent when he intercedes on her behalf. The loyal Kent then disguises himself and returns as a servant who will follow Lear to the end.

Cordelia leaves the court to marry the King of France. Lear and his hundred knights, his beloved fool, and the disguised Kent, go to live with Goneril. This proves disastrous and in a rage Lear abandons Goneril and goes to Regan’s house. Meanwhile, Regan and her husband Cornwall have gone to stay with Gloucester to avoid hosting Lear. It is not long before the two sisters begin plotting to kill their father. Gloucester discovers the cruel plan and rushes to find the King and send him to Dover for protection. Gloucester’s kindness discovered, Regan and Cornwall gouge out Gloucester’s eyes in revenge, then throw him out of his own house to wander blind in the wilderness. Edgar, Gloucester’s son, now disguised as “poor mad Tom”, finds his father and protects him.

Meanwhile, Cordelia has raised an army of French troops to avenge her father and has landed at Dover. Regan and Goneril ready their troops and a battle ensues. Cordelia loses and she and the King are captured. They are sent to jail, but Edmund, Gloucester’s bastard son, has privately sent an order that they be murdered.

Goneril and Regan are both in love with the conniving Edmund. Ferociously jealous, Goneril poisons Regan. But when Goneril discovers that Edmund has been fatally wounded by Edgar, she kills herself as well. As Edmund takes his last breath he repents and the order to execute Cordelia is reversed. But the reversal comes too late and Cordelia is hanged. Lear appears, carrying the body of Cordelia in his arms. Lear’s great suffering is finally relieved, as he too takes his final breath. Kent declares that he will follow his master into the afterlife and Edgar reluctantly receives the crown and the weight of rule.

We Players Grows and Bids Farewell to Valued Staff Member

Since November 2013, We Players has been fortunate to have Claire Slattery on staff in the role of Operations & Communications Manager. During this time, we launched a new website, increased multimedia presence and impact, and learned a great deal about how we will grow our organizational capacity as we continue to offer year-round site-integrated performances, events, and parties in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Claire Slattery.

After working on We Players’ staff for 9 months, Claire Slattery will be leaving her post on August 31st, 2014. Claire, who first joined the We Players community as an actor in The Odyssey on Angel Island State Park, will be moving to Los Angeles this fall to further pursue her acting career. We Players wishes her all the best as she takes this next step as a performer!

In order to build upon the excellent progress the staff has made in this past year, we are hiring a new Office Manager (we will introduce her in another post soon)! As We Players continues to grow the scale and scope of our site-integrated creative programming, our Office Manager will maintain and improve baseline administrative and communication functions of the non-profit organization. This support will enable the Managing Director and Artistic Director to respond to the increasing demand for We Players’ work towards our mission of connecting people with place through site-integrated theatre.

Exciting stuff!

We Players and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
It’s a mouthful of a name, for a very special place on the northern waterfront of San Francisco. And it is very much an artistic home for We Players, thanks to a robust Cooperative Agreement that spans 2012-2017. We recently had a meeting with SAFR (the NPS code for that 15 syllable name) where our agreement was referenced, and I took the opportunity to revisit the language in our “Statement of Work” –

“We Players will produce various site-specific traveling theatre productions and other art and community engagement programs at various sites throughout San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. In the course of the programs, park visitors will be encouraged to explore multiple park areas. Programs will be presented both during the day and evening, daytime programs will be accessible to all park visitors at no charge. Programs will generally be ticketed (some offered free of charge) and open to the public. ‘We Players may offer focus group workshops, i.e., art workshops open to the public.’”

In our planning meeting and again as I re-read this, I am reminded how much the staff at the Park respect Ava and I, admire the quality of our work, and appreciate our professionalism. I understand that trust today, having created two full-scale site-integrated theatre productions, presented several music concerts, and hosted multiple workshops and parties at the Park in recent years. What’s amazing to me is that San Francisco Maritime went out on a limb to establish We Players as a cooperating agency in 2012 – just a year after being established as a formal organization, and only a few months after we received our non-profit status. Just as (then site-supervisor) Amy Brees’ invitation to a three-year creative residency on Alcatraz Island, 2009-11 helped us shape our programming and design our organization to truly address our mission, San Francisco Maritime’s partnership is helping We Players deepen our practice and further our mission of connecting people with place.

Deliberately shaping We Players’ lasting creative contributions to the Park is what’s most interesting to me as we continue working with the lovely staff and volunteers aboard the historic ships, on Hyde Street Pier and in the Maritime Museum. As site-integrated performing artists, we excel at creating ephemeral beauty, captivating audiences with full sensory experience, and provoking thought on the shared themes embedded in a story and site. And, we are very interested in sharing the fruit and scattering the seeds of our practice, which we find central to a creative and fulfilling life in healthy relationship with people and place. I look forward to developing and sharing our programming at San Francisco Maritime this fall, and working with our artists and Park staff to create new interpretation programs that will hopefully live on long after 2017.

– Lauren D. Chavez, We Players Managing Director

A Gala to Remember

Thanks to all who attended We Players 5th Annual Gala! We had a fantastic Saturday evening, celebrating our mission of connecting people with place through site-integrated theatre.

Sharing delicious, local food is at the heart of connecting with people and place. (That’s why we have food incorporated into most of our theatre projects!) Each year for our gala, we prepare a multi-course feast – most of which is sourced from area farmers yielding succulent seasonal, local and organic dishes. Of course we also share performance highlights from the past and ticklers of what’s to come, and shape characters specifically for this special evening.

We rely almost exclusively on volunteer support to pull this event off each year, and every bit of the proceeds goes directly to funding We Players site-integrated programming in the year ahead. The gala is a fixture of our annual fundraising efforts, without which we would be unable to realize many of our wildly ambitious projects.

The feast and festivities were fantastic! We’ve received many reports of 2014 being the best gala yet. Unfortunately, we did not meet our fundraising goal, and are just beginning to process what that means for how we use our time in this final month of our fundraising season, as well as potential impacts on our 2014 program schedule. Some years we are more successful than others. This is the life we have shaped for ourselves, forging ahead creating what we believe in, relying on community support amidst a society that largely undervalues art and the environment.

Yes, We persevere! And remain inspired.

In fact, we had such a great time at the gala, and so thoroughly enjoy looking around the room at all the bright and beaming faces of our guests, that we’re excited about starting a new We Players’ tradition – an End of Year party! Let’s gather just as the fall is settling and shifting into winter, to acknowledge the challenges we’ve faced and all the hard work throughout the year, and to celebrate our unique site-integrated theatre practices and captivating storytelling. We’ll share a toast and of course, a bite to eat. More details soon!

— Ava Roy and Lauren D. Chavez

Working with the Parks

Hamlet 23

Hamlet on Alcatraz. Autumn, 2010.

We Players has been creating art in public spaces since 2000, and in partnership with the National Park Service and California State Parks since 2008. Last year we coined the term “site-integrated” to describe our keystone, outdoor, traveling theatre productions to differentiate our creative practice from the many (and ever-increasing) site-specific performance groups and artists in the Bay Area and beyond. Rather than simply choosing a dramatic or inexpensive backdrop for a performance, we very much create our art in direct relationship with the many layers of history, ecology, and community that we encounter within our treasured parklands.

In addition to regular visits to a project site and protracted, full sensory observation, frequent interaction with various partners in the park services and affiliated non-profit cooperating agencies is a major part of our process. At the start of a new project, we get to explore the troves of information and artifacts housed in the many libraries, archival storage sites, and memories of staff. Wanting to be around the site as much as possible, we volunteer where we can and use our craft to honor park anniversaries. And as we create art in a park, the staff who have worked (and sometimes lived) in our project sites for years or decades tip us off to hidden gems, provide suggestions and feedback, and help us problem solve. It’s a mutually beneficial exchange. We all appreciate the place and want to support visitors in experiencing the park in a profound way.

Our park partners understand the value of our work and acknowledge the potential for creative engagement to transform park visitors into park stewards. I am proud that We Players projects make up half of the past projects listed by the newly-formed Art in the Parks Program. And I’m glad that the Golden Gate National Recreation Area has a well-delineated process for inviting more artists to explore the parks and deepen their relationship with place through art-making.

I’m very curious about the changes in perspective and behavior that occur when one goes from a non-committal, unattached visitor to an invested lover of place. When we truly care for our public places we take time to be present there. We listen. And as we listen, we learn more and more about the environment, from traffic patterns to animal behaviors to the patterns of the wind. I’ve had the blessing to witness this transformation occur in many of our collaborators over the years.

-Lauren D. Chavez
Managing Director, We Players

Growing our Aesthetic Education Program

Some of my most fulfilling work with We Players has been running programs with youth. In the early years of our organization, Ava and I both offered education programs rooted in We Players’ practice of connecting with our sensing bodies, communicating honestly and creatively, and fostering healthy relationships with one another and place.

My experience with the youth at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center during our residency on Alcatraz was quite profound, and it planted seeds for someday growing an education program that would seamlessly integrate with each of our major site-integrated theatre productions.

In developing our Aesthetic Education Program, we chose to first target teenagers for a few reasons: our park partners have some amazing education programs, but there are few opportunities for teens to creatively engage with these public resources; people are generally introduced to Shakespeare and other classics (central to our work) during their teen years; and, while I know many in our culture struggle to understand and communicate with them, the formative teen years are full of vitality and deep questioning and I personally find sharing time with teenagers incredibly enlivening and meaningful.

In my five years of experience running nature awareness and primitive skills classes and performance workshops, I’ve learned how important it is for teens to have a driving purpose and I’ve seen how brilliant, dedicated, and truly helpful our youth can be when their vision is clear.

We Players is taking our site-integrated artistic practice in a new direction to craft Aesthetic Education Programs with the express purpose of training the creative problem solvers of tomorrow.

We acknowledge the fact that our planet is facing major legacy issues, and our AEP is designed to prepare our youth for the tasks at hand. We empower young people by stretching their imaginations and offering skills for coming together to solve new-paradigm problems across social barriers. By inspiring curiosity to explore the delicacies and intricacies of the environment and to remember the tremendous capacity of the sensing body, our programs organically encourage stewardship of both natural and urban environments.

Our introductory workshops offer a taste of our practice on school grounds. As we expand our programs in 2014-15, I look forward to bringing a core of dedicated teenagers to our project sites to take their (and our) work to the next level. Our timely project themes are water, the mysteries in the deep, and our tenuous human relationship with the natural world… there’s so much to explore!

-Lauren D. Chavez
Managing Director, We Players

We’s Early Years


In the early years of We Players, wandering around the gorgeous grounds of Stanford University, WE developed the foundations of this practice and the hallmarks of our performance style.  These were some fun and fancy-free years.  Many thanks to everyone who played with WE when springtime rolled around.

Hard to believe, but these shows occurred in the days before digital cameras were commonplace, carry-everywhere, by everyone… WE don’t have many images from these early shows.  If you have any photos, please contact us and let us know!

2014 Shakespeare Intensive with John Hadden


Visiting artist John Hadden is one of the founding company members of Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts and has been developing his dexterity with Shakespeare’s language for over 30 years. He has an incredible ability to help unpack the specific meaning of the text, with the particular individuals in the unique circumstances of the moment. We are thrilled to have John Hadden join forces with We Players as an Associate Artist.

Explore the richness of Shakespeare’s language in an intimate workshop setting with John, Ava and We Players.

Due to popular demand, there will be two workshop modules. Participants are limited to 8  people per session. 

First Session: Monday January 13 & Tuesday January 14, 8-11pm

Second Session: Wednesday January 15 & Thursday January 16, 8-11pm

all sessions held at SF Circus Center: 755 Frederick St., San Francisco

Please plan to arrive between 7:30 and 7:45pm to sign in and get settled in the space

Participants (tuition: $140) must come prepared with a 2 minute Shakespeare monologue. Participation in both evenings of either session is required. For deeply interested actors – participation in both sessions (all four evenings) will be considered (tuition: $250).

Observers ($20 per session, or $50 to attend all sessions) are active witnesses to the individual work. This is very powerful and instructive for actors, directors and teachers alike.


Production Staff Interviews for We 2014

If you like how We Players transforms public space, builds community, and engages timeless themes and current social issues, one of the most fulfilling ways to deepen this practice and expand your own awareness is to get involved!


WE are looking to expand our community of qualified production staff including: Costume Designers (preference for applicants w/ apparel design & garment making experience); Lighting Designers; Production Managers; Stage Managers; Properties Masters; Carpenters; and Go-get-em all-purpose production team members! We are hosting two days of production staff “speed-dating” as an opportunity for company directors to meet with a wide range of skilled and experienced theatre designers and technicians. Sessions are 20 minutes each, scheduled on the half hour. By appointment only.


Wednesday 1/8/14 12-3pm, East Bay location near Bart (TBA)

This “speed dating” is akin to an informational interview. Extended interviews with candidates for 2014 projects will be scheduled by invitation.

REQUIRED:  Send resume to we@weplayers.org. Please include a brief personal statement and note why you are interested in working with We Players and/or engaging in site-specific performance.  Please list all your available times in order of preference and we will do our best to accommodate. Please explore our website and familiarize yourself with our artistic practice before responding. Our site-integrated work is very unique and unlike traditional theatre experiences. Projects take place in a wide range of Bay Area settings, usually outdoors and in direct relationship with the elements. Our work is for the hardy of spirit and body, it is intense and immersive.

Shutdown may mean ‘Macbeth’s’ last hour upon the stage


“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers – for he today that shares this play with me will be my brother,” she said. “And gentlemen in Congress now abed, will think themselves accursed and hold their manhoods cheap!”

It was a fitting introduction to the start of a fifth week of “Macbeth” performances by the city’s We Players, who hadn’t planned to be in the Presidio.

The power struggles and ruthless ambition they often depict played out in real life this week when the federal government shutdown closed the National Park Service’s Fort Point – the interactive stage at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge where they had rehearsed and charted out each scene for nearly a year.

In just a few days, the cast and crew had to find a new location, while reshuffling an elaborate presentation in which the audience had followed the ranging actors around the fort.

Their partners in the Park Service helped them finagle a new setting at the Main Post, which is operated by the Presidio Trust and still open during the shutdown.


Free Workshop with Michael Rohd on Theater & Civic Engagement


Free Workshop with Michael Rohd on Theater & Civic Engagement. Learn best practices for theater artists devising work with communities and what it means to collaborate across sectors. Michael is the artistic director of Sojourn Theatre and nationally recognized for his work on the arts and civic practice. Friday 7/26 9 am – 12 pm at Intersection for the Arts. Free but RSVP required as space is extremely limited.

More details and registration HERE

Canciones del Mar: Songs of the Sea

Three of the Bay Area’s most exciting vocalists perform an intimate concert, singing songs about the sea, boats, love, and life, drawn from the folkloric and popular music traditions of Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Canciones del mar edit (1)
We Players presents Canciones del Mar: Songs of the Sea
Aboard the tall ship Balclutha at Hyde Street Pier
Curated by Music Director Charlie Gurke


Gate opens at 5:30pm 
Concert 6-7:30pm 
*     *     *
Diana Gameros – Vocals and Guitar
Jose Roberto Hernandez – Vocals and Guitar
Edgardo Cambon – Vocals and Percussion
Sam Bevan – Bass
Charlie Gurke – Saxophone


Herman’s House Screening

Thanks to all who joined We Players on Alcatraz Island on May 19, 2013, to view and discuss this new documentary film about the relationship between a prisoner and an artist, and the dream home of a man who has spent 40 years in solitary. http://hermanshousethefilm.com/

Learn about current realities and consider getting involved with the issue of solitary confinement in California prisons – http://www.stoptortureca.org

Herman’s House Screening on Alcatraz

Join We Players to view and discuss this new documentary film about the relationship between a prisoner and an artist, and the dream home of a man who has spent 40 years in solitary.

Sunday, May 19 – Alcatraz Island, 5:30-10pm

Screening, panel discussion with director Angad Singh Bhalla (a past player with WE!) and other special guests, walking tour, and viewing of a current art exhibit in the New Industries Building.

For more information on the film, visit http://hermanshousethefilm.com/



We 2012 Update


2012 was an exciting year! We  received our 501(c)3 status, and produced two full-scale shows in two dramatic Bay Area locations. We Players is currently exploring myths and researching histories of the San Francisco Bay as we begin to develop a new work, in partnership with San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park.  And we are also pulling out our notes, starting to engage our creative team, and otherwise bubbling our cauldron for our first remount – Macbeth at Fort Point, which will be performed in September – October 2013. We have exciting staff, volunteer and intern opportunities for all projects and company operations.

Gold from the Shakespeare Intensive

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Wow! We enjoyed a powerful kick off to We Players’ adult education programming the past two days. Many thanks to John Hadden for sharing his decades of experience, his subtle awareness, and his deft teaching.

I’m creating this post so workshop participants and observers can share some of the nuggets they are taking away to incorporate into future performances and life!

The image that sticks strongest for me is the existence of language throughout our bodies, in our blood and marrow… the wellspring of emotions and impulses deep in our core, from which the swell of language courses forth… and the mouth, teeth, tongue and lips as percussive instruments that articulate the energy into intelligible speech. “Let the thought exist in your mouth,” not your head.

Also love thinking about the character as a map –
totally useful when traveling to a new place, but each actor/ traveller will have a different journey, and the journey doesn’t begin until you step into unfamiliar territory and set forth towards the place.

thanks again, John!

Myths of the Mariner and the Muse


We Players’ MYTHS of the MARINER and the MUSE is an ongoing project taking a variety of performance forms on the historic ships located at Hyde Street Pier, the lagoon, and the surrounding environs of Aquatic Park.  We Players is proud to partner with San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in the first cooperative agreement of it’s kind between an arts non-profit and a National Park Service site.  This five year agreement officially began in August 2012 and will continue through 2017.

To date, projects at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park include a sailing production of The Odyssey (inspired by Homer’s ancient epic), aboard the scow schooner Alma (2011); Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, while cavorting along the pier and aboard both the full-rigged ship Balclutha and the steam-powered ferry boat Eureka (2012); and intimate sea-inspired story sharing aboard Eureka (2012).

In 2013 we will produce a series of music concerts, under the music direction of Charlie Gurke.

We Players Partners with SF Maritime National Historical Park


We Players is proud to partner with San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in the first cooperative agreement of it’s kind between an arts non-profit and a National Park Service site.  This five year agreement officially began in August 2012 and will continue through 2017.  Our MYTHS of the MARINER and the MUSE will continue in a variety of performance forms on the historic ships located at Hyde Street Pier, the lagoon, and the surrounding environs of Aquatic Park. 

To date, projects at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park include a sailing production of The Odyssey (inspired by Homer’s ancient epic), aboard the scow schooner Alma (2011); Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, while cavorting along the pier and aboard both the full-rigged ship Balclutha and the steam-powered ferry boat Eureka (2012); and intimate sea-inspired story sharing aboard Eureka (2012).

The Odyssey on Angel Island State Park – SOLD OUT

We are honored that tickets have gone so quickly, and we are sorry for all the folks who want to see this production and cannot.

Please join our mailing list for advance notice when ticket sales open for future shows, and remember to buy your tickets early.

If folks want to comment on this thread and link up with one another, we hope folks with conflicts will be able to pass off their tickets to others who want to join the adventure.

best of luck to all!

Prepare – The Odyssey on Angel Island State Park


Information to equip you for your journey on Angel Island… 


Want to join this great adventure?  Volunteer.

Can’t afford tickets? You may request pay-what-you-can tickets for select performances.  Click here.


Please plan to bring or wear the following on your voyage:
* sun hat/ protective clothing/ sun screen/ sunglasses
* comfortable walking shoes
* layers for changing weather conditions
* a water bottle
* lunch (OR choose not to purchase a wrap from The Cove Cafe, see below)
* a pen or pencil
* a comfortable backpack or shoulder bag to hold all of the above

Although there are opportunities to partake of food and drink throughout the performance, we recommend that everyone bring a bag lunch, or purchase a sandwich from The Cove Cafe.  There is no scheduled lunch break; please bring food that you can easily access and eat during the performance. 


At the provisions link above, you may also purchase a limited edition We Players program, or t-shirt or tote bag with the season compass rose logo.


Registration details depend on your travel plans.  Please read below for the details appropriate to your city of departure.

General Admission

If you purchased a performance ticket without ferry passage, please be sure to visit our registration tables near the ferry landing in Ayala Cove before 10:20am.

**Guests traveling from Oakland/ Alameda – we were unable to make special arrangements for the Oakland/ Alameda – Angel Island ferry due to schedules (the boat departs the island before our performance ends!). However, you may purchase a general admission ticket to the show here, and purchase your own Oakland/ Alameda – Angel Island ferry ticket from Blue & Gold Fleet on the day of the show.  The ferry stops in San Francisco, and you’ll arrive and depart Angel Island with our other San Francisco guests.  Once you get to Pier 41 or the Ferry Building, you’ll need to transfer to an Oakland-Alameda ferry.  Your round trip ticket is good to get you home on any of the remaining boats that evening.

San Francisco

San Francisco registration for The Odyssey on Angel Island State Park is at Bay Crossings in the the San Francisco Ferry Building.

The Ferry Building is located on San Francisco’s eastern waterfront, where Market Street meets The Embarcadero.

Click here for public transit routes and options.

Bay Crossings is located in Marketplace Shop #22, on the west side of the market hall, just south of the main/ center doors of the ferry building.

Look for The Odyssey on Angel Island State Park sign in chalk, and a We Players staff member in a beige t-shirt with a blue compass rose logo on the chest.

Tickets will be available for pickup starting at 8:20am.


The Blue & Gold Fleet ferry departs at 9:20am. 

ALL RESERVATIONS ARE WILL CALL.  No need to print your confirmation email.

When you check in, We Players staff will give you a sticker (your pass to access all aspects of the performance; please place prominently) and paper ferry tickets (give one to the ferry staff when you board en route to Angel Island, and the other when you off board back in San Francisco).

If you purchased provisions, placed a reservation for mobility assistance, have any questions, or would like to purchase a limited edition program, t-shirt, or tote bag, please proceed to on-island registration upon arrival to Ayala Cove.

After the performance, you will catch the 4:30pm Blue & Gold Fleet ferry from Ayala Cove.  You may disembark at either Pier 41 (5:30pm arrival) or the Ferry Building (6:00pm arrival).


Tiburon registration is at the Tiburon ferry landing.

The Tiburon Ferry landing is located behind 21 Main Street, Tiburon, CA 94920.

Marin Transit Bus 19 serves Tiburon on a regular morning and afternoon schedule on weekends.

Parking in Tiburon is limited and expensive.  We recommend the lots behind the Bank of America (enter from Beach St., just north of Tiburon Blvd) or Chase Bank (enter from Tiburon Blvd., west of Beach St.), both of which cost $5/day.

Look for a large red We Players flag, and our staff in a beige t-shirt with blue compass rose logo on the chest, standing near a large sandwich board with The Odyssey on Angel Island State Park sign.  

You may check in at the Tiburon ferry landing starting at 9:15am.


The Angel Island – Tiburon Ferry departs at 10:00am.  

ALL RESERVATIONS ARE WILL CALL.  No need to print your confirmation email.

When you initially check in, We Players staff will give you a sticker (your ticket for ferry passage to Angel Island, and access to all aspects of the performance; please place prominently on your left chest).  When you return to the check in area prior to boarding, you will hear important announcements and receive paper tickets for your return ferry passage (you will give this ticket to Angel Island-Tiburon ferry staff when you board in Ayala Cove for your return trip to the mainland).

After the performance, you may catch either the 4:20pm or the 5:20pm Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry from Ayala Cove to Tiburon (4:40 / 5:40pm arrival).

If you purchased provisions, placed a reservation for mobility assistance, have any questions, or would like to purchase a limited edition program, t-shirt, or tote bag, please proceed to on-island registration upon arrival to Ayala Cove.


We encourage you to engage with The Odyssey on Angel Island State Park using all your senses, interacting with our performers as invited, and interacting with one another.

For those of you who use digital tools – please feel free to photograph, Tweet, Facebook, and Yelp us.  We ask that you avoid posting video of the performers, and credit them and We Players if you post photographs online.

You can engage with We Players now and throughout the year by visiting www.weplayers.com, joining our mailing list, “liking” us on Facebook, or following @weplayers on Twitter.

We’re particularly interested in your own stories of journeying, war, heroes, and homecoming! Visit our website or use the hashtag #AngelOdyssey on Twitter to join The Odyssey on Angel Island conversation!


We Players performs in all weather unless there is a safety concern.  If there is any chance of inclement weather please dress accordingly, so you may remain comfortable while wandering outdoors for most of the day.  In the off chance that there is a cancellation, we will leave a message stating so on the voicemail greeting at 415-547-0189.

If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to contact us at reservations@weplayers.org or 415-547-0189.



2011 reflection from the directors

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What a year.

Last winter WE announced that 2011 would be a year dedicated to organizational development.  We Players is now incorporated! We have a Board of Directors; we’re working on our strategic plan; and we are awaiting the IRS’ decision for our non-profit status (we expect confirmation this winter).

You might think that’s a lot for a small arts organization (especially one mostly run on volunteer labor) to do in a year’s time.  But we can’t help being inspired by the landscapes and stories of our region and our world, nor stop the flow of creativity.  So… we also did much much more.

We Players fulfilled the mission of our three year residency on Alcatraz (i.e. provoking thought and stimulating conversation about justice, incarceration, isolation and redemption), with a series of four art exhibitions, a youth conference, and our culminating event – the weekend-long Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom.  We created and presented a new performance in the Cell House, hosted inspirational panel discussions, presented new visual art by our collaborators, held meaningful ceremony, taught workshops at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center, and presented a fabulous collection of inmate-produced visual artwork in collaboration with the William James Association.

We had a remarkably successful run of The Odyssey aboard Alma this fall.  It was an honor to play on such a gorgeous vessel and a blessing to build friendships with her stellar crew.

To those of you who sailed with us on Alma or joined us on Alcatraz in 2011 – please send us your photos! We’d love to see ourselves in golden suits, rowing the air, or drapped over cell house railings! The actors request that you do not post your photos or videos on public sites. Thank you for honoring this request.

Most heartening of all, our volunteer support is stronger than ever.  We have lists of superstars, willing to help with everything from registration, to hospitality, to technical design, errands, cooking, and more!  And several project collaborators from recent years are stepping up and signing on to help with company operations, taking tasks off our plates and improving the strength of our company, while supportting everyone’s creativity.

We look forward to 2012 with enhanced capacity for making innovative, site specific art, in partnership with the stewards of our local park resources and this ever-expanding creative community.  Our island-wide Odysseyon Angel Island in the spring and Macbeth at Fort Point next fall will bring innumerable opportunities and challenges; visit any of the pages under our support tab to get involved and play your part.



Ava & Lauren

Alcatraz Symposium

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thank you for joining WE on The Rock this past weekend.

The Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom was a fitting closure to We Players’ three year residency in partnership with the National Park Service.

I witnessed inspiring creativity, deep emotion, meaningful conversation, cross-pollination of communities, and the forging of new relationships.

Please share your stories from the weekend here!

Alcatraz Cell House Dance Theatre

This evening program allowed audiences to explore the cell house and witness movement metaphors representative of the history of Alcatraz and current prison realities; moving through emotion and grief with participatory music and dance; and feeling cleansing, purification, and transformation as we viewed bright-burning coals dance in the open air with the San Francisco skyline as our back drop.

Curated by Lauren D. Chavez

Cell House Dance Theatre Collaborators:

Laurel Butler
Lauren D. Chavez
Amie Dowling
Ava Roy


Ajayi Jackson
Paris King
Paul Rucker
Josh Tower
and other guest musicians

Coals Dance: The Tea Dancers, Natta Haotzima and Mayra Enriquez

……….Location: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco
……….Dates: October 23rd, 2011

Alcatraz Cell House Dance Theatre was part of We Players 2011 Alcatraz Series during the company’s three year residency on Alcatraz Island.

Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom

Thursday – Sunday, October 20-23, 2011

In programmatic partnership with the National Park Service, We Players created site-specific arts events addressing the themes of incarceration, isolation, justice and redemption on Alcatraz Island from 2009-11. The company concluded this historic three-year artistic residency with a four day symposium exploring justice and freedom through diverse media. Symposium events occurred throughout the island and included: performance art, music, dance, visual art exhibitions, ritual, and panel discussions with formerly incarcerated artists as well as victim awareness activists.


Dance Theatre Evening Program in the Cell House, Hospital and Parade Ground

The evening program is a three part event, where the audience will: explore the cell house and witness movement metaphors representative of the history of Alcatraz and current prison realities; move through emotion and grief with participatory music and dance; and feel cleansing, purification, and transformation as we view bright-burning coals dancing in the open air with the San Francisco skyline as our back drop.

Evening Program Curator: Lauren D. Chavez
Cell House Dance Theatre Collaborators: Laurel Butler, Lauren D. Chavez, Amie Dowling, Ava Roy
Musicians: Ajayi Jackson, Paris King, Paul Rucker, Josh Tower and other guests
Coals Dance: The Tea Dancers, Natta Haotzima and Mayra Enriquez

Poetic Justice Project’s “Women Behind The Walls” in the Hospital

Women Behind the Walls was written from improvisations with the women of Chowchilla prison, the largest women’s prison in the world. A multiracial cast of five women in a unique and gripping play that moves audiences from laughter to tears as they confront the women behind the walls. This play has been produced in many multi-cultural theaters throughout the US. http://www.poeticjusticeproject.org/

Visual Art and live cello performances in the New Industries Building

Seth Armstrong

I was recently arrested for “strong armed robbery” while protecting my own personal property in Oakland, CA.  These three paintings help tell the story.  They are as follows:  “A View Of the Jail From the Courtroom Lobby”, “The Interior Of the Cell” (painted from memory), and “The Douchebag That Put Me There” (based on the so called “victim’s” Facebook profile picture).

Evan Bissell

Meditation on Hunger Strikes and Public Fasts

The site specific installation by artist Evan Bissell looks at the uses, gains and spiritual grounding of people who have engaged in hunger strikes and public fasts for self-determination and freedom throughout history.  Created with salt, water and military issue dishware from Alcatraz, the interactive piece is a meditation on impermanence, interconnectedness and sacrifice – the belief that one’s life, and how it is lived contributes to a greater body that will continue past the death of one of its parts.

The Knotted Line (in-process)

The Knotted Line is a participatory, internet-based project investigating the history of incarceration and its relationship to education and labor in the United States from 1495-2025.  The Knotted Line weaves together a dynamic, narrative painting of over 75 historical moments with an evolving online interface to create an interactive historical laboratory and container for the sharing of visitors’ personal experiences as related to incarceration.  When completed in Spring of 2012, The Knotted Line will also include a book version and free curricula for high school classes and community organizations.  Shown on Alcatraz will be over 30 miniature paintings of key historical moments.

Monica Lundy

In 1895, 19 Hopi men were imprisoned on Alcatraz Island for refusing to accept the American government’s program of forced education and assimilation. With an interest in social histories, Monica Lundy’s most recent project focuses on the 19th century imprisonment of Native Americans on Alcatraz Island, long before the infamous prison we currently know as Alcatraz Prison was built. This series of site-specific paintings reference Alcatraz’s history while simultaneously incorporating existing elements of the deteriorating architecture into the artwork itself, resulting in a direct collaboration between the history of the site and the artist.

Paul Rucker


Art can tell stories. For years I would talk about injustice by reciting numbers and statistics. When you say, “We have over 2.3 million people in prison,” it’s a large number to comprehend. I did research at a prison issues-themed residency at the Blue Mountain Center in New York, and found some maps that I felt could help tell the story. The project is an animated mapping – using different colors to indicate prison construction in different eras, showing the proliferation of the US prison system from a celestial point of view.  The viewer can clearly see the astonishing growth of this system over time.

Live Cello Performances

Spaces contains residue from the past.  You can feel this on Alcatraz.  The New Industries/ Laundry is simultaneously a site of privilege (it was a privilege for prisoners to work) and exploitation (prison labor is not  regulated under the same laws as free labor). All my work is inspired by that which moves me. Every object has a sound. I enjoy performing in galleries and creating live, improvised sonic interpretations of artwork. The music I create on cello involves extended technique, prepared cello and electronics.

I thought I’ve seen humans… Interactive performance in the Hospital

Mabel Negrete/ Counter Narrative Society (CNS)

CNS is presenting a new para-fictional multimedia participatory performance at the former hospital of the Alcatraz Federal Prison which unpacks the immaterial qualities of Negrete’s new proposition: “I thought I’ve seen humans.” As part of her long-term project, “When the Invisible Punishing Machine is Everywhere, The Weight I Carry with Me”, she has designed an immersive performance for audiences to witness the rigid architecture of the hospital which upholds nightmarish notions about safety and eugenic technologies, and synergistically to witness the transformation of some intangible stories she carries as a wounded witness.

Guided viewing of “Images from the Inside” exhibition in the Band Practice Room

Join gallery curators Patrick Gillespie (We Players) and Carol Newborg (William James Association) for discussion on the inmate-produced fine art works in We Players final visual art installation of the 2011 gallery series.  On Sunday, several previously incarcerated artists (whose work is displayed) will also join for this gallery viewing, prior to the panel discussion with ex-inmate artists, moderated by Larry Brewster.

Panel Discussion – Restorative Justice and Victim Awareness in the Dining Room

Moderated by: Patrick Gillespie
Panelists: Reggie Daniels, Rose Elizondo, Richard Kamler and Sonya Shah

“Process Orientation of the Creative Arts and Healing; Product Orientation of our Current Prison System”

A panel of Restorative Justice practitioners, artists, and performers will discuss the theories and methods of Restorative Justice and Victim Awareness.  The discussion will explore how the creative arts intersect with these practices to facilitate healing and transformation, and raise awareness for both the general public and the prison population.  In addition, the panel will explore the differences and overlap of Social Justice and artistic practices.

Community Grief Ritual on the Parade Ground

Part of We Players intention for the culminating symposium, is holding space for an energetic acknowledgement and release of the great pain we notice embedded in the rocks of Alcatraz, and weaving through society as a result of historical injustices and the current prison system.  This community grieving ritual engaged our bodies, hearts, minds and spirit to experience and move through our grief, transforming the energy and freeing ourselves and society to move forward with enhanced openness and creativity.

Panel Discussion – Ex-Inmate Artists in the Dining Room

Moderated by: Prof. Larry Brewster
Panelists: Willie Bermudez, Larry Calderon, Ronnie Goodman, Mickey Magic

“Arts in Corrections: From the Inside”

A panel of artists, craftspeople and performers will discuss how arts in corrections helped them turn their lives around and keep them out of prison. Moderated by Dr. Larry Brewster of USF who has studied California’s Arts-in-Corrections program for over 25 years.



Seth Armstrong (visual art presenter) Seth Armstrong was born and raised in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles, Ca.  After studying painting in northern Holland, he received a BFA from the California College of the Arts in Oakland and San Francisco.  Seth has exhibited his work extensively in the Bay Area, as well as in London and the Netherlands.  He now lives and works in Los Angeles.

Claire Braz-Valentine (playwright, Women Behind the Walls) Claire is a widely published poet, a freelance writer of both children’s and adult fiction and nonfiction, and an award winning playwright. Her poems have been featured in many anthologies. Her plays have been produced in New York, Los Angeles and across the United States, and in Finland, Greece, and Canada. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, on CNN Television, and broadcast on BBC radio. She has worked for years with youth at risk and incarcerated adults, as part of the California Arts in Corrections Program, creating plays, monologues, and poetry anthologies and installation art with convicted felons.

Evan Bissell (visual & interactive art presenter)Artist Evan Bissell designs and facilitates sites of collaborative dialogue that support self-determination and visions of community and society based in love. Through processes that incorporate radical pedagogy, participatory research, ethnography and meditation, the results include collaboratively designed, larger-than-life paintings, multi-media participatory exhibitions, public installations, workshops, and free publications.

Larry Brewster (previously incarcerated artist panel moderator)Larry Brewster served as dean of the College of Professional Studies at the University of San Francisco (1999-2007) and served for two years as acting dean of the School of Education (2002-2004). Before joining USF, he was academic dean at Menlo College, and has served as dean at Golden Gate University and professor of Political Science in the California State University system.

Dr. Brewster regularly consults in public policy and organizational development and has industry experience as former Director of Market Research for BT Tymnet, an international data and telecommunications company. He recently coauthored California Politics, 2nd ed., Wadsworth & Co., 2004, and The Public Agenda: Issues in American Politics, 5th ed., Wadsworth & Co., 2004. He earned his doctorate at the University of Southern California and currently is Professor of Public Administration in the School of Management.

Dr. Brewster first evaluated the California Arts-in-Corrections in 1983 when he conducted a cost-benefit study of the program. He found that the program’s quantitative and qualitative benefits exceeded program costs. In the past three years, Professor Brewster has interviewed formerly incarcerated men and women who had participated in the Arts-in-Corrections program to learn what impact the program had on their lives while inside and since their release from prison. Several themes have emerged through these interviews, including self-discovery, discipline, confidence and self-esteem while “doing their time” meaningfully through the artistic process; learning the value of hard work and completing projects; reconnecting with family through their art; giving back to society; and finding a safe haven in the art program where men of different races and background work side by side as artists.

Laurel Butler (choreographer)Laurel Butler is the Youth Arts Manager and Education/Engagement Specialist at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Before moving to the Bay Area earlier this year, Laurel served as the Artistic Director of The Actor Inside Program, facilitating theater and dance workshops with inmates and juvenile offenders in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She directed the theatre program for Comienzos, Inc. exploring principles of non-violent communication and conflict resolution through theatre with adults at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center. The production of “Lucid Dreaming/Sonando Lucido”, an original work collaboratively written by the Comienzos participants, debuted as part of the Revolutions International Theatre Festival this January.  As a member of the Keshet Dance Company outreach faculty, Laurel taught dance classes inside the New Mexico Youth Diagnostic and Development Center post-adjudicated youth facility. She also managed the ScOutreach Juvenile Diversion Program, collaborating with the State of New Mexico Child Youth and Families Division to incorporate principles of restorative justice and community healing into after-school programming for repeating youth offenders. She has served as an educator for the National Hispanic Cultural Center, as executive director of Theater-in-the-Making, and as founder/director of the Albuquerque Street Theatre Brigade. Laurel has an M.A. in theater education and community outreach from the University of New Mexico, where she was the instructor of Theater for Education and Social Change, and a B.A. in performance pedagogy and community cultural development from Hampshire College.  Her newest dance project, Make/Shift/Performance, will debut its first work at CounterPULSE this November.

Amie Dowling (choreographer)Amie Dowling is a full-time faculty member in the Performing Arts and Social Justice Department at the University of San Francisco, where she serves as the Coordinator of the Dance Program, and an Artist in Residence at the San Francisco Jails. Her choreography has been presented by the American Dance Festival, the Kennedy Center, Painted Bride, Jacob’s Pillow, and Ponderosa Dance Festival, as well as numerous colleges and universities.  Prior to moving to California, Dowling was a guest artist in the Five College Dance Department and taught at Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges.  From 1986 to 1993, Dowling toured with the Liz Lerman/Dance Exchange and subsequently went to Chiang Mai, Thailand to assist in the creation a Performing Arts Department at Payap University and work with NGOs that assisted women who were leaving the sex-trade industry. In 2001, Ms. Dowling co-founded The Performance Project, which develops original works of movement and theater through a collaboration of professional artists and incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women.

Natta Haotzima (coals dancer)Mexican-born dancer/poetess. She transmits simplicity, harmony and peaceful community living through her varied art expressions.

From an early age, Natta has been interested in healing and she studied the Holographic Repatterning System, which identifies unconscious patterns and energy restrictions, and is established by renown Scientist Chloe Wordsworth.  Later on in life, Natta studied other healing therapies such Sound Frequency Therapy, Education Kinesiology, Reiki, Healing Movements and Yin Shin Acupressure Points. Natta Haotzima studied at the Choreography School of UNAM, the National University of Mexico, as well as at  the James Carte’s Ecole de Danse in Toulouse, France, and the D’Jonibas Center in New York City. Her dance credits include dancing with the “Street Theater and Circus Production” in Mexico, the National School of Quebec (who are the co-founders of the Cirque du Soleil), with “Aerial Dance & Precarious Balance,” with Humanicorp Dance Company, at the National Institute of Arts (Bellas Artes), and with the Circus School of Barcelona, Spain. Locally, Natta has studied with Project Bandaloop and the Vertical Dance Workshops.  She has performed with Lulacruza, Elizabeth Mendana Productions, and Diana Suarez. In term of multimedia art, she has exhibited in different museums in Morelos, Mexico such as The Museum of the City of Cuernavaca, “Jardines del Sol” in Ocotitlan, Ex-convento de Tepoztlan and Auditorio Ilhucalli; in Chiapas at the Auditorio de Tuxtla Gutierrez; in San Francisco at The Mission Cultural Center, at De Young Museum and in Oakland at The Mills College Theater. Natta once confessed that her favorite magic place to dance is on any nation’s street. At this moment, Natta is teaching aerial dance in conjunction with Studio 12 in Berkeley, and following Buddhism at Hua Zang Si Temple in San Francisco.

Mayra Hua Qiao (coals dancer)Mayra is a multifaceted dancer. Her first incursions in dance were with fire dancing and street performing in Mexico City. And it was here that she decided to begin formal dance training in West African Dance which she passionately pursued for more than ten years while working and teaching. As part of this commitment,  she traveled to Guinea, in West Africa to deepen her studies and techniques of traditional Guinean dances. She was able to enrich her repertoire as a folklorist of African descent expressions with a variety of dances such as Afro Cuban, Sabar, Congolese, Mexican Folklore, and Afro Brazilian. Later, after an encounter with Modern Dance, style was transformed to a purely alternative concept. her Parallel to studies in dance, she also has a strong fitness-training background. She studied various forms of body awareness in Mexico City and San Francisco. In this quest, she was captivated by Yoga and Pilates techniques, and become a certified instructor in both. Today she has four certifications and five years of teaching experience and practice. Mayra has conducted many  dance workshops and Master classes in different places such as Nativa and Epicentro dance schools, ITESO and UNISON Universities in Mexico City. She has danced with dance groups such as Bakan, Gaia Ceiba and Raiz Negra from Mexico.  At this moment, she is dancing with the Liberation Dance Theater Company with Jacinta Blanch, Opera Muerta by John J. Leanos and building the project “The Tea Dancers / El Ballet de la Compasión” with Natta Haotzima in The Bay Area.

Monica Lundy (visual art presenter)Born in Portland, Oregon in 1974, Monica Lundy spent her childhood between the United States and Saudi Arabia.  Her extensive childhood travels culminated in diverse experiences with different cultures and their traditions. These experiences began shaping her awareness of, and curiosity about, divisions in cultural perceptions.  She went on to receive a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996.  In 2001 she spent a year in Florence, Italy, where she was invited to study painting under the mentorship of a local artist.  She received a MFA from Mills College in 2010 and was a recipient of the 2010 Jay DeFeo Award.  Among other publications, her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Visual Art Source and the San Francisco Chronicle.  She currently lives and works in Oakland, California.

Mabel Negrete (multi-media & performance art presenter)Mabel was born in Chile and about 20 years ago she made the USA her home (in the Bay area of San Francisco). In 2007, she founded the Counter Narrative Society (CNS) , a research unit that works to initiate counter narratives about bio-power, urbanism, culture and technology. In 2009, she joined the MIT program in Art, Culture and Technology and under the CNS started to ask the question, what is mass punishment?

From this major question, presently she is developing a multifaceted long-term dialogical and performative fieldwork called …when the invisible punishing machine is everywhere…The Weight I Carry with Me. It consists of organizing and creating para-fictional actions and nomadic encounters to interrogate intimately how punishment, alienation and  social-urban control in the terrain of the  USA has affected her  family,  her friends, herself and the community at large who have suffered the invisible effects of state control, incarceration and inequality.

Mabel is also a recipient of several recognitions including MIT Presidential Award 2009-2010 and MIT Architecture Department Fellowship 2009-2011, Zellerbach Family Foundation & W.A. Gerbode Foundation 2006, and Osher Memorial Merit Scholarship – San Francisco Art Institute 2003-2006.

Paul Rucker (multi-media presenter & cellist)Paul Rucker has received numerous grants for the creation of visual art and music from 4Culture, Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, South Carolina Arts Commission, Washington State Arts Commission, King County Site Specific, Photo Center NW, and Artist Trust. Rucker has created public artwork for the Museum of Flight in Seattle, 4Culture, and the City of Tacoma.

He has also been awarded residencies to Blue Mountain Center, Ucross Foundation, Art OMI, Banff Centre, Pilchuck Glass School, and the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center in Bellagio, Italy. As a musician and director Rucker plays in various situations from solo cellist to leading his LARGE ENSEMBLE of twenty-two musicians. Rucker was named Best Emerging Artist of 2004 from Earshot, 2005 Jazz Artist of the Year from the Seattle Music Awards, and Outside Jazz Ensemble of the Year in 2008. In 2007, he was invited by legendary filmmaker David Lynch to perform for the opening of Lynch’s film, Inland Empire.

Molly Williams Stuckey (director, Women Behind the Walls)Molly Williams Stuckey is proud to be directing the original piece Women Behind the Wallswith Poetic Justice Project. She holds a BA in theater from Union University and a MA in theology of the Arts from Fuller. Molly is a SAG eligible actress from Los Angeles and was one of the founding members of the The Fuller Company. As a director, Molly’s two biggest accomplishments were assistant directing the world premier of Serenade, the new musical from the Tony Winning author Rachel Sheinkin. Molly also directed the documentary The Answer Myth. Her goal is to one day have a theater company that raises money for social justice issues around the world, combining her love of the arts and humanity. A complete list of Molly’s work can be found at www.mollystuckey.com

Symposium Schedule

Dance Theatre Program:
Cell house dance theatre by Laurel Butler, Lauren Chavez, Amie Dowling and Ava Roy
Blues jam with Ajayi Jackson, Paris King, Paul Rucker, Josh Tower and other guests
Coals dance by The Tea Dancers

FRIDAY 2:10-5:50pm
Poetic Justice Project: Women Behind the Walls
Dinner and conversation with Women Behind the Walls director Molly Williams Stuckey and actors

SATURDAY 9:50am-5:50pm
Opening Ceremony
Guided tours of visual artworks by Seth Armstrong, Evan Bissel, Monica Lundy
Proliferation screenings and live cello performances by Paul Rucker
Interactive Art Installations by Mabel Negrete
Walking tour and conversation with We Players artistic director, Ava Roy
Panel discussion – victim awareness & restorative justice

SUNDAY 11:50am-5:50pm
Guided tours of visual artworks by Evan Bissel and Monica Lundy
Proliferation screenings and live cello performances by Paul Rucker
Interactive Art Installations by Mabel Negrete
Walking tour and conversation with We Players artistic director, Ava Roy
Guided viewing of We Players current exhibition – Images from the Inside
Panel discussion – previously incarcerated artists, moderated by Larry Brewster Closing Ceremony

The Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom was Produced by We Players
Lauren Dietrich Chavez, Managing Director
Patrick Gillespie, Visual Arts Director
Ava Roy, Artistic Director

thank you all

As I return to my laptop this morning, after an awesome overnight on Angel Island with some really engaging and creative and nature-aware teenagers, I am moved to write a note of thanks.

We have almost 60 people (including many new names I don’t recognize) reserved for our opening of Images from the Inside on Alcatraz this Saturday.  We’ve enjoyed an inspiring collaboration with the William James Association, and I’m really looking forward to seeing such an extensive collection of inmate-created masterpieces in the Alcatraz Cell House, and hearing so many brilliant mentors talk about role of art in rehabilitation.  And I’m so thankful and humbled to be presenting art that brings many communities together and stimulates conversation on current issues and timeless human themes.

Floored with gratitude again to look at our ticket sales for The Odyssey on Alma. We opened reservations for the first half of our fall run on Monday, and we are already more than 1/2 filled to capacity.  Ava and I were a little nervous charging $160 a ticket (since this is the first time we’ve ever “charged” for a We Players show), but I’ve run the numbers multiple times, and this is what we need to charge to cover costs for this limited run, in this transition year for We Players.  For our major productions, we can accommodate thousands of audience over dozens of shows; your generosity well supports our free reservation/ suggested donation model when everyone gives as close to the suggested donation as they can.  WE love that model.  And:

  • we’re not doing a full-scale production this year (2011 is our year for bolstering our organizational infrastructure in preparation for a very full 2012 and beyond as our own non-profit!);
  • we have real costs that we need to cover for ourselves and our park partners; and
  • we have committed to paying our performers a decent wage for creating this inspiring art.

For those who have already purchased tickets, I cannot that you enough for filling our sails so swiftly and surely.

For those to whom $160 is unquestionably out of budget, consider volunteering.  We also have some tickets for each show in reserve, some of which will be raffled off as part of our 2011 Kickstarter campaign (that we plan to launch within a week), and some of which will be offered at reduced price closer to performance date; be sure you’re on our mailing list to receive first notice of reduced-price ticket releases.

deep gratitude



p.s. – I know Ava and I really stink at keeping in touch via this blog… know we’re committing to remedying that soon!

Join us for Images from the Inside opening event!

We Players is proud to announce our final exhibit in the 2011 Alcatraz series, Images from the Inside, which is the most comprehensive gathering of inmate-produced visual artwork in the Bay Area in 30 years.

August 27th “Images from the Inside”Opening Event 1-4pm on Alcatraz

Meet at Pier 33 by 12:50 to claim your place.

This event is free. Reservations are required. Suggested donation, $20-30.

Click here for reservations.

SF Bay Gaurdian’s BEST OF THE BAY 2011 Editors Pick


We Players named Best Site-Specific Classicists

(a category invented specifically for WE!)

It turns out the editor’s picks are extra special – the Guardian wrote a full paragraph about WE:

“This year marks the end of We Players’ three-year collaboration with the National Parks    Service on Alcatraz Island. The project showcased the island’s scenic isolation in a number of  artistic and community-building endeavors. The stage company’s 2010 marathon production of Hamlet was a tour de force of site-specificity, taking actors and audiences all over the island, including areas normally off-limits to the public. In their imaginative stagings of MacbethHamlet, and Iphigenia, as well as their ongoing art exhibitions for, by, and about incarcerated juveniles and adults, the Players highlight themes of isolation, incarceration, justice, and redemption. They wield their art as a catalyst rather than as nostalgic revival. Their Alcatraz residency ends in the fall. In 2012, it partners with the California Parks Service to stage The Odyssey on Angel Island.”

Faces We Wear: Youth Perspectives on Justice & Freedom

Our third exhibition on Alcatraz presented youth perspectives on our Alcatraz themes by sharing workshop exercises and displaying writing and art that was created during We Players’ spring workshops with incarcerated youth at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center.

On Display in the Alcatraz Cell House Gallery, June 11 – August 13, 2011

– Descriptions of the incarcerated teen’s ideal “room of one’s own,” next to a list of the limited possessions allowed in their rooms
– A collage of letters to unknown ancestors, written on mirror paper
– Masks and select photos of students posing while wearing their masks
– Audio loop of students reading from personal narratives, letters to ancestors, & commenting on their masks


We Players facilitated a number of exercises at the JJC this spring, all intended to help the youth connect with their emotions and understand the direct connections between emotions, how we inhabit our bodies, and our actions in the world.  We emphasized a distinction between the authentic self and the various faces we wear throughout our lives, reinforcing that one criminal act or a period of time defined by certain patterns of behavior do not, cannot, define the full scope of a person. We Players offered meditation & visualization, poetry, movement exercises, awareness games, writing prompts, and mask making, and the youth shared their stories on incarceration, family, home, justice, past and future identity.

Many thanks to Megan Mercurio for inviting We Players to work with her classes and to Sean Neil, Maria Anguiano Ferrer, Dennis Mackenzie, Charley Brooks, Kim Emilianowicz, Constance Walker, Theresa Hayward, Paul Choppi, and many others for offering their inspiration and classroom support. Deep gratitude to all the youth who found the courage to connect with and share their emotions, and let their authentic selves shine through all these faces we wear.

Youth Conference on Justice & Freedom, Saturday July 23, 2011, 1pm-6pm

The conference brought together over 30 teenagers with varying experience interacting with the prison system – including participants from a WritersCorps program at Downtown High School, previously incarcerated youth from the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center, youth participants in Community Works’ Project WHAT! program, as well as home-school students who participate in a local nature awareness program. Through engagement activities and facilitated discussion, the youth shared their perspectives on justice and freedom as well as conversations about identity – where we come from and where we are going.

Our teen afternoon on The Rock included an island-wide site exploration and treasure hunt, guided viewing of the current gallery exhibit displaying youth perspectives on the Alcatraz themes, food and drink, group conversation, and a collective art project, which joined the art created in the SF JJC and remained on the island for public viewing in the cell house gallery through mid-August.

Thanks to Judith Tannenbaum and Carrie Love, representatives from WritersCorps, who created and facilitated this conference with Lauren and Ava.

letter to Ancestor highlights

going through the JJC students’ letters to ancestors with a fine tooth comb… I find gems that sparkle with hope, yet even more dark rocks of truth, crumbling from our current realities.

Selections will be printed and all original letters will be presented in We Players third exhibition on Alcatraz, opening June 11th.

If you’d like to be involved with our July 23rd Youth Conference, please contact Lauren.

Dear Ancestor,

Would you rather live in my time or your time if you had a choice?

How did you guys survive through wars, riots, crises and depressions? I am only 16 and I’ve been through a lot. I have a daughter and I’ve been shot. The one think that keeps me motivated is my mother.
– A

In the times that we are living in now it is worse than everything you went through. Young black people are dying everyday. We come from a community where there is no unity. I would rather walk in the shoes you walked in to replace all the tragic memories I suffer from seeing all my family and close friends die.

Being whipped by a Caucasian slave master wouldn’t hurt me as much as being shot by a brother of the same age and same color.

So many people are very heartless where I come from. I wonder if it was the same when you were growing up.

I know you worked hard in your days because my family works hard now.

How many kids did you have or did you have kids? What did they get in trouble for and what were the consequences? Because I got beat with a belt.
– Don

There is so much technology in our society today that people believe it will destroy the human population and the world will soon come to an end. Our nation has been at war for so long that I believe there is truth to some of it.

Life in here is nothing compared to real jail, so I’m fortunate. But there is nothing funny about not having your freedom and getting told what to do.
– Amarion

I was doing good, following all the rules. I had some rough times, but I always managed to pull it together. Then I made one mistake by going to a place I had no business going to. Now that place has me wearing a green sweater and khaki pants again, county underwear, socks that millions of people had on. Who am I really? Why was I put on this earth to go through this struggle?
– Jamariea

Most of the family are living in housing projects and struggling to find a job. Most of the young ones in the family are getting caught up with the law. How do we stop this and move on to a better life?
– Thomas

I’m not in the best position today because I’m incarcerated. But I won’t let our family’s hardwork be in vain.
– Jon

I’ll see you in maybe 30 years.
– Anonymous

Ancestor, you would be mad at us because of the way we act. And the way we’re killing our own people. We’re going to jail and you fought for us to be free. You fought for us to get an education. Now people our age don’t go to school. We don’t do anything our ancestors fought for.

A lot of people have lost that family unity. People don’t respect their elders.
– DeNeal

I’m not going to do anything but be dead or in jail. At least that’s what the judge says. But when I get to this group home I’m going to prove her wrong.

The system is not cool. Once you’re in they don’t want to let you out and they are always trying to send me off, so I guess they don’t want to see me do anything good with myself.
– Zaybang

My grandfather told me, “time waits for no man, man just wasts time or uses it best as he can. Life goes on without a meaning or a purpose, but if you life it, then when the time comes to die, you’ll know that it was worth it.”
– Joshua

Even though we have freedom and rights, we are still going through hard times. I feel that we aren’t really free. And it drives me crazy.
– Lamont

Here in America there are barely any African Americans who know their native background. Everything here is usually technology-based, cutting out traditional things like cooking, reading, hunting, etc. Our people are sometimes discriminated against due to stereotypes and certain people who have done stupid things in the past. Today they have systems that can take away your freedom and rights no matter what age you are. I am currently in Juvenile Hall, which means I have no freedom or rights.
– S.M.

Today there are more youth dying because of what neighborhood they stay in, or because of the people they know. Today there are a lot more gangs because teenagers don’t have anyone to look up to.
– Diamonique

First off, I would like to apologize for disgracing your family name. I realize that I am the first and only person in our bloodline that has been incarcerated, but I vow to make it up to you and make you proud of me.

The world is a mess right now. Maybe it always was? Maybe it’s just more obvious now?
– Ashton

I remember I used to love.
I’m not that person anymore.
Reality has changed me.
– Carey

People think that my life is going good, but it’s not. People nowadays judge you for all you got, how you look, and what you wear.
– Shakari