Bringing theater to an underserved community

By Moorpark College

Students at a California college and a youth correctional facility benefit from a unique collaboration.

Two years ago, the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) asked Moorpark College faculty to teach college courses at the youth facility in Camarillo, and the theatre arts department seized the opportunity.

Now, the theatre arts department and VYCF are proud to announce their upcoming collaboration. The Student One Acts, which occur every semester, will feature two one-act plays written and performed by VYCF students on April 30.

Before the collaboration began, Professor Suzanne Fagan had experience bringing theatre to underserved and justice-involved communities. She knew that students at both organizations would benefit from the experience.

“In our theatre production course, THA M10, students get to direct and act in one acts that were written by students from the previous semester. I want our college students to know how powerful theatre is in building relationships and empathy and for healing,” Fagan said. “I know that for everyone in the cast, they look forward to the hour a week they get to spend with each other via Zoom. They work on the play, talk about their ideas and get to know each other.”

The collaboration was made possible through the enthusiasm of Moorpark College Adjunct Professor Moira MacDonald, who has been teaching on campus and online courses at the facility, and Anthony Marenco, VYCF transition education coordinator.

“I loved working with this group of young storytellers,” said MacDonald. “They really took the tools of the writing process, embraced them and ran with them. There is so much untapped brilliance and excitement here.”

“These plays reveal a deep sense of human understanding and allow youth to process their pain and healing through art,” Marenco added.

The two VYCF playwrights, Stella H. and Nathaniel G., are able to attend rehearsals weekly with their casts via Zoom. Rachael Gula, director of Stella’s piece, Hell’s Broken Heart, said, “Connecting with Stella, our playwright, has been an all-around incredibly rewarding experience. It is such a privilege to have the opportunity to collaborate with such talented and creative students. We are grateful for this collaboration to bring culturally rich and diverse stories to our community.”

Ricci Bester-Adams, director of Nathaniel G.’s piece, Tilikum, added, “As a Black woman, directing this piece is truly an honor. It is my first time as a director, and it has meant so much to bring this play to life with the playwright and my cast.”

VYCF students have attended other college classes through Moorpark College and the Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD). They have the ability to work on proficiency awards, certificates and associate degrees. VYCF is part of the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Read the full release about the program here.

Moorpark College

is located in Moorpark, California.

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