‘Just Like Us’ resonates with audience

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‘Just Like Us’ resonates with audience

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PHOTO BY JERRALD MCMILLON (JERRALD SANDERS)/ TIMES STAFF, PHOTO EDITED BY MAGNOLIA LONERO

Marisela (Ofelia Machuca) detained by two officers ( Powell Gaynor and Tai Tran) for driving a car with a broken tail light, Dec. 7 at the San Jose City College theater.

Inspired by true events, the play highlights racial issues

BY JERRALD MCMILLON (JERRALD SANDERS)

TIMES STAFF

San Jose City College students who en- rolled in the drama class put blood, sweat and tears into “Just Like Us.” The play was held in the drama/theater arts department from Dec. 6 through Dec. 9. There were about 19 character roles in the “Just Like Us” stage play, and the cast rocked its performances so well!

The story is set in Denver, Colorado, and there is loud yelling, screaming, fighting, flashes of anger, trials, discrimination, even a baby boy… but there was also family, love and support at the end.

The audience witnessed a heartbreaking family split up at a train station and the story of a reckless driver, an illegal alien who killed a 6-year-old boy, knocking him from his motorcycle in Thornton, Colorado.

The audience witnessed the news that an immigrant killed a police officer; there was an arrest, protests, death.

Action takes the form of getting pulled over by police, sentences, criminal records, jail, a judge and courthouse.

At the heart of it all, is the four girls and their bad times. They were seen as students, in college and high school. The audience lived through their graduations, romances, marriages, music, dancing, par- ties, club scenes, movements. The play goes through a full range of emotions.

Many people attended the play be- fore and during the performance. The

drama/theater room became almost full. They witnessed pain, prejudice, drama, both good and bad times. The students’ performance was stunning, and people enjoyed the show because it felt real.

They would clap and cheer after each play scene, with some people taking photos and videos of students onstage despite the no photography/videography rules.

“Theater has always been a part of my life since I was a kid and I didn’t take it seriously until I was 14 or 15 years of age,” said Ofelia Machuca, 18, who played the character role “Marisela.”

“‘Just Like Us’ stage play is based on Helen Thorpe’s best-selling book of the same name. It is a documentary that follows four Latina teenage girls in Denver, two who are documented and two who are not, through young adulthood. Their

close-knit friendships begin to unravel when immigration status dictates the girls’ opportunities, or lack thereof. When a political firestorm arises, each girl’s future becomes increasingly complicated,” the description of the book reads. “‘Just Like Us’ poses difficult, yet essential questions about what makes us American.”

Students who participated in the production attribute their motivation to be part of the drama department to their passion for acting and the inspiration they receive from their friends and family.

Fadia Zeid, 32, who played the role of “Charro, Ensemble” said she was grateful for the import- ant people in her life who sup- port and motivated her, which is what made her decide to take acting class to perform in the play.

“I decided to audition for this play because I love acting,” said Breyana Parker, 19, who played the character role “Zulema.”

Parker also added “this story should be told and known to many around.”

At San Jose City College, there are three classes available for acting: Theater Rehearsal/ Perform, Beginning Acting and Intermediate Acting, which is instructed by director Anita Reyes.

Some students that participated in the production are working on transfer credits to transfer to a university which takes time and dedication while rehearsing.

“To prepare to take an acting class, adopting different personalities is a skill that requires time and dedication,” said Krissy Dawn, 37. “And it is not something you can do with a vibrating phone in your pocket.”

Here are the cast names for “Just Like Us”:

• Helen – Krissy Dawn,
• Marisela – Ofelia Machuca,
• Yadira – Jamie Paz,
• Clara – Kimberly Sanchez,
• Elissa, Lucy – Ice Wong,
• Josefa, Ensemble – Yaneli Rincon,
• Ramiro, Cezar Merquita – Adrian Vidaurre,
• Recruiter, Ensemble – Freedom Blanchard,
• Yolanda, Lisa Martinez, Cynthia Poundstone – Jae Vega,
• Mike McGarry, Cop 1, Ensemble by Tai Tran,
• Carol Vizza, Mrs. Smith, Alma, Ensemble – Ruby Tues- day King,
• Zulema Ensemble – Breyana Parker,
• Tom Tancredo, Cop 2, Ensemble – Powell Gaynor,
• Julio, Federico Pena, Carlos, Ensemble – Abraham Nieves,
• Ana, Local Business Woman, Ensemble – Rabia Iqbal,
• Charro, Ensemble – Fadia Zeid,
• Principle, Ensemble – Cat Portales.

*Some students listed did not perform each final play of “Just Like Us”*