On stage, during their final performance, 27 Los Angeles high school students surround their tearful classmate Rachel as she struggles to complete her poem, “Zero Suicide.”
In a riveting moment, we come to understand Rachel’s pain as she chokes out her world and her feelings: “you’re just a follower…wasting your life, wanting what others wanted or had…” while 400 inner city high school students chant her name: “Rachel, Rachel, Rachel!” This is the story of a group of students’ and their remarkable journey of self-discovery while participating in the Original Works Project during the fall of 2002.
Running time: 84 minutes
To order your copy, please contact us.
In the fall of 2002 in Los Angeles at Los Angeles High School, Drama teacher John Ogden invited Brian Donovan and his non-profit L.A. Repertory Theater to run their 10- week Original Works Project with his class. By way of exercises and mutual respect and support the students were encouraged to trust and share their voice to create a show of original theatrical work for their peers, family and friends.
Most had never been on stage before…
a 13-year-old poet wise beyond her years, her talent bursting at the seams. Her voice is clear, honest and powerful – she just needs an audience.
a sweet, charming and considerate freshman that single-handedly dispels all the negative stereotypes of the inner city black teen.
“Big Show,” the gentle giant easy to tears, who misses his dad and dreams of becoming a hero – a fireman.
the damaged flower who begins to blossom only to be kicked out of school, but she returns to support her fellow classmates during the final week before the show.
whose father is in jail and whose mother moved far away, but that hasn’t stopped this powerful young woman from showing everyone her strength to persevere and with hard work and a clear vision strive for something better.
the funny and intense improvisational genius who constantly tries to push the envelope with the lowest common denominator and argues that he knows his audience.
the proud Mexican girl who can barely speak without laughing, but with courage and passion she finally expresses her love, loud and clear with a proud smile.
whose own mother grew up poor in Belize and just wants her daughter to have a better life than she did-she will because of Theora’s love for her mother and her inherited strength.
the comic relief, who “wants to be an actor, or maybe a wrestle…” but in the meantime writes, rehearses and performs scenes about dating twins and winning Maggie, the girl of his dreams; of course, working a kiss into it – a long kiss.
the lazy, Nirvana t-shirt wearing, rebel writer who will do anything to avoid the stage, but ultimately performs her poem, “Zero Suicide” about always ‘being a follower…wasting your life, wanting what others wanted…’ through tear filled eyes as the class surrounds her while the audience of over 400 inner city high school students chant her name “Rachel! Rachel! Rachel!” In the end, a smile on her face, she raises her arms above her head…triumphant.
Brian has been the executive director of the Los Angeles Repertory Theatre since 1994, producing and directing more than 50 inner-city high school workshops and live shows. He is also the creator of the Mighty Me Training Camp, a top ranking children’s program streamed by Discovery Education. Brian has been a professional actor for more than 25 years in film, television and radio. He is currently the voice of Rock Lee in the juggernaut anime hit, Naruto. Brian is very excited about the distribution of his feature documentary chronicling the profound relationship he had with his beautiful Down syndrome sister, Kelly in Kelly’s Hollywood.
Sandy is president of Funny Farm & Sons, a Los Angeles based Production Company that she co-founded in 1991. She also founded and is president of Online Voice –Get Heard! a streaming media website producing original viewer-created shows. She has created and produced a large library of award-winning media over the years.
When the class jumped up to surround their fellow classmate and 400 inner-city high school kids supportively chanted her name we knew we were witnessing one of those extraordinary times when humanity shines and compassion overwhelms. As remarkable, was to see the triumph of spirit and a real life “Rocky” moment.
There was absolutely no question in our minds about making this moment available to others, to an audience. We felt the need to give these students a greater voice, especially since there continues to be fiscal cuts in the arts throughout educational systems around the world. We wanted to show an example of how the arts and this particular program, the “Original Works Project” by the Los Angeles Repertory Theatre changes lives and empowers youth through fostered self-discovery and positive, creative outlets.
Our biggest challenge, painful at times, was in post production when we had to choose just a small number of students from the class as our main characters to move the story forward and create enough of an intimacy for the audience to stay invested. We deliberated for hours and hours, late at nights and into the mornings about who to use and why. We had to take into account the footage we had, their talent to entertain, their transformation and our gender ratio. Further, the struggle was to find the balance between showing the individual journeys and that of the class, and it’s evolution as a group, as it played an integral part in fostering each individual’s discovery and change.
The other deliberation was trying to figure out how much of the program and workshop to include. There was never any question about using the syllabus as our own outline to structure the documentary; however, we were constantly checking to see how much would be too much. But like the class and the group as a whole, we felt that the program was integral to the story and instrumental in the development of the students. It would have been a shortcoming not to make the workshops chronology clear, as it was the exercises throughout that fostered and encouraged the students’ expression.