Tomas and the Library Lady marks the second bilingual play put on by Woodburn High School.
Performances of the hour-long play will be at 7 p.m. May 2, 9 and 10 and at 2 p.m. May 3 at Woodburn High School, 1785 N. Front St. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
The play is based on the true story of Tomas Rivera, the first Mexican-American chancellor of University of California, Riverside. Rivera was afraid of reading, due to having been berated by his teachers for speaking Spanish, until he met an anonymous librarian who kindled his love of reading and learning.
Director Amy Sidwell selected the piece because she thought many in the community could identify with the main character, a Latino boy from a migrant family.
I think its important that we have bilingual plays because we have such an amazing and diverse community, she said, adding that she would like to find a Russian bilingual play someday. Its good to see so many stories of people who live represented on our stage. Were happy to share their story and honor them in this way.
Maggie Rivas, a senior who plays Josefa, Tomas mother, said she thinks the story is similar to what has been lived by many in Woodburn.
I think parents especially can identify with these characters, she said. They emigrated here from Mexico, they have to put up with unfair wages and not great living conditions. Its the same situation many people in Woodburn have gone through.
For some students in the cast, its been a personal celebration of their families.
Ive worked in the summers, picking crops, said senior Gail Sanchez, who also plays Josefa. My parents shared their story of when they were migrants, and they went through similar things. Its an amazing opportunity to live this and to connect with a major part of our population.
Its really cool to relive what my mom went through, added junior Nicolas Brody, who plays Papa Grande.
The school also produced the bilingual play Maricela de la Luz Lights the World last year, and Sidwell hopes to continue the trend annually. Students said its not only attracted more audiences but also more auditions.
I think it attracts more people to auditions because they dont have to be self-conscious about their accents, but rather they can embrace their culture, said sophomore Claire Blomberg, who plays the library lady.
Its a challenge for some of us because we speak English more and we dont get to practice our Spanish, our first language, as much anymore, sophomore Moises Martinez, who plays Florencio, added.
Sidwell offered the opportunity for more students to participate by double-casting many roles, including Tomas, who is played by both freshman Luis Perez and junior Fabian Rodriguez.
This is my first play, Perez said. My friend actually made me try out. But its turned out just fine.
Rodriguez pointed out that while the play is bilingual and focuses on a specific audience, it can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
I think anyone will like it because it shows the two cultures, he said. Most of the play is in English and the important parts are translated into Spanish, and vice versa. Theres a lot of communication so no one gets lost.