Luther Burbank Highschool and 916 Ink presents, Stones in the Road, a poetry anthology written by students of different backgrounds, with different issues and personal thoughts that they want heard. Stones in the Road is composed of 90 pieces, some anonymous, some with author names exposed, and some as class poems. Each student poured their heart and soul into their writing, which was made evident on March 20th when the student authors, their English teacher Tom McElheney, and 916 Ink partnered with CLARA and the Capital Stage Company to bring the students’ poetry to life.
These students worked for weeks on end with 916 Ink and CLARA to write their poems and then learn how to make them come alive on stage. After rehearsing their pieces, the day finally came. Students nervously arrived to the Capital Stage Company with their enthusiastic parents. Everyone enjoyed snacks, chatted, and rehearsed before entering the theater. The crowd entered slowly, family and friends buzzing like bees with excitement, small children fussing in their seats, and let’s not forget the proud parents with their phones glued to their hands ready to take the perfect picture of their child. 916 Ink Wordslinger Maria Gavia set the scene by giving recognition to those who participated and made the evening possible, CLARA, Capital Stage Company, Tom McElheney, and last but certainly not least, the student authors themselves. Emili Danz, Education Outreach Director at CLARA, gave insight on how they chose to work with 916 Ink, and how they had the student authors work with an acting teacher to give their poetry an awe-inspiring live element. Gail Dartiz, Teaching Artist at CLARA, worked diligently with these students to have them feel every word they said. All the hard work they put into their performances really did payoff.
While the announcements went on, the students sank into their seats, cheering with gratitude, but nervous knowing their time was coming. The first group stepped to the stage. “Take a deep breath” yelled Gail, sensing their nerves beginnning to get the best of them. And then they started to speak, delivering a powerful piece with voices in sync, and feet stomping with energy and precision. Their performance ended to thunderous applause, loud enough to be heard outside on the street. A weight lifted noticeably off their shoulders as they walked off the stage. One of the groups burst into laughter during their poem about love and heart break, however they got a second chance at redemption, and when they performed again, the group brought the house down! Group after group, each student gained confidence. Lena Vue, student at Luther Burbank revealed “I felt nervous, I forgot some of my gestures but I was pleased with my overall performance.” Most of the groups read anonymous poems but now it was time for the brave poets who wanted to share their own original work. Although he was unable to attend the event, student Ryder Brown wanted his poetry piece to be read so teacher Tom McElheney heroically jumped on stage to deliver Ryder’s poem titled, Another Side, found on page 86. Another Side is about having an alternate personality online, and that personality making him feel powerful. Mr. McElheney’s interpretation of Ryder’s poem was astounding, we hope it would have made Ryder proud! The next was a poem titled, My Mind found on page 39 by Bluefire3572. My Mind is about the darkness that fills our minds and having an overwhelming feeling of not being enough. Bluefire3572 was bursting with emotion and energy that could be felt throughout the entire theater. The Things You Do, by Kenya Wimberly was the third and final individual poem. The Things You Do deals with young love and feeling like one day it may end. Parents and students alike related to the words being spoken. Kenya Wimberly’s raw emotions made a deep connection with the audience. Complete silence transformed into applause as loud as thunder in a split second for each and every performer.
Ian Hadley, Executive Director of 916 Ink, closed the event by praising the student authors, “This is the power of confidence, this is the power of collaboration!” And by awarding Emili Danz, Gail Dartiz, and Tom McElheney with posters autographed by the newly published young authors themselves. All students gathered on the stage to take a photo, when one young man shouted, “Where’s our paparazzi?” The book release of Stones in the Road was a truly inspiring and beautiful experience filled with equally beautiful words and self-expression. Congratulations to the newly published authors of Luther Burbank Highschool!
Tremendous Thanks to everyone who made this impact on our young authors possible:
Building Healthy Communities: First and foremost we would like to thank the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative, who’s funding made the writing workshops possible. Learn more at sacbhc.org
CLARA: Opened in April 2016 and colloquially known as CLARA, the E Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts provides studios and performance spaces to professionals and community-based art groups to create, collaborate, develop stability, and grow. Learn more at www.claramidtown.org
Capital Stage Company: Capital Stage presents innovative plays while educating members of the community through classes and workshops called CapStage Academy. CapStage Academy creates the resources needed to present performing arts opportunities to aspiring artists in Sacramento. They do this by giving local and visiting theatre professionals a platform through which to share their skills with the Sacramento community. Learn more at capstage.org
Please join us in appreciating the wonderful contributions of this diverse group of partners who made the program possible!