Rio Rico drama students act out play to confront racism

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Rio Rico drama students act out play to confront racism

CREATED May 2, 2012

Reporter: Steve Nuñez

RIO RICO, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - A dramatic monologue series performed by Rio Rico High School drama students is sparking a deep conversation that confronts racism as told by teenagers who live on the border. While the language used to describe the stereotypes can be hurtful, the play "Dancing On The Line" is designed to teach teens to see beyond skin color and culture.

In unison, the nine performing thespians raise the question, "Tell us, what does it mean to to be a teen on the border?" as they begin to act out a series of monologues.  

The monologues submitted include real life stories, told by students just like them, using unedited words that are often angry and emotionally painful.

Throughout the performance, different students often sound off quick phrases using words that are also divisive, "Selfish gringo. White boy. Wet back. Guera. Illegal Alien," but words used to portray an honest look at their daily lives.
The stories all deal with the cultural challenges and stereotypes students say exists between racial identities.

One student represents the perspective of what it's like to be Mexican-Anglo yet having to constantly prove they are loyal to both cultures.

"We're mutts. What? Mutts. Yeah. Half and halfers. No. You're Bingos. Bingos? Yeah. Half gringo and half beaner. Bingos."

Another student then talks about how Mexican students are often treated as if they are dumb because they speak English with an accent.

"Are Mexican people that bad? We like Gringos but sometimes they make us feel low just because some of us Mexicans don't know English."

The performance also reveals how Anglo students feel victimized by discrimination when Mexican students talk bad about them in Spanish.  

"I have been discriminated against so many times because of the fact that I am White. People automatically assume that because I am White, I do not understand or speak Spanish. Hello!"

Over the last ten years, Rio Rico students have performed the monologues to more than 15 audiences. The performance, as simple as It may seem, is quite intense.
Celia Concannon, Theater Arts teacher, began compiling hundreds of stories, all with similar experiences, more than ten years ago.

Concannon said, "We have to experience intense emotions don't we?"

9 On Your Side asked Concannon if teaching students to perform "Dancing On The Line" and sharing it with others, promotes resentment towards other races.  

"It became an experience in understanding of each other," said Concannon. "And an understanding that we could leave this area and go into another area and understand more people who are different than we are. I have never seen this as incendiary."

In ending the performance, the students recite quick phrases indicating that a lesson has also been learned from openly sharing their experiences.  

"And maybe that's what's important for all of us now."

"Being tolerant."

"Being tolerant."
Then, in unison, they exclaim, "And keeping our minds and our hearts open."  

The students tell 9 On Your Side they believe they have not received negative feedback or criticism because the audience members that attend their performances can relate to the same real life experiences.