UC Berkeley Presents Naomi Iizuka’s “Polaroid Stories,” a Powerful Telling of Street Kids’ Stories Woven with Myth

Berkeley, CA – March 2017 – This Spring UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) presents Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories, an eye-opening depiction of the lives of street youth woven together with tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Directed by veteran Bay Area actress and director Margo Hall, this dark social commentary on street teens runs March 3-12 at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley Campus. Tickets are $13 to $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office (tdps.berkeley.edu/events/polaroid-stories/) or at the door.

Based on Iizuka’s interviews with sex workers and runaways, Polaroid Stories elevates complex tales of life on the street by using poetic language and mythological figures. Set in a dilapidated urban landscape, Polaroid Stories follows a group of teenagers, portrayed as mythological characters, as they hustle, steal, and try to survive the streets. Narcissus is a young street hustler obsessed with his own visage who lives off wealthy men that desire him. Orpheus obsessively follows and harasses his girlfriend, Eurydice, who is trying to escape his stifling love. Semele is seduced by a God/drug dealer. Living amongst these teens are gods. Persephone, queen of the underworld, gives potent advice. G (aka:Zeus) chases young girls and D (aka:Dionysus) is a drug dealer who demands to be worshiped. The transformations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses are reenacted through drug induced delusions. A drug addict becomes a Goddess. A God becomes a man. And a warehouse becomes a terrifying maze.

Director Margo Hall was originally drawn to Polaroid Stories by Iizuka’s use of language. “She takes abrasive and unapologetic urban language and makes it poetic in a way that you can hear and listen to,” says Hall. “You are drawn in because of the melody. Language like that can seem repetitive, which it is in her piece, but the words that she chooses to repeat and the rhythm of it keep you interested, as opposed to distanced from it.”

Beyond the lyrical nature of the play, Hall sees particular resonance of the play with the students. “The current political climate has motivated our students to be more invested in this project,” says Hall. “ We are surrounded by tent cities in our area, and the stories in this play shine a light on the inhabitants of those tents.” Hall hopes viewers leave the play changed. “Watching the play and seeing students that are the same age as the characters, characters similar to people sleeping in People’s Park, you hope it will create empathy. I want people to walk out of the playhouse, walk around the corner and see people on the street with empathy instead of apathy.”

Disturbing and illuminating, Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories blends poetry and profanity to explore how young people pushed to the edge of society survive drug addiction and violence, love lost and found, and transcend the difficulties of life on the streets.

Production Details

Polaroid Stories opens Friday, March 3 and continues through Sunday, March 12, 2017 at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. General admission tickets are $18 online and $20 at the door; Tickets for students, seniors, UC Berkeley Faculty & staff are $13 online and $15 at the door. Tickets are on sale through the TDPS Box Office at http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/polaroid-stories or at the door.

Polaroid Stories features scenic design by Justine Law, costume design by Wendy Sparks-Rehl, lighting design by Jack Carpenter, and sound design by Hannah Birch Carl.

The cast includes: Yohana Ansari-Thomas, Joe Ayers, Obashi Chen, Anya Cherniss, Jordan Don, Sarah Handler, Farryl Lawson, Jessica Li-Jo, Marie Morley, Akash Patel, Samuel Peurach, Ciclady Rodriguez, Paris Shockley, and Baela Tinsley.

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About TDPS

The Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

About Margo Hall

Margo Hall is an award-winning actor, director, playwright and educator. Margo teaches at Chabot Community College, and has taught at the American Conservatory Theater MFA Program, and the Berkeley Repertory School of Theater. She holds a MFA in Drama from Catholic University of America. Recent acting credits include Fences and Twelfth Night at California Shakespeare Theater and Gem of the Ocean and Seven Guitars for Marin Theater Company. Margo is a founding member of Campo Santo, a resident theater company at Intersection for the Arts. She debuted as a Director with the award-winning world premiere of Joyride, from the novel Grand Avenue by Greg Sarris. She most recently directed Red Velvet, at SF Playhouse. Margo completed her first writing project in April 2005 with the world premiere of The People’s Temple at Berkeley Repertory Theater, which won the Glickman award for best new play in the Bay Area for 2005. She premiered her semi biographical piece, Be Bop Baby, a Musical Memoir, at Z Space, featuring the Marcus Shelby 15 piece Orchestra. The musical chronicled her life growing up in Detroit with her jazz musician stepfather who was with Motown and featured original music composed by Marcus Shelby.