Nearly two years ago, after hearing about the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Cuesta College Theater Arts Director bree valle was inspired to create a show. She began researching and dove deep into America’s turbulent and often tragic history with race. Along with a group of students, she centered on a specific time and place—a whites-only pool in Birmingham, 1963.
From there, valle and her students embarked on an experimental process known as devised theater. Together, they improvised dialogue, determined scenes, and created characters during a lengthy rehearsal process. The result was pool ’63, a story that follows the experiences of an African-American family amid the oppressive segregation of early ’60s Alabama. Since the play’s premiere in 2013, it has become one of Cuesta’s most popular and acclaimed original productions.
Last year, it was selected as part of the 2014 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Los Angeles. This month, Cuesta announced that the Kennedy Center has chosen pool ’63 to represent the United States at the the 2015 International University Theatre Festival. According to the press release, “this is the first time the Kennedy Center has chosen a college or university theater production to represent the United States at an international theater festival.” In honor of this accomplishment, Cuesta will be staging a special production of pool ’63 before the festival takes place in Mexico next month.
You can see pool ’63 at Cuesta’s Performing Arts Center in SLO on Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m. or on Jan. 31, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $19.99. For more information, visit cuesta.edu.