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EAST LOS ANGELES : School's Devilish Play Honors 2 Occasions

October 30, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

As " El Diablo, " Ben Chavez laughs and prompts characters in a play to listen to their worst instincts, to disrespect and harm each other.

He moves through the play bringing forth its tragic end, when one of the main characters dies after beating up his ex-girlfriend, drinking and overdosing on drugs.

Performed by students at Mujeres y Hombres Nobles, an alternative high school run by the County Office of Education, the play will commemorate Dia de los Muertos, Wednesday, and help the school celebrate its first anniversary with an open house.

The students will perform at the school, 1260 S. Monterey Pass Road, from 2 to 5 p.m. and then at Self-Help Graphics, 3802 Cesar E. Chavez Ave., from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Students will also exhibit artwork and perform dances and music at the open house and at Self-Help.

"This is to be able to share with their parents and the school the work they've been doing here because it's not just academic," said drama teacher Olivia Chumacero.

Mujeres y Hombres Nobles offers independent study for students who have dropped out of other high schools or are on probation or pregnant. For many, it is their last chance to earn their high school diplomas.

The drama students came up with their own plot to the play, based on relationships they have experienced or observed.

One student, Mayra Reyes, 15, who plays the new girlfriend in the story who suffers from the jealousy of an ex-girlfriend, will wear a sweater belonging to her ex-boyfriend who was shot and killed last Saturday.

Reynoldo Ramirez, 14, who plays the main character, Nano, talks about the forces of " La Muerte ," death, and " El Diablo ," the devil, who push and pull his character throughout the play.

" La Muerte wants to take him and the devil wants his soul," Ramirez said.

"This came out of a discussion of what they wanted to do," Chumacero said. "They improvised on the scenes and made it into a script format. It's their manner of speaking and coming from their viewpoint."

The students made masks that they will paint to portray their characters and set them on an altar for the play, like the sugar skulls placed on altars for the Day of the Dead, All Soul's Day, which in many Latin American cultures is observed as a day of remembering those who have passed away.

"The school's focus is on Chicano and Latino culture because that's who most of our students are," said Consuelo F. Norte, who teaches theater, art and culture. "We want to give them a sense of who they are."

In addition to the students' presentations, Self-Help Graphics will also hold its traditional Dia de los Muertos celebration Saturday.

The daylong festivities, from 3 to 9 p.m., will include an exhibit of more than 100 artists who have created works for the holiday, poetry reading, comedy, music, food and crafts.

Admission is free.

Information: (213) 264-1259.

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