Two years ago Francisco Severiano of Mexico was a passenger on an Ashland bus when a young adult woman started kicking his chair, saying she “hates Mexicans” and telling him to “go back to Mexico.” At the time, Francisco did not speak English. He had to endure the humiliation in silence.
The incident became the story of a short play for Literacy Theater titled “The Mean Girl on the Bus,” which has been performed several times for local audiences. Literacy Theater is an interactive theatrical experience created to help communities solve problems surrounding cultural and literacy issues. The skit is serious in its presentation of situations. It always ends abruptly at a point of crisis; the actors then stay in character and answer questions from the audience.
Literacy Theater is sponsored by the Rogue Community College Adult Basic Skills Program and INTERCAMBIO.Oregon, an organization dedicated to supporting intercultural arts. The volunteer actors are community members including students and teachers. I got together with four Literacy Theater actors who are students in English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Skills classes at Rogue Community College. They include: Simone Dias of Brazil, Shu Yang of China, Jesus Castro of Guadalajara, Mexico, and Severiano of Mexico City. We met in an ESL classroom on the Rogue Community College Riverside Campus in Medford.