CHS to be “Living Out” through winter drama

Director Bill Ballard (left) conducts rehearsal with seniors Beatriz Acosta (middle) and Alicia Barrera (right) for "Living Out", a drama about immigration in the United States. Photo by Frances Ruiz.

Ashleigh Heaton
Entertainment Editor

Sometime in the middle of the afternoon, a baby starts crying. With a sigh, a woman gets up and goes into the nursery, lifting the child to hum a favorite lullaby and rock it back to sleep.

At first glance, the scene is a tender moment between mother and child. However, when the focus is adjusted, it is revealed that the woman is not the child’s mother – her appearance is different, her skin a different color.

In modern culture, parents are relying more on live-in nannies – but who is the face behind these caregivers? Why do people agree to raise children other than their own? Sensitive topics such as these are touched on during Coppell High School’s upcoming production, Living Out, an honest look at our lives and the people and cultures that surround us.

The play follows the story of Ana Hernandez, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador who, despite her intelligence, becomes a nanny because of language barriers. Throughout the play, Ana tries to maintain her parenting at work as well as at home, her marital affairs and her relationship with her employers – Nancy and Richard Robin, a young, wealthy couple living in Los Angeles. However, once the play comes to a close, the audience wonders if the two sets of people are really as different as they appear.

“I love the parallelism between the characters,” assistant director junior Julie Dasilva said. “It illustrates beautifully how both cultures are together. They are different, but the same.”

Though the play has a spackling of humor, the themes and messages presented create a powerful drama about parenting, immigration and self-identity.

“I often think, ‘What does it take for someone to get in an 18-wheeler and go for miles and miles to cross the border? What is going on?’” director Bill Ballard said. “Sometimes, I think we don’t think about that. What does it take for people to take that kind of risk…what is motivating them? [Living Out] really puts a face on immigration.”

However, putting the face to these characters presents Ballard with a delicate situation – to authentically present the play, he needed a good turnout of Latino actors at auditions to portray the Latino-dominate cast. To insure this, Ballard held a separate audition for Latino actors to gauge the interest in the play and see if he could actually do the show.

“I was afraid I would scare off the Latino actors who have never been in a play, because it is kind of a frightening experience,” Ballard said. “I kept a Latino audition simply so they would not be afraid to show up. It was not to separate, it was to make sure I would not scare people off.”

The audition was a success with over 20 actors showing up for roles. From both auditions, Ballard was able to cast the play full of both old and new CHS talent. Most notable is senior Gabriella Rodriguez, who plays Ana and has never performed before – much less had a lead. Despite her lack of experience, Ballard saw her potential as an actress and assigned her the role.

“In auditions, [Rodriguez] stood out to me,” Ballard said. “She had a lot of energy and was not afraid to do the things she needed to do to play the part.”

Though an undertaking of this size may seem a bit daunting to some, Rodriguez is taking it all in stride.

“I am a little intimidated, because I see all the other actors that got cast and they are doing a really good job, but it is something new and I see and I learn from them a lot,” Rodriguez said. “I am kind of intimidated, but I am more excited than anything.”

Another new addition to the production is Dasilva, who, though she has been active in the dramatic side of performances, has never worked with the backstage crew. As assistant director, Dasilva is given the responsibility of maintaining the props and technical aspects of the show as well as assisting Ballard throughout the production process.

“This is completely new to me, so I am a little overwhelmed,” Dasilva said. “But I know that, when it gets closer to the end, I will get a sense of fulfillment knowing I helped make this show happen.”

Traditionally, the play is performed on a proscenium (or auditorium) stage, but since the spring plays are held in the Black Box Theater (a thrust stage), the production team had to come up with a unique way of presenting the scenes effectively while holding consistency with the audience. A new, innovative set has been developed, but while whisperings of screens and photographs have been mentioned, nothing can be confirmed or denied until opening night.

“The set will be very different,” Dasilva said. “I want to keep quiet about it because I want people to be surprised, but all I can say is that it has never been done before and that I am really excited about how it will turn out.”

With its powerful message and outstanding cast and crew, Living Out is sure to make audiences reconsider how they view the people around them – and themselves.

“In the end, it is a serious look at who we are and who we are in relationship with other cultures,” Ballard said.