East Salinas makes headlines for gang violence and shootings. A theater production this weekend and next aims to shine a different spotlight on this community.
In the heart of East Salinas along busy North Sanborn Road, the Alisal Center for the Fine Arts is tucked between an elementary school and apartments.
Inside, Emily Morales runs a group of elementary and high school students through a dramatic reading. Morales is the founder of Artists Ink, an arts nonprofit. She created Artist Ink to give local kids something she didn’t have growing up here.
“Growing up on the east side, I had always had a really big passion for the arts and performing. So looking back, my family had to look outside of our community. They had to look out, you know, the south side of town, or they had to look out to Monterey and different, you know, just outside of our community for me to have those opportunities to try the arts,” Morales says.
The students in Artists Ink are rehearsing a play called ReAlisal. Written by Luis xago Juarez of the artists collective Baktun 12, it’s a tribute to their neighborhood the Alisal, also known as East Salinas.
Luis xago Juarez, who goes by xago with a lowercase x, grew up in East Salinas. He says the name ReAlisal is a play on words. “The Spanish word realizar, to realize, to see and to acknowledge, you know, what we have, what's been here,” xago says.
ReAlisal is a collection of stories about East Salinas. To write it, xago and his co-producers from Baktun 12 interviewed 40 residents to discover the history of the people who have called and do call the Alisal home. People like professional boxer Jose Celeya and the Sanborns of Salinas’ Sanborn Road.
“The people who have come out of this community had impact, you know, the way this community was shaped. The folks that came through this community. For me , it really captured my imagination, and I felt like, wow that makes us really special” says xago.
Baktun 12 created the first "ReAlsal: Your Neighbor’s Story" in 2011. Then 2014, they came back with "ReAlisal: Stories of Acosta Plaza". The students from Artists Ink will perform pieces from both in a show called "ReAlisal: Stories of East Salinas".
Students in the play, like Alisal High School Senior Elizabeth Perez, say the participating in the performance has helped them gain a sense of pride in their neighborhood.
Artists Ink’s Emily Morales hopes it will also change how the audience feels. “I hope that people can find a commonality. That they can see it and they can go, ‘oh man,’ like that's exactly how we grew up, you know I mean. Oh wow. The Alisal is a beautiful community, that they can see it through our eyes. I mean they can get an opportunity to see how rich and vibrant our community really is, supposed to what, you know, typically gets heard,” Morales says.
Performances take place this weekend and next. Audio of the this Saturday’s performance will be streamed live online (link will be ready Saturday). The performance will also be available later as a podcast.
Saturday, March 9th 7:30pm @ Western Stage - Studio Theater - Hartnell College
Sunday, March 10th 2:00pm @ Western Stage - Studio Theater - Hartnell College
Friday, March 15th 7:30pm @ The Mullis Theater - Alisal High School
Saturday, March 16th 7:30pm @ The Mullis Theater - Alisal High School
Sunday, March 17th 2:00pm @ The Mullis Theater - Alisal High School