San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

WORDS, NO WORDS AND TRANSFORMATION–Thelma Virata de Castro

I am the steward of A Little Free Library. The concept is to put books out in an accessible place where anyone is free to–“Take a book. Return a book.” This is a responsibility I took very seriously, at first. I had three sections–adult fiction, adult non-fiction, and children’s. My sons and I would notice when every book was taken and when new ones would arrive. (Of course, we always got first pick of the good ones.)

We’ve had this library for over two years now, and I must admit, it’s gotten junky. The problem is we have too many givers and not enough takers.

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Most of the fiction books are paperbacks that I would never read. The children’s section has been diminished. I can barely get a cover on the thing when it rains.

And textbooks. Why would anyone donate textbooks to A Little Free Library? And to top it off, Criminal Justice textbooks? They’re not the type of thing people typically pick up for a good read.

Serendipity.

Shaun Tuazon-Martin, a San Diego actor who co-incidentally lives in the same neighborhood as I do, put out a call for books. Textbooks! He was designing a set for a play about a linguistics professor. He wanted to fill the stage with books. I told him to come and get them. Please!

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The show opened recently, and at the last minute on a Friday night, I was able to see the production. Look what Shaun did.

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The play is Precious Little by Madeline George. In this excellent show by InnerMission Productions, the professor surrounds herself with words. She’s an expert. Amazingly, the books that I donated reflect the play’s themes. Shaun designed the set so that the walls, the furniture, and even the vines are all covered with words.

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You probably won’t be able to read the pages in the photo above, but they are taken from the Criminal Justice textbooks. One of the actresses portrays a gorilla in the play and there is discussion about whether the gorilla lives in an “enclosure” or a “cage”. Likewise, the professor finds herself in a situation where she feels imprisoned.

Pregnancy is an issue, and among the books were pregnancy manuals. Pages with illustrations of the female reproductive system are on display. Director Carla Nell also showed me a page with a photo of a statue. It was a woman mourning the loss of twins.

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 And I was delighted to spot the Chinese dictionary above, with its spine facing out for the audience to see. When this book appeared in our Little Free Library, my oldest son snatched it up. He’s a collector and reading is his salvation. But, since he doesn’t read Chinese, I was able to convince him to give it up. Of course the professor would have this in her office. Words are her passion and her strength. Words are her suit of armor.

But can she connect with that gorilla in the zoo? Ultimately, the most powerful moments in the play are when there are no words.

Empathy. Communication. Understanding.

Beyond words.

Junk becomes art, and we are all part of the transformation.

Thelma Virata de Castro is a playwright, founder of San Diego Playwrights, and Little Free Library steward. www.littlefreelibrary.org

Precious Little by Madeline George is being produced by InnerMission Productions November 6-21 at Diversionary Black Box. Cast: Kathi Copeland, Jyl Kaneshiro, Jennie Olson Six. For tickets visit INNERMISSIONPRODUCTIONS.org

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