LA JOLLA, CA -- Theatre is helping a bunch of local homeless teenagers transform and enrich their lives.
Patti Saraniero, director of school and community programs for La Jolla Playhouse, is the driving force behind an outreach program aimed at reclaiming young lives through the power of the theatrical arts.
Saraniero, a Yale Drama School graduate who also did social work at a Dallas homeless shelter, administers a project that works with San Diego's homeless community.
The project has three components.
The Artists-in-Residence Program sends qualified professionals to teach acting, playwriting and movement at the Polinsky Center and at The Place, a public school that serves homeless teens. The Mentoring Project, held twice a year, pairs students from The Place with Playhouse mentors for a weekend, treating them to such outings as visiting the aquarium or going horseback riding.
In addition, larger groups of homeless kids come to the Playhouse to attend productions, sometimes meeting the cast and sharing a question-and-answer session with them.
"Homeless kids don't often get to see people who are creative for a living," Saraniero said. "Here they have an opportunity to see adults in a different light. Having a relaxed, friendly relationship with an adult can be a shock."
In an effort to encourage youngsters to develop a love for theatre, Saraniero has also begun importing children's theatre to San Diego county. She has revived the Pop Tour Performance Outreach program which will give in-school performances of Jose Rivera's new children's play, Maricel de la Luz Lights the World, in which a young girl saves San Diego from a blizzard by retrieving the stolen sun.
Saraniero admits to caring most about the Homeless Project. "Something like this can be transforming," she said. "It can offer hope--which I think is something this population is desperate for."
--By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent