The Western Stage Receives
Second Award Recommendation from
The National Endowment for the
Salinas, CA 93901-1628
Stage received its first grant from the National Endowment of the Arts last
year, which went to support the adaptation and production of Victor Villaseñor’s national bestseller Rain of Gold. This
new relationship with the NEA marked a milestone for TWS.
director Jon Patrick Selover noted, “it is national recognition of the work we do in this
community. It is not just the money received, but also the approval an award
like this signifies that makes it so important.
It affirms that the work produced at TWS is of substantial cultural
value to the community and to the nation.”
So, as TWS celebrates
its 30th Anniversary serving the Central Coast, the staff and board of directors
are proud to announce that the NEA is continuing its relationship with The
Western Stage, and is recommending another award to develop a new theatrical
piece, tentatively titled Salinas Stories.
ideas are in early gestation, the vision guiding the project was born out of a
question posed to Selover by the board of directors
when he was interviewing for the position of artistic director in 2001.
“If you had an
unlimited budget, what play would you do?”
Selover explains that he does not think about theatre in
that way. The budget would not factor into his choice of material. What was
born out of this question, however, was an idea that had been germinating in
his imagination for several years.
According to Selover, “Salinas is an interestingly diverse model of
the lab that is this country.” He should know. In the nearly twenty years since
joining TWS, Selover has worked on several plays that
have documented the experience of the people of the Salinas Valley. Selover
has come to the conclusion that every important social and political event in
the state of California has had a direct impact on Salinas, and visa-versa. Cesar Chavez and
the United Farm Workers union called attention to the inequities experienced by
thousands of field workers in the agriculture industry. Many migrants from
Oklahoma settled in Salinas to escape the ravages of the “dust bowl”. During World War II, the rodeo grounds on North Main Street served to detain Japanese-Americans
who were eventually interned. These incidents and more demonstrate how Salinas has been a part of some of the most
historical moments in the state and nation.
“I want us to
create an oral history of this valley,” says Selover.
It will begin
by focusing on what NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw has called “The Greatest
Generation”, those who lived in Salinas between the Great Depression and
World War II. “We’re losing these voices,” says Selover.
“They’re about to sink below the surface.”
With the help
of director Lorenzo Aragon (Rain of Gold ’03), Selover
hopes to invite those who are still with us to the theater to share their first
person accounts of life in the Salinas valley between these pivotal years. Aragon will utilize “playback theatre”
technique and a student improvisational group to collect stories from
participants and transform them into short vignettes. It is hoped the process
will spark memories and stimulate dialogue and evolve a theatrical compilation. Yet, the idea at this point is not to produce
a play, but to create an on-going process that will archive the oral history of
does not want this to “end in a box”, but would rather see it continue to grow
and morph into a whole series of projects celebrating Salinas’s rich heritage.
(Some details of the projects listed in this announcement are
subject to change, contingent upon prior Endowment approval.)
Dan Tarker, Literary Associate