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First-ever bilingual musical breaking down barriors

By Carole Mikita | Posted - Feb. 16, 2011 at 8:26 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Students at East High School are breaking new ground with a first-ever bilingual musical.

They hope their production of "Aladdin" will produce the good feelings in the community that it has among the cast members.

The production has the cast speaking and singing in both English and Spanish."You won't need an interpreter," director Kevin McClellan said. "It's written in such a way that you'll understand it."

McClellan, a theater teacher, came up with the idea of a bilingual production when he realized that half the student population never auditioned for plays. His motto: "Teatro es para todos" or "Theatre is for everybody."

"We have two very different communities that come together and go to school here. I hope that they understand that bilingualism is power and that we can be accepting," he said. "We don't need to be scared of one another just because we don't understand each other fully."

His plan has worked so far. "If you look at the demographics of the school, it matched precisely the kids who showed up for these original auditions -- which is an unfounded thing," McClellan said.

One of the best things this production has done is bring young people together who would never otherwise have known each other. A case in point: the two leads.

As she steps onto the flying carpet, Jasmine says, "A donde vamos?" Aladdin responds, "Where would you like to go?" Lindsay Aman and Isaac Cruz are now friends on and off stage.

"Most people wouldn't be hanging out right now. I wouldn't have known her," Cruz said.

"Yes, now we're church buddies and everything," Aman said.

And they both agree with their teacher that more people in the diverse school feel welcome in theater.

Some students who have never had acting experience but have a Spanish background coached the others and vice versa. McClellan calls it a mixed salad, a fruit bowl of different kinds of kids all learning.

"That's kind of exciting," he said.

Student Derek Aragon agrees. "I like theater now. Before I always thought it was for those kids that nobody really pays attention to. I can say when I first started I knew absolutely nobody here. Now I know, what is it, 40 new people."

Carmen Flores performs as one of the dancers. "We are like kind of a family," she said.

This is also Fernanda Resendiz' first formal theater experience. She sees what has happened with the cast and crew. "We all have something to share. And we can teach people a lot of things if they're willing to listen to us."

And because they have started listening to each other, they hope "Aladdin" will be the first of many opportunities to express themselves, their cultures, their languages, together.

"Aladdin" performances are Thursday and Friday at East High School and on Feb. 23 at Glendale Middle, all at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5.

E-mail: cmikita@ksl.com

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Carole Mikita

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