We're excited to introduce our company's work by sharing the development of a world-premiere play that speaks to everything we stand for. With some amazing collaborators, we're exploring new forms, stories that haven't been told, and we're speaking to young people today.
We're happy to share our journey with you!
Since March of 2020, even before In Other People’s Shoes Productions was taking shape as a company, a project was also developing. In pre-COVID times, Murry had invited master playwright José Cruz González to create a musical play for MainStreet Theatre Company, and had been awarded a grant from the NEA to develop and produce it.
When the pandemic upended those plans, the creative team, which included Director Robert Castro and Musical Director Cynthia Reifler Flores, agreed that despite not having a home, they wanted to continue to meet and work together. The original idea we’d discussed for the play didn’t seem right for the new times we were living in, and our discussions and explorations led José to conceive a new piece: Pia’s Wondrous Adventures In Tlaxlandia: A musical, toy theatre, puppet, graphic novel mash-up for a brief digital age.(The title was changed to The Wondrous Adventures of Pia Sandia in 2023)
We are grateful to our many collaborators that have supported the ongoing development of the piece!
We loved going back to camp to continue workshopping the play. This time around, we concentrated on integrating the songs by José and Kelsey González into a more streamlined script. Our professional artists were joined by 8 insightful "Leaders in Training" who participated fully in our dramaturgical discussions throughout the day.
After spending several months meeting with designers and imagining what the world of "Pia" might eventually look like, we were finally able to gather for one day in April to experiment with puppets, music, projections and light. The day gave José new insights and a better understanding of what the "mash-up" of forms might eventually look like, and served as inspiration for the next round of rewrites! This is also when he changed the title from Pia's Wondrous Adventures in Tlaxlandia to The Wondrous Adventures of Pia Sandia.
Director Robert Castro spent 10 weeks working on "Pia" with students from UC San Diego and San Ysidro High School, as well as community members, as part of a larger collaboration between In Other People's Shoes Productions, UC San Diego's Center on Global Justice and Casa Familiar, a social service non-profit in San Ysidro, just a mile from the Mexican Border. 7 teams experimented with "toy theatres", creating their own mini-versions of each episode in the play. The "co-laboratory" culminated in a public sharing of all 7 episodes, followed by a community parade, tacos from a local taco truck, a piñata, and birthday cake! We learned so much about the play itself, and also about the power of sharing story with community.
We were so happy to share the story of Pia with a live audience for the first time! As part of a new partnership with Camp Bob Waldorf in Glendale, CA, we did a reading of the play and got feedback from campers aged 9 - 16. We learned a lot, and will continue to find ways to include kid's voices in our development process. We're looking forward to seeing how our partnership with the camp develops!
We were delighted that José was one of the inaugural grantees of REIMAGINE, a new initiative that aims to support the development and visibility of new works for young audiences by BIPOC playwrights.
We're thrilled that José's artistry was supported and recognized by the field of Theatre for Young Audiences, and feel fortunate to continue to work with him on the story of Pia, which we've grown to love deeply.
In Other People’s Shoes Productions is grateful for the generosity and open hearts of all of the artists, teachers, children and experts who have played such an important role in the process.
Thanks to all who joined us the week of December 6 - 10, 2021 at the TYA/USA National Conference, where you were able learn more about our fall/winter process!
Under the auspices of the Chicanx Teatro Ensemble, which is spearheaded by Robert at the University of California, San Diego, a group of MFA Theatre design students spent the spring 2021 quarter embarked on an exploratory workshop of “episode 1” – concentrating on unpacking new forms of storytelling, as described in the subtitle of the piece. In addition to José, Robert and Murry, the students were joined at each session by master puppeteer Johanna Smith.
This exploration, along with a Q & A, was presented as part of the Initiative for Digital Exploration of the Arts & Sciences/Calit 2 Festival on June 3rd.
The student exploration also led to a "collaboratory" with the UCSD Center on Global Justice, and we’re continuing to explore ways to use the piece to connect and partner with the community at the CASA FAMILIAR Community Station in San Ysidro on the U.S.-Mexican border.
Pia’s Wondrous Adventures in Tlaxlandia begins with a young, Latinx girl named Pia, mourning the recent death of her neighbor and best friend Mr. Jesse from COVID-19. The play explores how children negotiate loss and healing through new friends, and learning that loved ones always remain in your heart, while celebrating the human spirit and unlikely heroes.
As Pia mourns Mr. Jesse, a mysterious Hummingbird Wizard calls upon her to help his beloved Tlaxlandia, a mythical Meso-American world, where plants and birds speak in an ancient language.
Pia’s journey to save this magical world will challenge her heart and soul as she confronts Lord Ocelotl, the Jaguar Lord of the Night and defeats the Empress Elvirus, to restore Tlaxlandia to its former natural beauty.
Hummingbird image by Harry Foster (UCSD exploratory workshop)
Puppets designed by Johanna Smith as part of the ReImagine workshop process