Joining us in July as Rehearsal for Life’s new Executive & Artistic Director, Elena Velasco is an experienced theater artist and producer, performer, and choreographer, with focuses in educational theater and social justice. Read our Q&A with her, below, to learn more!
RFL: What originally got you interested in working with youth arts?
EV: When I began acting professionally, a significant portion of my work was for family and youth audiences. I recalled that when I was growing up, I did not see actors who represented myself or my family. Knowing the significance of seeing oneself in the stories shared, I realized that part of the transformative nature of theatre is by discovering the intersections of many diverse groups in one’s community. This is one significant way that we can ensure we are fostering understanding and empathy.
RFL: Who were your mentors, role models, and inspiration?
EV: My father was my role model. He was the most resilient and insightful person I have ever known…. Though he struggled a great deal throughout his life, music remained his passion, and he kept this in his life despite working nearly 7 days a week as a home improvement contractor. He reminded me that the arts have an important role in our life, as it is the lifeblood for our spirit and carries our culture. When I went to school to study theatre, I was determined to both study Latinx theatre artists (as these were voices that were never present in my education prior) and to explore ways to intersect theatre with social justice.
RFL: What inspires you about joining Rehearsal for Life?
EV: Augusto Boal had once said that “theatre is the rehearsal for the revolution.” Theatre is not simply entertainment, nor should it be for the passive spectator. Theatre is a call to action — to explore needed change in our society, leading us to discover our responsibility to one another and make change within ourselves to assume that role as a transformative force in our world. Rehearsal for Life[‘s] programs provide that opportunity for youth to explore diverse perspectives through performance.
RFL: What do you think is special/unique to working with youth?
EV: I often find that youth are wiser than the elders who guide them. In the US, there is often a transactional approach to education — the elder holds the knowledge and imparts this on the student, who then is expected to recall and apply that knowledge. Yet more often than not, when teachers and students engage in the learning process as collaborative partners, youth demonstrate instinctual insight in response to the world that changes around them — not the world that we experience as adults which has been filtered by our past. Yes, there is much we have to share as the elder, but when we stop to listen to the child, we have not only honored their perspective, but gain a great deal more of how it needs to impact our own.
For further reading on Elena and her accomplishments, visit her online at elenavelasco.net.