VVHS drama alumni get back to their 'Roots'

The Victor Valley High School Theater program recently presented “Roots”, a double feature containing two plays written by Jackrabbit alumni: Larry Mayorquin’s award-winning play “Caminos: A Mother’s Journey” and Josiah Delgado’s playwriting debut “Mars in the Mountain.”

The name “Roots” was chosen for the production because both young playwrights can trace their careers back to the VVHS drama program.

“It’s fantastic to see that the VVHS drama program not only allows students to explore their passions and interests while in high school, but it can also lead to rewarding careers in the future,” Victor Valley Union High School District Superintendent Carl J. Coles said.    

“Caminos: A Mother’s Journey” follows seven Latin American migrant women in their quest for a better life. It was shown last year at Hollywood Fringe (a large Los Angeles theater festival), where it won the Hollywood Encore Producers’ Award, “Pick of the Fringe” and the Diversity Scholarship in addition to being nominated for Best Drama.

“I watched ‘Caminos’ at Hollywood Fringe and I loved it,” longtime VVHS drama teacher Jennifer Nocera said. 

Nocera asked Mayorquin (a 2014 graduate) if VVHS could stage a production of “Caminos”, and he agreed. Around that same time, Delgado reached out to Nocera about premiering his first play at VVHS, and the two one-act plays were combined into a single production.

Delgado’s “Mars in the Mountain” is a dystopian sci-fi thriller set about 30 years in the future. Delgado (VVHS class of 2012) said his work “urges the audience to question the world that they are in” and that the young actors found a correlation to their own lives, inspiring them to question things they are told. 

“These projects lend a voice to people who are usually silenced in this country,” said Brynne Elmore, one of the student actors.

A third former Jackrabbit, Theresa Murray, is now a professional stage actress who attended rehearsals and gave notes to the young actors. Murray said she was impressed with the performances as well as the state-of-the-art PAC, a major facility upgrade for VVHS that was completed in 2019 but hasn’t yet hosted many performances due to the pandemic.   

“It’s so rewarding to come back to my alma mater; this theater space is amazing and it’s so wonderful that (the new PAC) has finally come,” said Murray, a 2007 grad. “My time at Victor really was my launchpad and Mrs. Nocera has always been in my corner. None of these kids have to do (theater) professionally but there are so many life skills to be learned: teamwork, problem-solving, the list goes on and on.”