This weekend, the Pomona College Department of Theatre and Dance brought the uplifting true story Stand and Deliver to the stage. Pomona theater professor Alma Martinez directed a cast of 20 in the ensemble piece about an inspiring teacher who led struggling students at the East Los Angeles Garfield High School to pass the AP Calculus exam. When the students faced prejudice from the testing services, they banded together and proved that race and economic disadvantages do not equate to lack of intelligence or integrity.
Adam Faison PZ ’15 led the cast as teacher Jaime Escalante. His active character choices helped him maintain a strong presence on stage and made the Bolivian immigrant’s dedication and love for his students believable. Faison threw himself into his character, embracing ridiculous moments and showing depth in the dramatic second act.
At the beginning of the show, many of the students seemed like caricatures or stereotypes. A pregnant student provoked laughter from the audience by constantly rubbing her stomach, and scenes in the rowdy classroom made the audience as distressed as Escalante. Yet, as the story developed and each character revealed his or herself through breaking the fourth wall, the characters gained the audience’s love.
One standout performer was Chuma Mapoma PZ ’13 as student Claudia. Her shift from humor to emotional pain was natural and effortless, and she was the only actor who elicited applause from the audience after her soliloquy. Vince Morgan PO ’15 also shined as Angel, a student conflicted between his gang ties and desire to change his life through passing the AP exam.
The scenic design allowed for a dynamic set with a movable platform (signifying the classroom) and fenced-off wings, while setting the stage for improvisation. The backdrop illustrated the show with a constantly changing projection of the Los Angeles skyline, graffiti, and math problems that helped the audience see the transition between the play’s changing moods and seasons. One thoughtful, creative touch to the scenery was the fluorescent lighting that descended upon the students during testing scenes, reminding every audience member of their own horrible experiences of AP or SAT exams.
The play’s 1980s setting was accurately depicted throughout. The cast attempted a dance number at the opening to classic 80s music, and the punk character Tito’s boombox provided the soundtrack for the rest of the show. Costumes included lots of neon, high-waisted pants and strong-shouldered pantsuits on the adult female characters. The show ended with more current information about the progress the real Jaime Escalante inspired in future Garfield High School students.
Performances of Stand and Deliver will be held March 7-10 at 8 p.m. and 9-10 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students, faculty, and staff and can be purchased through the Seaver Box Office at (909) 607-4375 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.