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Audience Reactions Inspire Students to Start Theater Group

English, Theatre, and Foreign Languages
students on stage
Members of Acto Latino perform at UNC-P

When Zelma López and Salvador García, the president and vice president of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, invited CSU-San Bernadino's Acto Latino Theater Group to the Annual Hispanic Fall Festival, they weren't expecting the experience to be quite as transformative as it was. "After the play," López remembers, "two students filled with emotions approached the actors crying, and offered to donate their art projects to help fund Acto Latino performances. Also, a high school teacher from the audience thank[ed] them for coming, [and] others thank[ed] them for their presentation and asked [to] take photos. The comments from the audience were very similar, of how the stories seen in the play were very similar of the stories told by their own family members." Sigma Delta Pi and OLÉ (Organización de la lengua española) had already put in hours of work arranging and advertising the event, gathering over 150 people for the performance, with support fropm Dr. Cecilia Lara and the Office of Diversity. But after they saw the emotional reactions from the audience, they decided it was not enough.

"We believe that it is important to show the culture and struggles of other ethnicities in the form of theater which other people can relate and put it in perspective with their own culture," reports López. So she and García decided to make founding a UNC-Pembroke chapter of Acto Latino their service learning project for the course SPN 4400, Methods of Teaching Spanish. They currently have approximately 10 students of diverse backgrounds working on a play by Luis Valdez, and the CSU-San Bernadino group has invited them to travel to California this spring to present their work. "We are nervous,"  López admits, "since many of us have never perform[ed] before or have any acting experience. However, what we do know, is that the whole group is always having fun practicing their lines, and enjoy[ing] rehearsing the play. We are positive that our enthusiasm will reflect to our audience in our performances."