Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Playwrite Itamar Moses returns to Berkeley to speak to student journalists

By kbender
Tuesday, August 19th, 2008 at 4:44 pm in Uncategorized.

In the spring of 1994, Itamar Moses was a teen-age journalist working on the school newspaper at Berkeley High School. Now, at the ripe old age of 31, he’s a nationally recognized playwright who has produced five plays, including “Yellowjackets” which opens at Berkeley Repertory Theatre on Sept. 3.


The play, set around the halls of Berkeley High School, focuses on what happens when the school newspaper publishes a story about an on-campus fight, including the fact that the boys allegedly involved in the brawl are African American.


The fact that race is included at all angers students and teachers and there’s a  proposed boycott of the school newspaper, some reasoning with the teachers by the editor in chief (a character based loosely on Moses himself) and an examination of what happens when race and class collide.

The events in the play are based on some actual events that took place when Moses was in school,  he said.

On Monday, Moses, who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a place he calls “the new Paris,’’ was back in his native Berkeley to talk about his two loves _ play-writing and journalism _ with a group of 25 aspiring writers and journalists from 14 schools across the Bay Area. Moses wants to encourage more young people to take an interest in theater and writing.

`It’s important to make (young people) aware that theater is and can be by, for and about young people,’’ he said Tuesday.


The half-day workshop also included a panel of journalists, including freelance theater critic Chad Jones, (http://www.theaterdogs.net/ )San Francisco education Chronicle reporter Nanette Asimov and yours truly speaking to teens about why journalism is important in the community, how it’s changing, what constituents editorializing, where journalists find their stories and other trade secrets we rarely divulge.

In a time when nearly 6,000 newspaper journalists nationwide have lost their jobs in recent months, it was inspiring for me _ a 15-year veteran of newspapering _ to see 16 and 17 year olds pondering a career in the print and Web media.


The workshop was the brainchild of Genevieve Michel, a 19-year-old Albany High School graduate who is headed into her second year at New York  University. She’s studying arts management and politics, a major she created herself.

Before she left for college she did an internship at Berkeley Rep and when she returned for a summer job, she was charged with finding some programs to link to the play “Yellowjackets.”


“ We wanted to get a chance to bring kids to the school of theater who wouldn’t normally come,’’ she said. “Because the play is about high school journalism, it seemed like a good chance to bring (professional) journalists and students together to talk about ways journalism can be used as a tool to change the community,’’ she said.

Michel said the teen journalists said they learned a thing or two, and at the end of the day they decided to form a network to stay in touch and share ideas during the upcoming school year. Who knows, maybe one of them will break a story that will someday become a play.

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