San Francisco Youth Theatre Presents Gary Soto's THE AFTERLIFE

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San Francisco Youth Theatre Presents Gary Soto's THE AFTERLIFE

San Francisco Youth Theatre (SFYT) presents a new play by award-winning poet, author, and playwright Gary Soto, March 13-22, 2020, at The Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway in Oakland.

Occupying both the physical world and the metaphysical space beyond, The Afterlife shows the fragility of contemporary life. In the restroom of a Fresno nightclub, Chuy, the good-natured protagonist, remarks to a boy his age wearing yellow shoes, "I like your shoes." The hot-tempered teen feels he's being made fun of and stabs Chuy to death. Dead, Chuy floats in a ghostly limbo meeting Crystal, a suicide victim with her own tragic story, and a homeless woman dying on the street. The story shuttles between the experience of loss and anger felt both by the living left behind and those who have passed on. Written in a mix of Spanish and English, with Soto's trademark blend of humor and poetic language, The Afterlife is a powerful theatrical experience that considers what gets lost when a teen dies.

The Afterlife is presented during a time when suicide rates among teens and young adults have reached their highest point in nearly two decades. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that from 2007 to 2017, the number of suicides among people ages 10 to 24 increased 56 percent. Suicide has become the second-most common cause of death among teenagers and young adults, overtaking homicides and outpaced only by accidents. A litany of factors has contributed to the increase in reported youth suicides, including high rates of depression and anxiety, unprecedented levels of social media use, and the opiate crises.

Soto and SFYT worked closely with SF Suicide Prevention throughout the development of the script, who advised on best practices for writing and presenting theatrical material about violence and suicide to teens and young adults. In 2019, SFYT toured the show to high schools and colleges throughout California, particularly in Soto's native Central Valley. In November 2019, SFTY performed The Afterlife at the Kestenburg International Festival of Student Theatre in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. From Fresno to Bosnia, audiences have been deeply moved by this play and given it rave reviews.

Now SFYT is thrilled to bring The Afterlife back to the Bay Area for a full-scale production at Oakland's Flight Deck. Note that The Afterlife is scheduled to be the last full production at The Flight Deck prior to the theater's closing on March 30, 2020. (SFYT will continue at its resident location at Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco's Mission District). SFYT has a commitment to audience accessibility and will offer select shows with audio description for visually impaired audiences and ASL interpreters for audience who are deaf and hard of hearing.

GARY SOTO is an award-winning poet, novelist and essayist born and raised in Fresno, California, the son of Mexican-American farm workers from the San Joaquin Valley. Soto's books have sold nearly four million copies. Soto has captured the largest readership of Latino children and young adults in the nation and his poem, Oranges, is the most anthologized poem in contemporary literature. Soto divides his time between Berkeley and his hometown of Fresno, California. Soto based this play on two of his young adult novels: The Afterlife and Buried Onions.

San Francisco Youth Theatre (SFYT) creates cutting-Edge Theater that speaks to the unique sensibilities of youth. SFYT supports rising theater artists of color through its professional DREAM Ensemble, dedicated to creating and performing theatre that tells the compelling stories of our community. SFYT welcomes Puerto Rican Director Diana Díaz for this production.

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