Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Solving for X
I will be the first to tell you: this play "isn't for everyone," but I think it's for you. It's for you because it's about you; it's about your kids. It's about the only thing we all share: education. As New Mexicans, this is particularly important.
"New Mexico has the highest rate of English as second language learners. It is first in child poverty, first in teen pregnancy. 49th for single parent households. Second in the nation for child abuse. New Mexico's graduation rates are the worst in the country."
This isn't just how Working Classroom welcomes you into its original, devised theater piece; this is how professional change-agents remind us that New Mexico's most prevalent and important battle is fought in and around the classroom. In the words of creator/producer Megan Gomez, "students comprise 20% of our population, and 100% of our future." Solving for X is simultaneously a mirror to our present and an investment in our future.
Featuring actors between the ages of 11 and 45, Solving for X is the product of a year's worth of work. Interns worked with Scott Barrow from the Tectonic Theater and playwright/director Milta Ortiz from Tucson's Borderlands theatre for over a year to create a narrative tapestry that speaks to the struggles of both students and teachers whose hands are tied in an ouroboros of funding and testing.
When you enter the NHCC, you are immediately hit with the energy of youth and collaboration. These kids are so excited and so proud of their work, and for good reason. But that's not the point. They want you to think. They want you to care. They're calling for change. The piece begins and ends in protest: "I need help/ Necesito ayuda"; "Whose school?/ Our school!"; "Somos APS! We exist! We insist! We persist!"
This protest is real and well-founded. If the stats aren't enough to sway you, watch amazing actresses like Jorja A. Brickhouse and Analy Morales explain what it's like to struggle with a system built to test you rather than teach you. Pay attention as beautiful, talented humans like Elijah Chavez and Michelle Perez deal with parents who need them to go to Ivy-league schools, parents who can't afford to send their kids to college, and teachers who don't have the support they need to adequately address substance and physical abuse. Listen to New Mexico's children confront the terrifying difference between having all your documents in order and ... not: "You need a social to fill out your FAFSA."
Mark Twain once called honesty the best of all the lost arts. These childrenthese change-agents, these working artists of Working Classroomhave managed to bring honesty, bravery, humor, love, and undying dedication to this piece, and in doing so have found more than art. They've found the heartbeat of New Mexico.
Please: rearrange your weekend. Go see Solving for X. Do yourself the favor of spending a mere 60 minutes with this phenomenal cast. You will grow from the experience. And, I promise, you'll have fun.
Solving for X runs through February 26, 2017, at National Hispanic Cultural Center (1701 4th Street SW), Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., with a special encore performance on March 18, 2017. For more information, visit www.workingclassroom.org.