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Monday, February 2, 2015

Alicia's Miracle: Combining Reporting and Theater into a Story with Heart

Posted By on Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 8:29 AM

click to enlarge Alicia' Miracle - TIDES THEATRE
  • Tides Theatre
  • Alicia' Miracle
Jennifer Welch, the artistic director of Tides Theatre, sees the theater's mission as to “challenge and inspire and heal our community.”

So when she got a cold-call from the Center for Investigative Reporting looking for some way to share their audiences, she created StoryWorks: Tides dramatizes some investigations done by reporters at CIR – using theater to portray social issues and inspire action.

Their fourth production, “Alicia’s Miracle,” is at Tides now through February 14. It’s based on CIR reporters Andrew Donohue and Bernice Yeung’s 15-month investigating into pesticide use in the $2.6 billion strawberry in California.

“The Dark Side of the Strawberry” investigative piece found loopholes in the law allowing for the use of all sorts of dangerous fumigants linked to cancer and ozone depletion, including ones that have been banned in many countries. Some of these dangerous chemicals, the CIR discovered, are repurposed from World War I chemical weapons. And many of the strawberry fields are near where people live and work – so along with the farm workers being at risk, people in communities where strawberries are grown breathe a high level of pesticides as well.

Prominent San Francisco playwright Octavio Solis, a Pulitzer Prize-nominee for “Lydia," transformed the investigation into “Alicia’s Miracle": a one-act play, imagining a pregnant woman who lives in Oxnard who lives and works near strawberry fields; her workplace is a based on real high school: Rio Mesa. When she finds out there’s something wrong with her fetus, she confronts the toxicologists working with the strawberry industry.

Welch says Solis was one of her dream playwrights to work with.

“He’s perfect for this, he took a dense scientific investigation and he wove a compelling 40-minute story,” she said. “It’s magical and terse and active with beautiful moments of poetry.”

After its run at Tides, “Alicia’s Miracle” will travel to Oxnard and Salinas, where the cast will perform it in Spanish as well as English. 

"Alicia's Miracle is at the Tides Theatre, 533 Sutter St, through Feb. 14. Tickets are $15-$25. For more information, please call 336-3522.
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Emily Wilson


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