As the crowd roared, warm, fluorescent lights beamed down on the face of Get Lit player Mila Cuda, performing a slam poem about sexual consent on Saturday night. Her tone rose and her voice filled with passion as the crowd watched the show, but the real show was backstage.
Before the performance at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles, numerous poets from five finalist schools practiced theater games until show time on April 30. They sang, joked, and bonded together in the dressing rooms downstairs to relieve the pressure of the competition. Prior, performers had practiced daily after school until 6 p.m. with their team members, to prepare for the Get Lit Poetry Slam. Through the program, the bonding and relationships formed throughout the year has allowed players to learn from one another.
“I face a lot of discrimination because I’m from Inglewood and people think I’m into certain things that I’m not,” Get Lit Player Anette Ruvalcaba said. “But Get Lit has taught me that everyone is going through the same story, not just me.”
The Get Lit program is a group run by previous players, mentors named literati, who visit over 50 high schools all year-long in hopes of recruiting more players. The program has it’s own curriculum involving co-facilitated workshops, acting exercises, and responses to classic poetry. Get Lit has equally impacted the lives of their players and mentors by giving those with rough backgrounds a way to discuss social injustices, as well as to express themselves.
“I was not a good kid, I’d do graffiti and I honestly didn’t think I would live past the age of 21, but then Diane [Get Lit founder] found me and it changed everything. Now I perform professionally.” Literati Mentor Zachary Perlmuter said. “Sometimes they cry because it’s very deep stuff, but when you hear yourself and really think through things, it goes away. It’s not running constantly in your head anymore.”
Parents, alike, have seen the emotional and moral benefits from the program and highly recommend it to other parents and high school students.
“I love that my child is in it. It is absolutely the most powerful theater and social movement. There is phenomenal depth to their ability to show their vulnerable selves,” Monica Chinlund said. “I’m so grateful this program exists. It needs to be taught in school.”