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A transformative experience at the Wheeler

Dear Editor:

The Wheeler Opera House stage is a place that’s featured rock stars, Academy Award-winning directors, Nobel scientists, heads of state and so many more luminaries in its 123-year history. But there are no bigger stars that have tread our boards than the teachers and students from the Community Charter Early College High School in East Los Angeles, who we featured on Saturday, April 7, in their production of “Tempest Toss’d.”

“Inspiring” doesn’t begin to capture the emotion one feels listening to how Sarah Rosenberg has dedicated herself to literally rescuing kids from lives of gang violence, drug addiction, and early death, and “moving” hardly describes how it feels to hear these kids tell a little bit of how grateful they feel at being given a purpose by the woman they call “Miss Rosie.” Of all the work with do at the Wheeler, and with all the stars we regularly encounter, it’s this kind of transformative experience that best defines why we got into this field, and come to work every morning.



We could not have done this project without a great many friends in the community, and we cannot thank each of them enough. From Susan Flynn, Charla Belinski, Rose Bennett, Brad Spooner, and Stuart LaCroix, who opened their homes to total strangers, to Lara Okomoto at Aspen High School and everyone at Aspen Community School who emptied students’ calendars to have a class with the East L.A. kids, to Liz Shapiro at Aspen Candy Company and Ron Erickson at Aspen Accommodations, who went out of their way to donate welcome baskets and rooms, to the great coverage in The Aspen Times by Andre Salvail, our event’s success could not have happened without you. And to my partner-in-inspiration Cynthia Ferrara-Goldsmith, who kept after me throughout the fall and winter to never give up and make this special event happen, a very special thank-you for bringing out the best in us all.

If there are those out there who still cannot believe there is such a thing as “the transformative power of theatre,” then I invite you to rent the film “Shakespeare High,” where we first discovered the work of Miss Rosie during our MountainSummit festival last August. There you will find that essential thing that has kept theatre – whether it be movies, television, or the living stage – the most liberating and rescuing of all art forms, and the one with the most positive impact on our overall society.



And if you missed it, I doubt that this is the last we will see of Miss Rosie and her incredible, ever-changing cast of students finding a new life through Shakespeare. Thanks once again to so many great people who allowed us to build this bridge and close our year so wonderfully.

Gram Slaton

Executive director, Wheeler Opera House


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