San José, Calif.- November 29, 2011- High school students who are part of The National Hispanic University (NHU) Early University Program (EUP) will perform La Pastorela Popular de San José at the Latino College Preparatory Academy (LCPA) on Dec. 3 and 4. The cast is composed of performing arts students taught by NHU professor Carlos von Son. The Spanish-language performances will be held at 7 p.m. at the academy, located at 1966 Flint Ave., Story Road, San José.
The Pastorela, which has its roots in medieval Europe, has evolved into a lighthearted morality tale of good vs. evil, and its performance is a holiday season tradition in Mexico and the U.S. Hispanic community. In the play, temptation of the seven deadly sins befalls a group of shepherds who are on their way to visit the baby Jesus.
The student cast is part of the Early University Program, a partnership between NHU and LCPA aimed at increasing the number of Hispanics and underrepresented students who enter and finish university degree programs. High school juniors and seniors take college-level classes at the academy and are taught by NHU instructors for college credit earned concurrently with high school credit in subjects such as English, psychology, calculus and chemistry.
This is the second year von Son has directed La Pastorela as part of the program’s visual and performing arts class, which is intended to build confidence and verbal presentation skills among the mostly Hispanic groups. The Pastorela performance is one of many events that NHU is involved in that honor traditions of Hispanic culture, such as Day of the Dead.
Von Son said the class combines theoretical and practical application of the theater arts through the study of theatrical works as well as exercises in improvisation, voice projection and other public speaking strategies. While some of the students are naturally inclined to performing, von Son said others struggle with shyness and speaking forcefully. “With this class, we hope to be educating future leaders who will take on roles in our community and society,” said von Son. “In order to be an effective leader, I strongly believe that you need to develop a strong presence and be a good speaker. Sometimes students start out a little shy, but in this class, we work on having them speak in front of people and becoming comfortable with their own voice.”
The Early University Program is an example of NHU’s support of college-preparation programs for Hispanic youth. Students who participated in the Early University Program and graduated in 2010 had a 96% college-going rate, according to data collected by program coordinators.