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Shedding Light on Challenges for Foster Youth

By Eric Breier

Ingrid Trovão jumped at the opportunity to direct the play “Sisters in the System” after being asked by Cal State San Marcos associate professor Judy Bauerlein.

Ingrid has always been drawn to productions that help increase visibility or conversation about important topics.

And “Sisters in the System” certainly fits Ingrid’s criteria.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about the foster care system,” said Ingrid, a visual and performing arts major who will graduate in spring 2019.

ACE Scholars Services, which supports former foster youth at CSUSM, has teamed up with the University’s theater department and local nonprofit Playwrights Project to present a staged reading of “Sisters in the System,” which sheds light on the difficulties for foster youth trying to navigate the juvenile court system.

The play will be performed at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17 in Arts 111 on campus. There will also be a post-performance discussion with the audience. Tickets are free, but must be reserved in advance online due to space limitations.

“The objective of the play is to educate students, faculty and the community a little bit more about the challenges that foster youth face,” said Jim Mickelson, founder and director of ACE Scholars.

This is the second time that ACE and CSUSM’s theater program have collaborated with Playwrights Project. They also staged a production focused on foster youth in 2011.

“We had such a successful collaboration the last time around and continued to work with ACE Scholars and CSUSM theater students long after the collaboration ended,” said Cecelia Kouma, executive director of Playwrights Project.

Kouma commissioned Tori Rice to write “Sisters in the System” as part of the James Irvine Foundation’s Exploring Engagement Initiative. The play focuses on the journey of two foster youth through different phases of their involvement in the juvenile court system while addressing issues of sibling separation, court appearances, reunification and group home placement.

The performance includes multiple techniques to engage the audience while helping them gain a better understanding of what foster youth experience.

“Sisters in the System” was originally performed in a mock courtroom at California Western School of Law in downtown San Diego in 2014 and was adapted for a theater production at San Diego State the following year. Rice interviewed myriad people in its development, including social workers, attorneys, judges, foster parents and mentors.

Playwrights Project has been working with CSUSM on the production since February, and Ingrid has had an opportunity to collaborate with Kouma and Rice on continuing to refine the play. Their collaboration has included input from ACE students.

“A lot of people know the term foster youth or know somebody who was in the foster care system, but they don’t really understand the whole complexity,” Ingrid said. “This is an opportunity for the audience to see something they wouldn’t otherwise fully be able to witness unless they were part of it.”

Said Kouma: “Each time the play grows stronger thanks to the foster youth and experts who have helped advise us and a flexible playwright who is passionate about voicing the stories of those who have experienced the foster care system.”

While there are no immediate plans for the next collaborative project, Kouma is looking forward to the possibility.

“Jim Mickelson and Judy Bauerlein are phenomenal partners,” Kouma said. “I applaud them for the opportunities they bring to their students and am grateful to be able to support the excellent educational programs at CSUSM.”


What: “Sisters in the System,” a staged reading that sheds light on the challenges foster youth face navigating the juvenile court system

When: 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 17

Where: Arts 111, California State University San Marcos

Tickets: Free; must be reserved in advance online due to space limitations

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist | Office: 760-750-7314