From left to right, Ralph Brown, Katlynn Wilmott, O’Brian Vega, Jared Hendrix, Scott Murdock, Megan Hanks and Ashley Richardson star in “The Color of Me” at Creative Stages Youth Theatre.

Submitted photo

Creative Stages Youth Theatre Artistic Director Jim Gradillas co-wrote the teenage drama “The Color of Me” to address racial stereotypes and prejudices.

“I’ve heard and experienced so many stories of racism and being bullied that this play is a result of all of those stories,” Gradillas said.

“The Color of Me,” which opens Friday at CSYT, follows seven different teens and the struggles in their lives, from parents to friends. Characters include an African-American brother and sister; two Hispanic siblings; a closeted gay teen and a disabled youth.

Gradillas is no stranger to these types of dramas, having written stories about teenage depression and alcoholism.

He wrote “The Color of Me” with co-collaborator Michelle Marie, who’s also put some of her experiences in the play.

“Writing this show was therapy for us, because we’ve been racially profiled before and many other things have happened to us,” he said.

Gradillas, who also directed the play, said the script was a challenge for some of his young cast members.

“Many of them have never experienced some of these things, so it proved to be difficult,” Gradillas said. “But I truly believe they got it. This will be a powerful, in-your-face journey for both the actors and the audience.”

The play also is relevant because of recent news headlines about school bullying, Gradillas said.

“There is so much bullying in schools right now that this play is crucial at a time like this,” he said. “Everyone is human, and we need to accept people for who they are.”

Mitchell Vantrease may be reached at 623-876-2526 or mvantrease@yourwestvalley.com.

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