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Writer Gary Soto is collaborating with San Francisco Youth Theatre (SFYT) to create The Afterlife, a new play about gang violence, teen death, and suicide. The Afterlife tells how a single outburst of anger ends a young man’s life. After Chuy, the protagonist, is stabbed to death, he floats through a ghostly limbo, meeting Crystal, a teen who died by suicide, and Robert, a homeless man who died on the street. Soto will confer with youth at Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos and San Francisco Suicide Prevention to create an authentic and resonant script.

Soto is a widely acclaimed poet, essayist, and novelist. He was born and raised in Fresno, Calif, son of Mexican-American farm laborers. His literary scope is vast and his books have sold nearly four million copies. His collaborating partner, SFYT, was created in 2014 and is dedicated to transforming youth and community through the performing arts. The program is in residence at two San Francisco Mission District arts venues, where it offers theater arts training and performance opportunities. SFYT’s Emerging Theatre Professionals program provides acting opportunities and arts career pathways to talented low-income actors ages 18-28. Performers of The Afterlife will include a mix of these emerging performers alongside professional actors.

SFYT’s founder Emily Klion has collaborated closely with Soto on two previous productions, a theatrical adaptation of his young adult novel Novio Boy in 2009 and the writing of Soto’s his first play, In & Out of Shadows, a 2013 musical based on interviews with undocumented youth. Through this collaboration, The Afterlife will draw material from the author’s experience and imagination as well as the experience of youth who have been exposed to violence and/or suicide.