ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BRUCE GEVIRTZMAN
Bruce Gevirtzman is a man who has known since age ten that bank vault, but his round, open face and direct gaze are like an exclamation point that commands attention. Along with his former student, Steve Cisneros, Gevirtzman is co-
Bruce started Teaching High School since 1973. In 1976, he began writing plays to be performed by and for his students. At first, they focused on general social and political issues, but it was not long before his scripts started covering topics sensitive to teens. What sparked him?” Watching kids suffer. Their ignorance on these subjects was baffling. In ‘86, I was coaching baseball and some of my players were involved with drugs. I’d get really upset and go on tirades in my class because it angered me that they thought these drug dealers were friends of theirs. So I wrote a one-
Sometimes, I have former students tell me later in their lives what an impact I had on them. That’s nice, because you don’t always know at the time if you’re getting through. I get a lot of letters from kids, too.”He is also a self-
This is the philosophy that vitalizes all three Phantom Projects plays. Its empowering effect on teens and parents alike is making the troupe a Southland sensation.
Gevirtzman admits he’s a “moralist” who gets “judgmental, but only about people’s actions and only when they’re illegal or immoral.” It’s not the mindset one imagines would appeal to the average rebellious teen. So how does he do it? “I don’t step into their lives as some kind of personal guru. I don’t always know if I’m reaching them. Sometimes you don’t know for days or years. You walk out of the class swearing you should have been something else, a doctor or a lawyer or something, and those are the moments when you have to remember the one kid who might have gotten it that day. And this doesn't mean a social or a moral lesson; it could just mean how to write a better paragraph, or make a better oral presentation or how to understand a poem.” “In an English class, we’re going to read, we’re going to write, we’re going to speak, and we’ re going to use critical thinking. The mechanics of this can only be developed through practice and through interest. I always try to put the work into a context they can use in their lives. In my senior class, all the literature we use is from newspapers, magazines and student writing. We have to make you practice. We have to make you interested.”
One way he's kept them interested is with his plays. The icing on the cake is to have found his theatrical counterpart in a former student. He and Cisneros work easily as a team, each honoring the other's creative expression. Cisneros refuses to take any co-