Sasha Hofisi is a local high school senior. She’s confident, well-spoken and looking forward to a career in music. But that wasn’t always the case.
Hofisi was born in Zimbabwe and raised in San Diego. She said as a child, she endured a lot of bullying from other kids.
"I was called a lot of racial slurs. A lot of comments that were made. I was compared to an animal a lot of the time, being chased around, yelled at, clicked at," Hofisi said.
Those negative experiences are now leading to positive change through "Safa’s Story," a play inspired by Hofisi’s life that is currently touring dozens of San Diego County schools.
Safa’s Story was written by Catherine Hanna Schrock, a former teacher of Hofisi’s and co-founder of the local theatre troupe Blindspot Collective.
"I think I related to Sasha’s story a bit because I am an immigrant-American as well," Schrock explained.
"I’m an Egyptian. I was born in Egypt, raised in the States, so I grew up with family members who spoke with an accent, and I was embarrassed to have people come over to my house because our cooking smelled differently."
The play is presented in the style of Forum Theatre, which means the students are challenged to take action to change the ending.
"We even intentionally immerse ourselves in the audience so we’re looking at them in the eyes and we’re addressing them specifically, and so there’s just something to me that really raises the stakes," Schrock said.
At the end of the show, the actors rewind the play, then the students get a chance to rewrite the script.
Anza Elementary School 5th grader Shahad Aloosh said the play made her cry.
"Because, I know a lot of people go through the same thing, and I like how in this show they let the students change the ending so Safa can have a better ending," Aloosh said.
Elizabeth Graham, also a 5th grader at Anza Elementary, has had her own experiences with bullying.
"Since I have buck teeth, they say that I’m a rabbit and stuff," Graham said.
Graham usually just ignores it but after seeing Safa’s Story, she said she would "tell them to stop."
Hofisi said she loves seeing the reaction to Safa’s Story from both kids and parents.
"I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to use my voice to empower young people to, maybe, to make different choices," Hofisi said.
Safa’s Story had its world premiere in 2018, which included an encore presentation at the Old Globe as part of the AXIS program. The current school tour runs through March 12.
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