Play shines light on homelessness

Raylene Lopez
Staff Writer 

Black lights, wall projections and a moving set helped tell the story of homeless youth battling addiction, abusive relationships and survival.

“Polaroid Stories” combines Greek mythology with the plight of homeless youth as the audience follows several characters inspired by various Greek gods and goddesse.

They use their own form of storytelling to define their history. 

The author of the play, Naomi Iizuka, wrote the piece based on real homeless youth that she took upon herself to interview. 

The number of homeless people in 1996, the year in which “Polaroid Stories” was written, was at roughly 4.2 million young adults.

Of those 4.2 million homeless, 400,000 were unattended minors.

Iizuka began combining stories of homeless youth and well-known tales- like “Metamorphosis.”

“Polaroid Stories” combines true and fictional stories that offer a window into the reality of homelessness. 

“It’s a newer and more modern take on art,” Kirsten Zesati, Cal Poly Pomona sophomore English major, said.

She went on to describe the play as culturally awakening.

While the play was written almost 25 years ago by Iizuka, the underlying message remains relevant today, perhaps even more so.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the homeless population in Los Angeles County is more than 59,000. 

Melanie Lopez, a Cal Poly Pomona sophomore theater major who plays the role of Echo, said she worked to step into the mindset of a homeless youth and Echo, a nymph from Greek Mythology, for the character development. 

According to the mythology, Echo had her voice taken from her by Hera and was only allowed to speak through the echo’s of noises just made. 

“I very much felt like the character because I did feel lonely, I did feel isolated, I did feel like my own identity was taken away because I couldn’t speak first,” Lopez said.

Samantha Brown, a Cal Poly Pomona senior theater major who plays the role of D said her work on the play made her realize how much society neglects and avoids the homeless.

“It’s a reality people don’t want to admit,” Brown said. “These are real… people (and) ‘Polaroid Stories’ is kind of just a snapshot into reality.”

Brown’s role was inspired by the Greek god Dionysus, who is known for his festive and wild personality. 

D is outspoken with a sense of god-like entitlement, claiming the streets as their kingdom. 

Jessica Hanna, director and Cal Poly guest lecturer, said that there are so many stories to be heard in the world, and they all resonate.

“I think theater is about creating empathy so hopefully … we let go of judgment,” Hanna said. 

She said that she hopes this production inspires others to change their misconceptions of homelessness as well. 

See “Polaroid Stories” on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m at Cal Poly Pomona’s Studio Theatre in Building 25-110.

General admission is $15. 

Raylene Lopez can be reached at

Raylene Lopez

Latest Stories

Related articles

Voters to decide on mental health services

California voters will help decide the fate of the state’s mental health services in next week’s election.

Art exhibit considers our relationship to the sea

“Above & Below: Views from AltaSea's Blue Hour,” an exhibition at W. Keith and Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery on the Cal Poly Pomona campus,  is on display through March 31. 

Mesmerizing intergalactic pieces light up the Kellogg

The W. Keith and Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery at Cal Poly Pomona is showcasing the contemporary work of Anthony James, presented by Melissa Morgan Fine Art.

Pumpkin Fest gears up for Halloween

Crowds of families and kids of all ages flocked to the Cal Poly Pomona Pumpkin Fest on Sunday.