The guiding idea behind the Compassion Plays program is a relatively simple one: Live theater has the power to affect our emotional state - to make us feel.

To develop compassion and understanding for someone whose experiences or identity is substantially different from our own, we must somehow feel for that person's situation in a new way. The Compassion Plays program offers an opportunity for connection across barriers of difference. With even deeper connection, we can offer support and take on responsibility for positive change. Compassion Plays productions move audiences emotionally, while they also educate, illuminate and entertain. 

Each script in the Compassion Plays series is based on extensive interviews with young people by playwright Peter Howard, as well as extensive research in consultation with educators and youth advocates around Los Angeles. The plays include a range of opinions and perspectives on questions for which there is no easy answer.

How it Works

compassion play

We currently have three different plays available for touring to schools, community organizations and conferences in the greater Los Angeles area. Each play features a solo actor performing a range of characters over the course of a 35-45 minute play. Before and immediately following the performance, a professional facilitator engages the audience in a structured discussion of the characters and ideas presented in the play. The full presentation runs approximately 90 minutes. By the conclusion of the program, audience members begin to make connections between the play and issues or divisions in their own communities. And most important, they begin to discuss how - through the participation of individuals in the community - these issues and divisions might be addressed or even changed.

*Actors appear courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional stage performers.

The Plays


by peter howard

Who "belongs" in this country and who doesn't? WHEELS explores immigration, xenophobia and the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship through the eyes of Oscar, a 15 year old Salvadoran-American youth and the people he encounters on his first journey through the maze of the DMV. 

Oscar is a young man on the move. WHEELS tells the story of Oscar's first steps toward independence, as he steps off the bus and into the Department of Motor Vehicles. In pursuit of his learner's permit and ultimately his driver's license, Oscar encounters a range of perspectives on freedom, mobility, and the dreams and realities associated with U.S. citizenship. 

Horizon Line


What are the seeds of prejudice? HORIZON LINE explores bias-motivated behavior through the eyes of Danny Curtis, a young white man on a path of escalating destruction, and the people in his life who influence his choices, for better and for worse. 

HORIZON LINE tells a story of conflicting impulses and loyalties in the life of an impressionable young man. Danny loves art and yearns to create a happy picture of himself and his world. But his desire to fit in - to be seen, to be heard - lead him toward acts that destroy property, frighten people and place his own future and the future of others in jeopardy. 



Tradition or travesty? KICK explores racial stereotyping and the American Indian mascot issue through the eyes of Grace Greene, one of the few Native American students at Newman High School. When Grace decides to take a stand against her school's "brave" mascot, she learns that sometimes sports are far more than just fun and games. 

KICK tells the story of a week in the life of Grace Greene. It's a big week - Homecoming Week - when tradition and school spirit become fighting words. An incident of vandalism to her school's beloved logo - the Newman Brave-begins a chain of events that change Grace, her family and her community. 

Generous Support for the Compassion Plays provided by: