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‘Silenced Screams’ takes on Mexico’s drug war at Cal State L.A.

Marcela Toledo's play "Silenced Screams" will premiere at Cal State L.A.
(From Marcela Toledo)

An estimated 70,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s brutal drug-cartel wars over the past six years.

Those costs are horrific enough. But there are also collateral damages, including a precipitous drop-off in tourism that has dented Mexico’s otherwise robust economy; a chilling effect on the Mexican media, which faces constant threats, kidnappings and worse from the warring cartels; and frequent indifference or ineptitude from the country’s legal authorities.

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That lamentable combination has led international press-rights groups to name Mexico the world’s most dangerous place to be a reporter in years past -- even worse than Iraq or Afghanistan. Dozens of Mexican journalists have been among the drug violence’s victims, and virtually all of their killers are still at large because the nation’s legal system generally fails to identify, let alone prosecute, the assassins.

Playwright Marcela Toledo dramatizes that disturbing situation in her first play, “Silenced Screams,” which will premiere this weekend at the Arena Theatre of Cal State Los Angeles. The play is one of four works written and performed by MFA candidates in theater, film and television.

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“Silenced Screams” takes place in a Mexico City newsroom and focuses on two newspaper crime reporters, Libertad and Hermes. Toledo, a professional journalist herself, has worked for newspapers, magazines and radio stations on both sides of the border.

The production is being overseen by two Cal State L.A. professors, Meredith Greenburg and Stephen Rothman, and will be performed at 2 p.m. Saturday and April 20 in the campus’ Music Building. As admission to the play, Toledo is accepting donations of non-perishable food items that will be donated to a local shelter.

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