Vertigo Productions’ spring show brings student playwright’s work to life with ‘The Bloody Bricks and Blows of American Dream High’


Seeger Gray/The Daily Northwestern

The Bloody Bricks and Blows of American Dream High is written by Communication junior Gabriela Furtado Coutinho.

Esther Lim, Reporter

Growing up, Communication junior Gabriela Furtado Coutinho noticed how the red dust of her school’s brick walls wore off on her classmates’ shirts. She said the way the physical environment stained its inhabitants struck a chord. 

“What history do these bricks contain? What horrors have they seen?” Furtado Coutinho asked.

She incorporated that experience into “The Bloody Bricks and Blows of American High,” Vertigo Productions’ student-written spring play. The show will premiere in Shanley Pavilion on Friday and Saturday.  

The play tells the story of Bia, a 14-year-old girl from Brazil who moves to the U.S. after receiving a scholarship to a prestigious high school, American Dream High. However, unfair discrepancies shatter her high expectations.

“(Bia) has to make a choice: Is she going to survive and be exceptional in this environment, or is she going to revolt and potentially lose everything?” Furtado Coutinho said.

An actor holding red books looks at two other actors in the foreground.
The actors wore masks for the Thursday dress rehearsal. Whether they are masked for the Friday and Saturday performances has not been determined, according to Furtado Coutinho. (Seeger Gray/The Daily Northwestern)

Furtado Coutinho based the play off of her own experiences in the education system after she moved to the U.S. from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at five years old. Furtado Coutinho said she hopes this play can be an outlet for challenging assumptions about the U.S. education system. 

“I really did have a very hard time growing up,” she said. “I also saw that it was a rough time for people around me. I guess something I always look back on is how these experiences have shaped me and how I wish I could let go of them.” 

To bring her experiences to the stage, the production team ensured the play would not be simply “reproducing trauma” before the audience. They hope to go deeper than that, Communication sophomore and Producer Adelina Marinello said. 

Marinello said the relationships between the tightly-knit, six-member ensemble cast have been beneficial in dealing with some of the emotionally taxing themes of the play. 

“Every member contributes in this equal, beautiful way,” Marinello said. “It really requires a sense of presence and a sense of giving and receiving, and the cast was absolutely receptive to that sort of process from the get-go.” 

Communication sophomore Daijah Marie Guillermo, who plays Bia, related to the play and her character’s emotional honesty. 

“She messes up as she’s getting acclimated in high school,” Guillermo said. “I feel like I really connect with Bia in the second half of the play when she owns up to it.”

Communication junior Ché Negron plays Chris, a Puerto Rican student at American Dream High who looks up to Captain America and likes to go with the flow. 

Negron incorporated aspects of his own background into Chris’ character arc, which deals with questions about how one defines their racial identity and how it shapes their relationships. 

According to Furtado Coutinho, the play will end with a call to action to break the status quo and a message of hope to let the audience know that they are not alone. 

“I don’t think I ever had the vocabulary to describe what was happening to me when I was younger,” she said. “And I hope that this gives (the audience) a starting point and a touchstone so they also realize it’s not their fault they’re being treated this way. And I really want to give them hope that it can be better.” 

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Twitter: @EshLim1213

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