AERO THEATRE — Whoever says Latin is dead has not heard of “Pacifica,” a resucitation of sorts from Santa Monica High School’s Latin department in the form of a teen drama.
“Pacifica” is a four-episode teen soap opera done all the ancient language, created by students in Luke Henderson’s Latin class at Samohi. It premieres Saturday, June 13 at the Aero Theatre.
“‘Pacifica’ follows the lives of eight high school students who live in a fictional Latin-speaking wonderland known as Pacifica,” said senior Michael Mann, who plays the role of a stalker named Crispus. “The location of Pacifica is supposed to be similar to Orange County or someplace like that where you would find spoiled, tennis-playing, trust-fund-baby teenagers indulging their vices. We try to cram as many teen problems as possible into each episode.”
Mann said “Pacifica” was originally created as a one-time class project by senior Kylie Monagan and is now written by Monagan and directed by senior Jacob Garber.
“It was originally purely satirical, making fun of shows like ‘One Tree Hill,’ ‘Degrassi’ and the like, but after the response it got from the class, we all knew there had to be more ‘Pacifica,’” Mann said. “So the talented Jacob Garber took on the role of director, Kylie got more serious about the script and the less facetious ‘Pacifica’ we now know was born. That’s not to say the drama is totally serious all the time. There are some funny over-the-top moments but that’s kind of the way high school actually is sometimes and it works well.”
Despite being entirely in Latin, the students involved agree it is accessible to everyone, due largely in part to the English subtitles accompanying the episodes.
“When we finished the second episode, it was clear that ‘Pacifica’ would not only be a good tool for studying the language, but a series even non-Latin speakers could enjoy,” said junior Ethan Corn, who plays Leo, a main character. “‘Pacifica’ is for everyone. The fact that it’s in Latin might turn people off from the idea, but once you start watching, it’s like any other foreign film with English subtitles. The content, however, is much more relevant to teenagers.”
Corn listed peer pressure, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, homosexuality and suicide as several of the topics “Pacifica” touches upon.
“Pacifica,” however, is first and foremost a linguistic and artistic experiment.
“The Latin component of the show transforms what would normally be a straight-faced take on the teen drama into a unique film that is somehow totally serious and totally satirical at the same time,” Mann said. “Latin can do stuff like this. It’s like seeing something you’ve seen a million times through someone else’s heavy prescription glasses.”
Latin teacher Luke Henderson looks forward to the show’s reception as a foray into Latin cinema.
“It is remarkable that these students, motivated by the beauty and universality of this timeless language, have put in so many hundreds of hours outside of class to create something truly extraordinary,” Henderson said. “Moreover, Latin programs are increasing throughout the U.S. as schools and communities recognize Latin’s appeal and usefulness; the success of Latin at Samohi is merely indicative of a larger nationwide trend.”
“Pacifica” premieres all four episodes Saturday, June 13 at the Aero Theatre from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Doors open at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults. The Aero is located at 1328 Montana Ave.