‘Locked up in Malibu’ returns with ‘On the Outs’

Pictured left to right are: Peter Ramirez, Mario Rivera, Malcolm Walker and Tim Perez. The four spent time in a juvenile detention facility, but now are on their way to new lives, inspired by poetry and song. David Wallace / TMT

Young men from a local juvenile detention facility ready to perform another evening of “slam” poetry, developed from a program that has turned lives around for the better.

By David Wallace/Special to The Malibu Times

A year ago, 14 inmates and former inmates of Camp Vernon Kilpatrick, a juvenile detention facility near Malibu, presented two evenings of improvisation, poetry and song before cheering audiences at the Malibu Stage Company.

This week, 11 young men will repeat the event with new material when “Locked Up in Malibu” opens at the same venue-this time for a three-day run. Now, however, there’s a twist: for the second part of the show, four ex-inmates will relate, mostly in “slam” poetry, their experiences since being released. (“Slam” is basically unrhymed, in-your-face, highly expressive poetry.) They call their new lives-in their slang —”On the Outs.”

Last year, The Malibu Times published an exclusive, two-part feature about life behind the barbed-wire fence of Camp Kilpatrick.

Since then, there has been good news for several of the young men. All credit their time in detention for bringing discipline to their lives. They also credit the acting and poetry classes in Kilpatrick, mentored by Malibu volunteers Susie Duff (director of “Locked Up In Malibu”) and Sandra Heyward (producer) for awakening them to their own creativity.

Last year, Tim Perez’s piece, “ABC’S,” a madcap, hip-hop, alliterative scherzo of words beginning with the same letter, nearly stole the show.

“The place opened my eyes about other kids and how they live,” Perez said about the detention camp at the time. “Participating in their programs also opened my eyes to hidden talents like poetry and writing I didn’t know I had. Now I’m trying to stay focused and keep my act together.”

Although it’s been only 10 months since his early release to attend college, Perez, now 19, is clearly succeeding. Today, majoring in music at Citrus College near his parent’s San Gabriel Valley home, Perez was recently promoted to production coordinator at Burbank’s Dic Entertainment, one of the world’s largest animation companies. He recently bought a champagne colored SUV (he needs the hauling capacity for the percussion instruments he plays in Glory, a hip-hop band) and is “putting major money away” to buy a home. Perez is also trying his hand at composing music for an animated series, which, so far, has met with a positive reception.

“My relationships, with my family, and with my girlfriend, have never been better,” he added.

Peter Ramirez’s “Touch Her,” a love-obsessed poem containing such terrific lines as ” … if I could just run my fingers through her imagination,” greatly moved last year’s celebrity-studded audiences. Since his release, the 20-year-old has reunited with his girlfriend, and the couple became parents of a baby girl three months ago. Ramirez, who has been hired by an advertising company, will reflect on his new life in his poem, “Touch Her II.”

Last year, Mario Rivera stunned the audience with his tough, deeply felt social outcry “Last Night’s Dream.” A new poem this year is no less tough in its thinking, but the edges have been smoothed by his year on the “outs,” working at Frisco’s restaurant in City of Industry. Also, he recently became a facilitator with Dreamyard, the award-winning community outreach poetry program with which he has been involved for years.

During Perez’s time in Camp Kilpatrick, he quarterbacked its football team, the Mustangs. Playing tight end then was a

6-foot 4-inch tall, 17-year-old named Malcolm Walker. Released three months ago, Malcolm is also well on his way to creating a new life. A lover of comics, he is majoring in art at Santa Monica College, and will soon be joining Perez at Dic Entertainment as a trainee.

All these young ex-inmates seem clearly are aware of why they were locked up. And they also know that, by having the determination to change their lifestyles after their releases, they now have, as Tim Perez prophesies in a new poem he’s reading during the engagement, “a lifetime to spread their wings.”

“None of this would be possible without the devoted coterie of volunteers working at Camp Kilpatrick,” said Heyward, a playwright who has been mentoring poetry with camp inmates for seven years.

“Happily, last year’s call for volunteers resulted in a tremendous turnout,” she said. “The next step is for companies like Dic Entertainment to initiate hiring programs for these young men. We have discovered that most of them are extremely talented; all they need is for more organizations to give them the chance to prove it.”

Presented by the Malibu Stage and the L.A. County Department of Probation, “Locked Up In Malibu” and “On The Outs” will be performed Oct. 22, 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. A donation of $10 is requested, and reservations are a must (call 310.589.1998).