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Professor Shares Personal History

UC Riverside Professor Shares Personal History

Carlos Cortés Performs One Man Play About His Childhood

(February 8, 2005)

Carlos Cortes

Carlos Cortes

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — UC Riverside’s Professor Emeritus of History, Carlos E. Cortés, will perform his one-hour, one-person autobiographical play, “A Conversation with Alana,” at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 17 in Humanities 1500.

The play tells Cortés’ story of growing up as a young man of mixed ancestry in racially segregated and religiously divided Kansas City, MO. The play is open to everyone at no cost, but seating is limited. Parking at UCR costs $6 per day and can be purchased for shorter periods.

Cortés arrived at UC Riverside in 1968 and, over the years, has consulted with government agencies, school systems, media groups and the private sector about diversity. He has authored television and film documentaries on the subject and is a cultural consultant for Nickelodeon's pre-school cartoon series "Dora the Explorer."

Cortés has lectured widely throughout the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia on the implications of diversity for education, government and private business. He has appeared as guest host on the PBS national television series, "Why in the World?” and is the featured presenter on the Video Journal of Education's training video, "Diversity in the Classroom."

The son of a Mexican Catholic immigrant father and an American-born Jewish mother, whose parents were immigrants from Austria and the Ukraine, Cortes had to learn to navigate Kansas City's rigid racial, ethnic, and religious fault lines, while simultaneously dealing with the internal conflicts of his own divided family.

In his play, Cortés holds a conversation with his daughter, Alana, who is represented by an empty chair on the stage. Although no actual dialect comes from the daughter’s point of view, her remarks are made obvious through Cortés’ responses. Cortés says that this method allows the audience to become more involved in the play. “The audience, in essence, takes the role of my daughter,” he said.

This presentation of “A Conversation with Alana,” sponsored by UC Riverside’s Department of History, will be Cortes’ twentieth presentation of the play, which was inspired by responses to public readings of his autobiography, titled “Letters to Alana.”

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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