StoryWorks, The Arizona Daily Star and Borderlands Theater present


Written by Milta Ortiz Directed by Jennifer Welch

videography by Adam Cooper-Teran Movement choreography Milta Ortiz

Inspired by the reporting of Arizona Daily Star reporters
Patty Machelor, Perla Trevizo, Emily Bregel and Sarah Garrecht Gasse

Cycles is a documentary play created in partnership with StoryWorks and is based on the Arizona Daily Star’s year-long investigation into Arizona’s foster care system. Set in Tucson, Cycles follows the lives of an unlikely pair of teens who bond at Pima County’s juvenile detention facility and support each other as they struggle to navigate the state’s system.

As with all StoryWorks plays, this story is factual and verified, all the characters are based on real people and no names have been changed. It is our intention to transform the investigative reporting into art on stage and share this story with young people across Pima County. Inspiring a public conversation on the realities of our broken system and the impact it is having on the future of our community. Following the StoryWorks model, ​Cycles​ is two acts. The first act is the livestream play and the second act is a community conversation that immediately follows. During this conversation, the audience has the opportunity to ask questions of the reporters who investigated the story, juvenile care professionals and the creative team.


Thursday, August 27 at 7 p.m. (Arizona Daily Star Facebook & Youtube pages)

Reserve Tickets at

FEATURING: Lilianna Espinoza, Katie McFadzen, Natalia Storie, Sarah Marie Gonzalez and Stacey Posey

Production Team

Jennifer Welch is a documentary artist and creator of StoryWorks, a groundbreaking documentary theater company that transforms investigative journalism into theater and audio dramas. Since launching StoryWorks in 2013, Welch has developed plays with Reveal and The Center for Investigative Reporting, HuffPost, The Kansas City Star, NJTV, KCPT, the Arizona Daily Star and Mississippi Today. Each play has reached a different region of the country and helped to drive social change by exposing America’s structural inequality and the costs of human injustice. In doing so, her work reveals not only the factual truths, which are verified by deep investigative reporting but the emotional revelations that theater conveys. She is also a contributing producer for “Reveal,” the Peabody Award-winning public radio show and podcast from CIR and PRX. Welch is a 2017 recipient of the Midwest Innocence Project’s Sean O’Brien Freedom Award and was named a 2019 ​Preserver of Mississippi Culture ​by the Mississippi Humanities Council. She is based in San Francisco, California and Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Milta Ortiz is a theater maker and writer from the Bay Area, who now calls Tucson home. She mostly works as a playwright, sometimes as poet, performer, director, or writer. Currently she’s working on a play about twins raised on different sides of the border, commissioned by Pima Community College, and a memoir with spoken word poetry about growing up Salvi. Recently, she directed The Sun Serpent at Pima Community College. Her play Judge Torres premiered to a sold out run at Milagro Theater in January 2019, and continued on to a college national tour. She received NEA and NALAC grants to develop and produce her play, Sanctuary, which premiered to a sold out run at Borderlands Theater in September 2018. She devised, wrote and directed Solving for X for the Working Classroom (2016-17.) Her play, Más, was produced at Su Teatro (March 2017,) and co-produced by Laney College (March, 2016) and Ubuntu Theater Project (May 2016.) Más premiered to a sold out run at Borderlands Theater (September 2015) and was nominated for a Steinberg-ATCA Award, toured Arizona Universities (in 2016/17) and was produced at San Diego State University (November 2018.) Más was developed at Borderlands Theater through an NNPN residency, NALAC and TPAC grants, and produced thanks to NEA funding. Other produced plays include the 21st, 20th, 19th, and 18th annual, A Tucson Pastorela, Sonoran Shadows, Disengaged, Fleeing Blue and solo play Scatter My Red Underwear. Milta teaches theater at Pima Community College. She earned an M.F.A. from Northwestern University’s Writing for the Screen and Stage program, and a Creative Writing B.A. from San Francisco State University. She is associate artistic director at Borderlands Theater and mom to a creative first grader.

StoryWorks Theater

is a documentary theater company that engages artists with journalists throughout the process to create original plays that reveal emotional, as well as factual ​t​ruths of investigative reporting.​ ​The intention of StoryWorks is not to re-create the reporting on stage but to transform it into a theatrical work of art. ​Since launching this national project in 2013, StoryWorks has developed twelve new plays with ​Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, HuffPost, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Kansas City Star, NJTV, KCPT, The Arizona Daily Star and Mississippi Today. To visit website click here!

Supporting Partners

Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, USC Annenberg/Center for Health Journalism, ProPublica and The Solutions Journalism Network 

Arizona Daily Star Reporters

Patty Machelor covers issues pertaining to children and families as well as people living with disabilities. She previously reported on court cases, with an emphasis on juvenile court. She has worked for the Arizona Daily Star since 2001.

Perla Trevizo is a reporter for ProPublica in Texas. She previously was a member of the Arizona Daily’s Star investigative team, focusing on border and immigration. She is the recipient of the Dori J. Maynard Award for Diversity in Journalism, French-American Foundation Immigration Journalism Award, and a national Edward R. Murrow for a story done in collaboration with Arizona Public Media. She has also been a Livingston and Peabody award finalist.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen​ is the Opinion Editor and a columnist at the Arizona Daily Star and directs the Star’s Apprentice and Internship program. She teaches at the University of Arizona School of Journalism and regularly appears on public affairs radio and television. Sarah earned her master’s degree in journalism in 2010 from the UA with a focus on disability as a newsroom diversity issue. She’s worked with the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, advised high school instructors on opinion writing and blended journalism with youth development through work with a non-profit youth writing program.

Emily Bregel is a Baltimore native who has worked for 11 years as a reporter for daily newspapers in Tucson and Chattanooga, Tenn. She is currently living in Sonora, Mexico, where she works as a freelance reporter, English teacher and occasional organic farmer.