By Yasmin Mitchel, Associate Editor
The Art Installation during #TTSREPS week was a project that the entire Grappler team was excited about. Such a display would physicalize the issues and themes we had been grappling with over fall quarter. This was also a way we could engage our community and pull from personal experiences. The way we deal with the world and how we address society lends to how we understand the relationships around us. Where we have been and where our family has been greatly impacted present life. Relationships–be it parental, romantic, platonic, etc.–are all shaped by the history of who we are. Our next decision was where to root the exhibit in The Theatre School. We decided that this space specifically would get the most traction and provide for a poignant metaphor regarding the journeys captured in the exhibit. We devised an art installation that grappled with migration, immigration, and movement. We initially sought out individuals working on Esperanza Rising and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and inquired upon what personal experiences they had had with migration and immigration. We asked these individual to craft a statement responding to the questions below in twenty to thirty words:
For the company:
How does migration function in our society and what is the role that theatre plays as an outlet for these experiences to be known?
For the cast:
How does portraying a character with a background of migration compel you to address larger social issues off stage?
They also were asked to provide three to five images that are representative of these plights. One of these images was to be a semi-serious and reflective self portrait that was used to display who they are to the viewer. With these statements and images, we hoped to provide a space of reflection.
In our day, it can be difficult to acknowledge the past. It can be difficult to uncover the roots of our origins. Whether it be language barriers, emotional barriers, or even locational barriers, sometimes the history of us is not readily available. We make assumptions, educated or not, concerning the “other”–those who are different from us. Although America was conceived as a melting pot, there are definite lumps that have not quite dissolved–but maybe they shouldn’t have to. In this art installation, we wanted to understand the struggle and celebrate the victory. Unfortunately, in the modern world, there has been little victory in light of today’s so called “progress.”
Nonetheless, the submissions we received were inspiring. Although it may seem the world is in a constant battle between sexes, races, religions, and class, these statements of personal journeys remind us how far we have come–and how far we have to go. The play that made this especially evident was August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, which is set in a time of great political upheaval. African Americans were searching for acceptance in America, and the North held promises. They were journeying to find a place to call home while struggling to find a comfortable place within themselves. The first submissions came from one of the dramaturgs on the Fall 2015 production. Rachel Perzynski wrote submissions from the perspectives of the characters in Wilson’s play.
Harold Loomis: I go where the road take me. I’m looking for my wife, Martha. But mostly, I gotta find me a place in the world. I need to stand on my own two feet.
Mattie Campbell: I’m tired of moving from man to man. I leave a piece of myself with every man I’m with. I need somebody who will stay. I need a constant force in my life.
Bynum: I’m no stranger to the road. I used to travel every which way in search of myself. But I was looking in the wrong places. The answer was inside me. Inside my blood and bones. Knowing where you come from can help take you where you
With these perspectives, it becomes clear that migration is sometimes necessary for survival. It does not mean running away from problems, it means escaping a previous life of struggle and prejudice. In both the past and present day, migration should be viewed as a pursuit.
In Sana Malik’s submission (fourth year Biology) she wrote:
In 1979 my parents got married in a small village located in the Punjab province of Pakistan, called Dulmial. Shortly after their wedding my parents became the first in their families to move to America. My mom, being only 19, had a difficult time adjusting to the way of life in America. My dad worked his entire life to leave his village to become a doctor in the US and provide the best possible life for his kids!
This is a cookie cutter example of the American Dream, something that a majority of immigrants seek out once choosing to uproot their lives and families. There is bravery in leaving familiarity and comfort.
For all families, there are stories and experiences that are carried across borders; they are along for the journey. Kathy Ferolito (fourth year Theatre Arts) shared this memory:
When I was little my brother convinced me that I was adopted because every single person in my extended family had brown eyes, prompting my great-grandma to tell me how I had been blessed by her mother, who left Italy when she was a teen, with a few dollars and a younger brother. Our blue eyes continue a legacy of blessed femmes. Our eyes are our power and wherever we go we use them to learn how to make the world around us better.
Interestingly enough, the concept of migration can be extended beyond the understanding of physically moving from one country to another. Madeline Krantz (third year Theatre Arts) wrote of her family as migrating through education:
A long time ago they came from Europe. But the family I know migrates with privilege; moving for college and grad school, med school and law school. To be teachers and scientists and businessmen and doctors and lawyers. A path of profession, privilege, and power. I wouldn’t be here without it.
In this, it becomes clear that the word migration itself it up for interpretation. Daniella Mazzio (third year Theatre Arts) had the following to share:
To me, migration isn’t so much about where my family has been, but where we’re going. Both of my parents have predominantly Mexican and Italian roots, and some of my mom’s side also has migrated from Andora. Our past couple generations were born and raised in America, however, and stayed in the Chicagoland area. My parents have always pushed me to move past limitations our previous generations have seen.
The words of our contributors consistently echo themes relating to opportunity, necessity, and privilege. These voices are reflective of a larger TTS body as well as the identity of America.These voices must be heard, and they must be acknowledged. For us in a conservatory theatre program, art is our medium. Get inspired.