Meramec hosts a one-act play to depict refugee women in United States
By: DALILA KAHVEDZIC
We take for granted, as Americans, that people come to our country because the pain they went through in their old world was so bad, Executive Director and founder of Gitana Productions, Cecilia Nadal said. They have hopes to create a new world.
On Feb. 25 at the Meramec Theatre, a one-act play – ‘New World’ – took place.
“We were approached by the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma and they said – ‘would you write a play that would help people understand the experience that refugee women have coming to the United States that tells their stories before they actually get here?’” Nadal said. “And we loved that because our mission is all about giving more information about people who are different to bring more people together.”
With all the refugees that are coming into the United States and into St. Louis, they thought this would be a good time to tell the story behind the faces of these new people that St. Louisian’s are seeing, Nadal said.
“So we did interviews. The playwright, Lee Patton Chiles, actually did interviews with people that I and the center connected her to and they were Afghan women, Congolese women, and Bosnian women. She got their stories,” Nadal said.
The purpose of this play is for people to look at refugees as people, Nadal said.
“We just take for granted as Americans that people are coming here because this is a place to make a lot of money and get jobs – but some people are here because the pain was so bad in the old world that they needed to come somewhere where there was home and I want them to see that and to feel it at the heart level, and they will in this play. They will feel that,” Nadal said.
The hardest accommodations for the actors, Nadal said, was to step into the shoes of other cultures because none of the three girls represented them.
Two of the actors are Latina (Sherri Gonzalez and Jessica Alvarado) and one of the actors is African American (Jeanitta Perkins) but they represented Congolese, Afghan and Bosnian women.
The actors participated in conversations with the real-life, old-war victims to get a feel for what happened when they lived through a war.
“To step so totally into the shoes of another culture takes a lot of giving up of yourself,” Nadal said. “You’ll see that the emotional side of this is so heavy that they had to get rid of their baggage – and isn’t it true? That that’s what we have to do when we meet people who are different? We have to step into their shoes. This is a great opportunity for people to get the human and emotional side of refugees being here.”
The actors looked online to learn the dialect.
“We watched a lot of youtube videos that helped just kind of take on the dialect,” actor Genina Perkins said.
Another actor, Sherry Gonzalez, learned by listening to individuals from Bosnia speak.
“I’ve worked and spoken with some people from Bosnia so that’s how I learned,” Gonzalez said.
Director Vivian Anderson Watt said the actors came to rehearsal period for two weeks but only met for two Saturday’s to rehearse, and she was honored to be a part of it.
“This was written by Lee Patton Chiles and I was really honored to do it because it touched so many hearts of so many women around the world,” Watt said. “Not just Afghanistan, Bosnian and Congolese women, but women all around the world.”
During a question and answer session after the play, an audience member asked how the refugees can be protected as they are going through this difficult adjustment period, with all the extreme hostile talk in media.
“I think this is one step,” Bulin said. “Giving you all a sense of what a refugee is rather than just fleeing, getting on a plane and coming here. There’s so much more to it, I think that’s very critical.”
Actor Jessica Alberato also responded and said that we as individuals should beware of the single story.
“The media does a really great job of painting with one stroke of a brush – ‘everybody is like this,’ – and I think that just like everyone in this room, we are all individuals, we all have our different stories and experiences and the best way to protect them is to get to know them, to talk to them, walk up to them, and engage in conversation,” Alberato said. “You will see then that we have a lot more in common than we are different and I think that’s really the message that we’re trying to get across here, is that yes, they come from a different country but what does that even really mean? So they’re not American, okay. But does that mean that they don’t love like we love, does that mean that they don’t love their children and love their heritage and culture like you love your American heritage and culture? It’s the same. I think that we need to beware of the single story and talk to them and get to know them and befriend them because they’re not that much different.”
To learn more about Gitana Productions, visit gitana-inc.org or send an e-mail to email@example.com.