Tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. a stage reading of Karen Zacarías’ 2013 adaptation of the bestselling book “Just Like Us” will be performed by Plattsburgh State students in the Black Box Studio Theatre located in the Myers Fine Arts Building, Room 129. Food will be served after the reading in the building’s lobby.
The play follows the real story of four Latina teenagers – Clara, Elissa, Yadira and Marisela, who were brought to the United States as young children by their parents illegally. They live in Denver, Colorado. Both Clara and Elissa eventually get documentation allowing them to live in the country, while Yadira and Marisela do not. The play begins with the four young women preparing for their senior prom, but Marisela has something else on her mind – college, and how the obstacle of being undocumented leaves her future uncertain.
Following President Trump announcing the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama-era program that granted renewable, two-year work permits to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors, Zacarías almost immediately responded by announcing on Facebook she is allowing any institution or university to perform “Just Like Us” for free for the purpose of raising “awareness through a reading etc. about the human toll of cancelling DACA.” According to Zacarías, 170 theatres, schools and universities, including PSUC have asked for the play. “She’s really generous” said Shawna Kelty, PSUC professor and director of the stage reading “in donating all the rights and royalties that she might have received from it so any institution can have a staged reading and have a conversation.” To Dr. Kelty, theatre is the medium of “cultural conversation” as she puts it “where we can empathize with a character… and then when we leave the theatre maybe we have empathy about the issues, concerns and the struggles that those characters are going through.”
Following the first rehearsal of the staged reading, students performing in the event shared their thoughts on what the reading meant to them and the campus.
“When the play was brought up to me, it helped me feel more involved” said Anaella Compaña, undeclared PSUC student . Being an Afro Latina from Jackson Heights, a diverse neighborhood in Queens, Compaña can relate to the struggles characters in the play face, whether through personal or shared experience. “I’m a person of color and I always feel like I’m walking on eggshells,” she said. After his first read-through of the material, history major Alfonso Ayala, who decided to perform in the reading because he was “bored” and had “nothing better to do”, saw the significance the play’s message can have on a college campus.
“It’s good people are putting an emphasis on the problem that we’re having with immigration,”Ayala expressed. “But some people are ignorant to what is happening and this [reading] is a good way to promote that.”
On the advantage of performing a staged reading versus a fully produced play, PSUC student Melea Prepetit said, “The audience doesn’t have much to be distracted from, they’re only focusing on…the message.”
By the end of the reading, Director Shawna Kelty hopes audience members will digest the play’s message, and hopefully have a conversation about it with someone, “because this is when change happens.” she said.
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