DREAM ACT UNION / MIA CHUNG, JESSICA LITWAK, CHIORI MIYAGAWA, SAVIANA STANESCU & ANDREA THOME
Imagine that you don’t have a country. It doesn’t matter if you believe you’re American, because no one else believes you—especially not the government. There is no way to become legally American. You don’t exist. Worse, you are hunted for deportation. You love this country, but the country does not love you back.
In the play, “Dream Acts,” five undocumented teens—from Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Jordan and Ukraine—meet the extraordinary challenge of living ordinary lives under the radar. Through these characters, we learn about the secret lives led by undocumented youth and the congressional bill the DREAM Act.
A collective of seven theater artists, DREAM ACT UNION, was conceived by Chiori Miyagawa to raise awareness among theater artists and audiences about the challenges faced by immigrant youth. The process began with the writing team having conversations with undocumented youths. These youths were enthusiastic about sharing their stories, and the writers were moved by their plight as well as their dreams and ambitions. “Dream Acts” is not a documentary drama; the stories are not based on the interviews. The play was inspired by the youths’ spirit as well as recent events.
The process of co-writing among five playwrights started with each writer choosing a perspective different from her own ethnicity and writing a ten-minute play. Next, they integrated the five short plays by interweaving the stories of the five central characters. Then, working in pairs, they wrote scenes in which two of the central characters meet.
The production at HERE, directed by Kristin Horton, was performed by five actors—African American, Asian American, Latino, Middle Eastern American and Caucasian—who each played an undocumented youth as well as other ethnic-crossing characters such as lawyers, cops, neighbors, relatives, social workers, etc. The performances were accompanied by a panel discussion, “The Role of Theatre in Social Change,” featuring three DREAM-eligible undocumented youths; a representative from NY Immigration Coalition Thanu Yakupitiyage; theater artists Carlo Albán, Marcy Arlin and Meiyin Wang, moderated by Saviana Stanescu. Both the production and the panel were opportunities to bring together theater artists, actual youths and the advocacy field to have a dialogue about the issue. The play was subsequently performed at Ithaca College.