Immigration is a hot potato for US citizens as the midterm election speeches and tweets underscored. The Midpen Media Center has been collecting individual and family immigration stories from every era of US history – in an online archive called Made Into America. https://madeintoamerica.org for nearly five years. The idea behind the project is to amplify human stories that go beyond slogans and headlines to provide a deeper sense of the immigrant experience and how it informs our nation’s story.
This Spring the Media Center will collaborate with drama students at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto to present a dramatic theater piece based on narratives in the archive. Mounting a theatrical performance is a first for the Midpen Media Center. It came about when Project Coordinator, Elliot Margolies, was reviewing some of the 450+ narratives in the archives last Spring.
“A number of the narratives are transcripts excerpted from interviews done by students of their parents and grandparents. It felt like reading a Studs Terkel book filled with compelling narratives on a specific topic such as “Working”, “Race”, or “The Great War.” In particular, the stories from families that were originally undocumented were gripping and current, and I thought they provided numerous insights. I wondered if they could hold their own as a performance piece.” says Margolies.
Margolies combined excerpts from different narratives into a “script” and showed it to a number of high school drama teachers to get their reactions. There was a student table reading at Gunn High School in Palo Alto that generated momentum and an inkling of what it could be like. Then Amy Conners, the Eastside Prep drama teacher said she wanted to take it on as the Spring Performance in their beautiful theater facility. She said that unlike many other Bay Area high schools, Eastside could not afford the rights to perform a musical in the Spring. And yet, the students had asked to do something more relevant than the period-piece comedies that they usually perform. Conners is now converting the excerpts into scenes with creative staging elements and supporting scenes that will illustrate some of the narratives.
The performances will take place either the last week of March or the first week of April. If you’d like to be on the invite list, please email Elliot at email@example.com. If you would like to subscribe to the Made Into America archive so you are notified as new stories are published go here. https://madeintoamerica.org/subscribe-to-made-into-america/ Subscribing is free and generates tremendous encouragement.