Written by Francisca Goldsmith on Thursday, March 2, 2017
Our 2017 season includes three titles in which "being American" can be heard clearly as well as gathered from the authors' selections of plotting and character elements. Our ears are essential in perceiving details about these American stories so that we can understand them.
Richard Montoya's stage play, developed with sketch comedy group Culture Clash, AMERICAN NIGHT; THE BALLAD OF JUAN JOSE, features the night time dreams--funny and frightening--of a man who has fallen asleep while studying for his U. S. Citizenship Test. The dream vignettes tell their own versions of American history, injected with the anxiety and life history which he brings to his new country.
THE RED UMBRELLA, by Christina Diaz Gonzalez and read by Kyla Garcia, also follows its main character on the path from one cultural identity to a new one. The historically real Operation Pedro Pan brought thousands of unaccompanied children from Cuba to the U. S. between 1960 and 1962. The characters and interactions depicted in this novel make that event, and the sense of changing cultural identity for the newly arrived siblings Lucia and Frankie, palpable for contemporary listeners.
SUGAR, by Deirdre Riordan Hall and read by Tara Sands, is contemporary fiction with a main character whose cultural heritage gives evidence to our national potential to be a melting pot. If claiming Puerto Rican and Polish ancestry sounds unusual to you, then check the demographics of various New England cities. In this novel, the main character's acculturation isn't at stake; she's American, as the generations before her have travelled the roads--sometimes unsuccessfully, as her story shows--from other places to arrival here.
Thank you to L. A. Theatre Works, Brilliance Audio, and Ideal Audiobooks for contributing these three to our 2017 season!
Image of cast staging AMERICAN NIGHT, photo by Joshua Arvizo