Albany Park Theatre Project’s ‘Home/Land’ moves to the Goodman in timely remount
By Hedy Weiss Theater Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org July 10, 2013 3:44PM
Randy Kim Dang (left) and Stephanie Castrejon portray parents trying to keep their family together when he faces deportation in Albany Park Theater Project’s “Home/Land” at the Goodman Theatre. | Photo by Amy Braswell
◆ July 18-28
◆ Goodman Theatre’s Latino Festival, 170 N. Dearborn
◆ Tickets: $10-$25
◆ (312) 443-3800; goodmantheatre.org
Updated: July 13, 2013 9:43AM
When David Feiner, co-founder and artistic director of the Albany Park Theatre Project (APTP), began work several years ago on “Home/Land” — a heart-wrenching, powerfully envisioned meditation on this country’s ongoing quandary about immigration — nearly a third of his unique teen ensemble were themselves undocumented immigrants. And at least half of his cast had family members who lived with that precarious label.
Such real life connections unquestionably fed the emotional intensity of this production which enjoyed an extended run at APTP’s home in the Eugene Field House on Chicago’s northwest side, was featured on the PBS NewsHour in March, 2012, and will be remounted on the Goodman Theatre’s Owen stage (July 18-28), as part of this season’s Latino Theatre Festival.
Now there is more big news related to this production. “Chicagoland,” the eight-episode Robert Redford-backed documentary set for a 2014 airing on CNN, has been following two of APTP’s “youth actors” as they prepare for the “Home/Land” remount. With an immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate in June now facing an uncertain future in the House of Representatives, APTP’s show only seems to grow in importance.
“We want to highlight the voices of youth in ‘Chicagoland,’ and APTP gives their creative expression center stage on key issues like immigration,” said Mark Benjamin a series producer.
The “Home/Land” show is physically framed by giant towers of battered suitcases. On the ever-shifting ground between those towers a cast of two dozen teens unspool stories woven from personal experience and interviews: The harrowing journey of a young father from Ecuador turned back at the very last minute; the story of a couple that makes it into the U.S. but is then torn apart after the father is deported; a look at the activism of two feisty, 80-year-old Catholic nuns, and of an immigrant woman who works at a church mission in Chicago where those threatened with deportation find a temporary haven and legal help. A glitzy game show sequence, “Do You Want to Be An American?,” provides rueful comic relief.
JP Marquez, 18, who plays a detainee who wants desperately to break through a prison door to embrace his wife and son, has worked with APTP for five years and will be heading off to Beloit College in Wisconsin this fall. He openly talks about his own “undocumented” status, having arrived here from the Philippines with his family at the age of eight.
“I only began learning about my situation in seventh grade,” said Marquez. “I watched a Filipino TV station and kept hearing talk about ‘TNT.’ I looked it up on the Internet and learned it translated as ‘hiding and hiding,’ the expression used to describe the undocumented. When I confronted my parents they began telling me about all the limitations I would face in terms of getting a driver’s license and student loans for college and suddenly my future was gone — like looking to the horizon and seeing no sun.”
A friend introduced him to APTP where he met other undocumented kids whose big plans made him see he could succeed. He credits a winter retreat in Feiner’s living room, where he and other members of the APTP company worked on college application essays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., for helping him get him into Beloit, where he plans to study biology (“my first love”), but also hopes to continue doing “theater for a reason, not just entertainment.”
Stephanie Castrejon, 19, whose family is Mexican, was born in the U.S., and she is “legal.” A summer workshop with APTP at age 16 was her first exposure to theater. After closing in the Goodman remount of “Home/Land,” in which she reprises her role as a woman who tries to keep her family going after her husband is deported, she will head back to the College of Wooster in Ohio, where she is considering a double major in anthropology and biology.
“Working on this show really made me an activist for immigrant and human rights,” said Escobar. “I realized my power to speak for those who are undocumented and too afraid to speak up for themselves.”