In New Haven, Conn., Collective Consciousness Theatre will tour Stories of a New America to Connecticut school and community venues in spring 2017. Created in partnership with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in 2011, Stories of a New America features excerpts from interviews the company conducted with more than 100 refugees, many from the Middle East, the Congo, and other war-torn regions.
“We wanted to know how they got here and what their journey was,” says Collective Consciousness’s executive artistic director, Dexter J. Singleton. “All of them had to deal with suddenly having their lives uprooted and changed forever. How did they remain so strong in the face of such danger?”
The interview process took longer than a year and a half, and required the help of translators working in more than a dozen languages. “Many of the stories were funny, heartbreaking, joyous, and remarkable,” says Singleton. “We whittled [the interviews] down to the ones we thought best captured the heart of what it means to be a refugee in America. We’re proud of the fact that every single word of the play is from their words. We just shaped it into a clear narrative that all people can relate to.”
The diverse cast features American and refugee actors, and the play includes several different languages. Singleton observes that kids have responded enthusiastically to the play over the years, and emphasizes the value of bringing refugee stories to children.
“I think it’s always important for young people to hear the stories of refugees so that they can learn about the effects of wars and conflicts,” he says. “They can learn empathy and develop a greater understanding of people’s lives that are different from their own. Unfortunately, the play is still timely, as the prejudice and lack of empathy toward refugees in America has gotten worse.”
Read the full article from AMERICAN THEATRE here.