By: BWW News Desk | February 20, 2020 | 1:01 PM
In this intensely physical production, cast members from The Actors’ Gang tell their ancestors’ stories in twelve different eras, all woven into a single narrative about escaping an oppressive homeland and being drawn to the beacon above Ellis Island.
The play was work-shopped during the Obama years in a reaction to the Syrian refugee crises; the director of the show, Academy Award-winner Tim Robbins told the Los Angeles Times, “I looked around at our company, and we have people from all over the world, so I asked everyone to really think about their own families and how they found their way here.” Performed in twelve languages, each used sparsely, and interspersed with live music, poetry, and kinetic movement, the play concludes with a question – who are we as a country?
Following each Folsom performance, an in-depth discussion will be facilitated by the director. Tim Robbins will lead the cast and audience in a conversation centering on the immigrant and refugee experience, during which audience members will be encouraged to share their own personal stories, as well as their immediate reactions to the work. The Harris Center is excited to welcome Mr. Robbins to Stage One; his availability is subject to change.
The national tour of The New Colossus comes to the Harris Center Tuesday, March 3 and on Wednesday, March 4 at 7:30 pm (same time both days). Tickets are $28-$52; Premium: $62. Students with ID $12. Tickets are available online at www.harriscenter.net or from the Harris Center Ticket Office at 916-608-6888 from 12 noon to 6 pm, Tuesday through Saturday (please note new hours), and two hours before show time. Parking is included in the price of the ticket. The Harris Center is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, CA, facing East Bidwell Street.
The northern migration after the Civil War is where the story starts, with a woman, a freed slave, who heads north, up the Mississippi River, to escape the death squads of the KKK; a Finnish woman flees the Russian invasion in 1904 and winds up in Superior, Arizona; a Jewish woman escapes the Nazis and arrives in Brooklyn, New York in 1938; a Malaysian child acrobat, born into a family of performers, escapes the Japanese invasion and makes her way to San Francisco in 1944; a Hungarian flees Communism in 1950; a woman risks her life to escape Vietnam after Saigon falls and comes to Los Angeles in 1978; an Iranian whose family is in danger after the revolution in 1979 comes to Colorado; a Mexican woman who fears for her life in a town run by a drug cartel flees to California in 1993; and a Turkish dissident attempts to flee Istanbul in 2017.
Performed in 12 languages with live music, poetry and kinetic movement, the play concludes with a question-who are we as a nation? Set between 1868 and today, THE NEW COLOSSUS is an homage to the strength, resilience and dignity of the immigrants and refugees who left their homes behind and risked their lives to find a better life.
Director Tim Robbins states, “The story of our ancestors’ journeys to freedom are epic stories of survival, full of difficulty, danger, distrust, camaraderie and courage, of insurmountable obstacles overcome by hope and heroism. The New Colossus is a story of resilience, of extraordinary people living through extremely difficult challenges, holding on to their desire to survive, to live and breathe in freedom.”
THE NEW COLOSSUS shares a title with the sonnet written by poet Emma Lazarus in 1883 for an exhibit to raise funds for the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, which opened in 1886. Even though the Statue of Liberty was not conceived as a symbol of immigration, Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” reinvented the statue’s purpose, turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and oppressed of the world.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
“In every generation, there’s a new wave of people who hold so much hope and so much passion for the idea of freedom that they leave everything they know and love behind and risk their lives to attain it. This is a story that unites us from our beginnings until now,” added Robbins.
At the end of each performance, the actors and Mr. Robbins will engage the audience and ask them to share either their experience of immigration or their family’s experience. People from all over the world have been found in The New Colossus audience; a true representation of the character and makeup of this country we share.