A new play about undocumented students premiered this month in Charlotte, NC.
The Pot is about a college student, Laura, bringing her boyfriend, Rick, home to meet the family at Thanksgiving. Her father has been elected to the state legislature and is upset to learn that although Rick has lived in the States for most of his life, he is undocumented.
The play’s narrator is Nathan, the adopted son who is of a different ethnicity than his parents. He tells Laura and Rick’s story as he tries to write a term paper on the tough question: Who are you?
I first started to write The Pot after I learned what happened to my friend’s brother, Erick Velazquillo. In 2010, he was driving home from the gym and was stopped for using his high beams. The police officer arrested him for having an expired license and because Erick was undocumented, the government planned to deport him.
Lead by the NC Dream Team, the community rallied around Erick and stopped the deportation of this 22-year-old college student who has lived in the States since he was 2 years old. And last fall, his sister, Angelica, participated in an act of civil disobedience with the NC Dream Team to protest North Carolina’s anti-immigrant laws.
The play, inspired by these young activists, explores how people are responding to the anti-immigrant movement in our nation. At the Thanksgiving table, characters argue about whether our immigration system is racist. One of the characters in the play is Uncle John, a retired ophthalmologist from Michigan, who adds to the tension of the drama as he espouses his views about “illegal” immigrants.
I wrote the play, because I thought theater was one effective way to dramatize an important American story affecting millions of people. What first moved me was the idea that someone could live in a place for nearly all of his life, consider it home, but be told by others that he doesn’t belong. Also, as I wrote, I realized that I was exploring a larger question about identity.
The title is The Pot because Nathan and other characters are searching for an answer to this question of America as a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. Why do we fear the other? What happens when we cross borders on the map or the borders we place between one another? Since Nathan doesn’t know his biological parents, he realizes:
“I live in that space between a word and a question mark. But if I don’t answer that question right–Who. Are. You.–if I don’t answer right, borders, boundaries are crossed. People get mad. People get disappointed. People change. America.”
The Pot was performed at Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black college, located near downtown Charlotte. After each performance (1 hour 15 minutes), there were talkbacks where audience members could discuss their reactions to the play. If anyone is interested in reading or producing the show, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.