Last Friday, the Department of Theatre and Dance and the BIPOC Performing Arts Alliance hosted a debut viewing of “Caged,” one of five productions created by the department last fall under the heading “Theatre of Urgency: Creative Responses to 2020.” The event was held through Zoom with the playwright and director. Jimmy Noriega, professor of theatre & dance, and the cast, Victoria Silva ’23, Rickey Cooper ’22 and Teresa Ascencio ’23. Noriega opened the event by explaining the process of putting together the fall productions by commissioning new plays from five BIPOC playwrights on various topics pertaining to social justice. Silva and Ascencio, the co-presidents of the BIPOC Alliance, then spoke briefly about the idea behind the organization, the process of becoming chartered and how this event is the first of many that the Alliance hopes to host. To facilitate viewing of the production, Noriega provided a link for guests to access and view at their own pace.
“Caged” begins with an audio clip of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s remarks in May 2018 regarding the new “zero tolerance” policy for illegal crossings being implemented at the U.S.-Mexico border. This clip is followed by descriptions of measures that the Trump administration took to crack down on these crossings, including separating children from their parents and holding them in detention centers. When the three actors come on screen, they are contained in metal cages, crying out for their parents in Spanish. As the play progresses, the three children give individual accounts of how they left their countries to come to the U.S., but were ultimately caught, taken from their parents and placed in a detention facility. More quotes from the Trump administration are interspersed throughout the play, as well as conversations among the three children about their lives back home and how they feel about being imprisoned. The play touches on a number of specific issues affecting the children in these centers, including the actors using foil blankets as props and a conversation regarding the fact that both boys and girls in the facility are being sexually assaulted by guards. “Caged” ends with the three children still in their cages, with no knowledge of when they may be able to reconcile with their families.
After the viewing of the production, Noriega and the cast answered questions from the audience. When asked about the writing process, Noriega responded that he had conducted a great deal of research and that the majority of available content is focused on immigrant adults, meaning “the children never get an opportunity to tell their stories,” which he wanted to remedy. Ascensio spoke about working with such a heavy topic, and expressed gratitude for the support that the cast gave one another. Cooper explained that “it was hard, but that’s why we were doing it.” Finally, Noriega emphasized that “this is not a play about the past and the injustice of the past but of the current moment,” and that he hoped that “Caged” would shed light on an ongoing issue.
A media release with links to all five fall productions will be published soon.