Some estimates put the number of Colorado's undocumented immigrants in the hundreds of thousands. But for all the debates on how to treat locals lacking papers, there's still a lot we don't know about the everyday lives of the people we won't call citizens. Five Boulder County Latino youths, most undocumented, want to tell you who they are and what it's like being an immigrant -- and they tell their stories in Motus Theater's one-hour play, Do You Know Who I Am?
Kirsten Wilson, artistic director of Motus, has been teaching people how to "move their stories" for the past twenty years. In order to create this piece, she asked the performers to write monologues of their stories. Then she wove everything together into one theatrical piece, which the five will perform. "These are young Latino activists who have been working on immigration issues with the Longmont Youth for Equality organization," says Wilson, who, along with local immigration-rights attorney Laurel Herndon, thought theater would be an effective way to show what it's like being undocumented in Colorado.
Each of the performers grew up in the United States. But because of current immigration laws, they live in limbo.
Temu, one of the performers, is well aware of the potential repercussions of being in the limelight. "Reality is, if somebody really wanted to, they could call immigration on all of us," she says. While Temu is documented, her husband, a fellow performer and immigration activist she met at a march in D.C., isn't.
"It's amazing the dedication these young people have," says Wilson. "Most of them decided that they have no real option but to come out and let people know they are undocumented, because unless the community gets involved, they remain very vulnerable."
Right now, all the performers are technically protected by the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects undocumented people brought to this country as children -- which means they can drive and hold a job without having to worry about being deported. "But the next administration will be able to change all of this, if desired," Wilson says. "Immigration reform has to happen for these kids to have a chance at having a legal, safe, productive livelihood."
Following the show, there will be a talkback with attorney Herndon and the performers. "Immigration reform is complicated for a lot of us, and many people have mixed feelings," says Wilson. "We aren't very articulate as citizens about immigration, despite the fact that we're a country of immigrants. So we're trying to start a conversation."
Motus received a grant from Colorado Creative Industries that will allow for a statewide tour of the play. Wilson hopes to hit venues like the University of Colorado, Naropa University and possibly a few high schools. But first, the hour-long play, sponsored by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Longmont Youth for Equality and the Immigrant Legal Center of Boulder County, will debut in Boulder this weekend.
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Do You Know Who I Am? will premiere at Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street in Boulder at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 8, with a second show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 9. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online. At 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 16, the play will be performed at the Longmont Theater, 513 Main Street, at the opening of the Americas Latino Festival; Chicago-based Chicano performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña will introduce the performers. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online.