Immigrant exhibit breaks borders

Walking through the Old City of Jerusalem, modern-day pilgrims follow the Via Dolorosa, or Way of Grief — the course traveled by Jesus in the hours before his crucifixion. Together, the nine “stations” on the Via Dolorosa and the five within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre trace the final suffering of Jesus.

The students behind this weekend’s “Stations of the Cross(ings)” had this archetypal journey in mind when they constructed their performance. This Davenport Sudler Fund project, which goes up Friday afternoon in the Davenport Common Room, is an original multimedia and interactive performance about the lives of undocumented immigrants in America, said Alena Gribskov ’09, the show’s producer. The installation integrates many forms of expression, including theatrical performance, visual art and oral narrative, to confront the audience with the difficulties faced by the undocumented when they cross both physical and psychological borders.

Students rehearse for “Stations of the Cross(ings),” a multifaceted performance which discusses the situation of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Ryan Galisewski
Students rehearse for “Stations of the Cross(ings),” a multifaceted performance which discusses the situation of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

During the performance, the audience will travel between nine stations, their physical journey mirroring the process of crossing a border. According to Gribskov, the installation hopes to be both artistic and educational.

“By experiencing the nine stations, the audience becomes not merely spectators but participants in some of the routine and, for those personally unfamiliar with the processes of immigration, the alien experiences that define the crossing,” she said.

At each station, the audience will confront a situation necessary to immigration, each of which requires the immigrant to change in some way, said Melissa Campos ’08, who initiated and directed the installation. Though the project was overseen by Campos, Gribskov and Victor Cazares ’08, who wrote the script, Gribskov said the installation is the composite of many additional student voices integrated into Campos and Cazares’ initial framework.

One station will take the form of a beauty pageant for Latin American women, meant to convey the tension these women face between their cultural identities and the American consumer culture, said Francisco Vieyra ’09, the stage manager for “Stations of the Cross(ings).” The pageant will not focus on each contestant’s beauty, he said, but instead each woman will present a mainstream product geared toward a Latino consumer.

“With the beauty pageant station, we hope to convey the economic situation of immigrants who are completely overwhelmed by the American capitalist machine,” Vieyra said.

Gribskov said the installation is meant to raise awareness of the challenges faced by immigrants both legal and illegal. In the heated debate surrounding immigration policy, she said, it is imperative to remember that the issues decided in courtrooms and legislatures have profound effects on real people.

“Too often, their faces and individual identities are forgotten,” Gribskov said. “The very real hurdles that must be jumped in the process of immigration are frequently ignored or simply never known. This production is a step towards shedding light on the hardships that exist in the crossing of social, economic and psychological borders, not merely the physical.”

Having immigrated herself, Altaf Saadi ’08 said, she is looking forward to Friday’s performance. Although she is not involved with the production, she said she was excited that the diverse issues surrounding immigration are being addressed on campus.

“Nothing at Yale has covered [the immigrant experience] despite all the coverage in the media and the conversations students have,” she said.

“Stations of the Cross(ings)” is not meant to be a political statement, Campos said, but rather a way to challenge popular misconceptions of immigrants in the mainstream media and to force people to think about the difficult process and lasting effects of immigration, Campos said.

“If nothing else, I hope that ‘Stations of the Cross(ings)’ sparks discussion, among those on all sides of the issue, and encourages the audience to challenge their own beliefs and explore the consequences that our actions and policies have,” Gribskov said.

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