Connecticut residents will have the opportunity to see “Stories of a New America,” a theater performance about the refugee experience, as it tours the state this fall.
The play is the result of collaboration between two New Haven nonprofit organizations, the Collective Consciousness Theatre and Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services. First performed in 2012, the script is based on interviews with over 100 refugees placed in Connecticut through IRIS. The 50-minute long series of vignettes, which are based off stories of the immigrants’ lives since arriving in the United States, was revived in January 2016, and the theater is currently preparing for new performances beginning this month.
“We want to continue to let this show be a platform to celebrate the heart of a refugee, which is the heart of an American and the heart of a dream,” said Dexter Singleton, CCT’s executive artistic director.
Ann O’Brien, the acting director of communication at IRIS, said the refugees interviewed for the play spanned a broad range of ages, countries and backgrounds. Some were new arrivals when they were interviewed, while others had already lived in the U.S. for many years.
She added that IRIS held two performances of the play this June for World Refugee Day as fundraisers for the resettlement agency. Churches, schools and other community groups can contact IRIS if they wish to host a performance, she said.
To Singleton, the play has served as a mode of exchange between refugee and non-refugee artists since the performance frequently features refugee actors. And, he added, representatives from IRIS will tour with the show and answer questions as part of a post-performance discussion, adding that education is a key part of the show because there is often misinformation in the public domain about refugees and the refugee experience.
Over 5,000 people have already seen the show, he said, and the company is willing to travel wherever there is a demand.
“People love it and that’s why we keep doing it,” Singleton said.
The first performance of the season will take place in Guilford on Sept. 27 through the Shoreline Interfaith Refugee Resettlement (SHIRR), a partnership between Temple Beth Tikvah, the First Congregational Church of Guilford and the activist group CT Shoreline Indivisible. Food will be catered from refugee-led Sanctuary Kitchen and the proceeds will go toward helping SHIRR sponsor a refugee family.
Robin Baslaw, a SHIRR member, said the group resettled one family last year and is “anxiously awaiting” the opportunity to do so again.
She added that in lieu of event sponsors, the play brochure will feature local businesses owned by refugees, such as veterinarian offices, restaurants and dentist offices.
The Guilford performance will cost $25 for adults.
Sara Tabin | firstname.lastname@example.org