|"We realized that the idea of 'us and them' doesn't exist…that it's all 'us,'" said Trafton. "We cannot and should not attempt to 'depict' a refugee's story — nothing on a stage can ever come close to the reality of the refugee experience — but we can and should bear simple witness in telling their stories. Inviting the audience into an experience of listening to these stories is the best way that can 'accompany,' and — ultimately — hope must be at the heart of this piece."|
"Rehearsals are going great," said Ed Trafton, director of the JHS Drama Department. "We just finished 'Draft Three' of the script; the set's done; costumes are on their way; actors are hard at work memorizing lines and blocking. We're so excited to start!"
In addition to students from Jesuit High School, other student actors come from St. Francis High, El Camino High and Rio Americano High. The students will perform seven shows over two weeks. On November 3, 4, 5 and 10, 11, 12 all shows are at 7:30 p.m. There is a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, November 13.
Earlier this year Jesuit Refugee Service/USA pitched the idea of commissioning Jesuit Drama students to use true accounts compiled by JRS/USA from years of assisting and supporting uprooted people to write a script and produce a play. JRS/USA hopes the play will allow audiences to "stand in the shoes" of forcibly displaced people and refugees to gain a deeper understanding of what life is like for them.
"We are so excited to be working with the faculty and students of Jesuit High's Drama Program to raise awareness about the lives, challenges, and contributions of the refugees JRS has worked with for the past 30 years," said Shaina Aber, Associate Advocacy Director for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.
"Since we started just over a month-and-a-half ago, the students and staff have taken this opportunity and journey very seriously," said Trafton.
"Our initial surge of excitement at being given this tremendous opportunity to collaborate with JRS/USA was almost immediately followed by feelings of being overwhelmed by the enormity of the topic. In between hours and hours of research and reading, we'd talk about how we were feeling: how the refugees' stories were both so despairing and inspirational; how relief workers and advocates manage to keep going and not get overwhelmed or paralyzed by the stories they hear and the images they see; and how our audiences, who on the whole having no frames of reference for these stories, will find their way into the play," he said.
The students’ feelings echo those of JRS/USA, that the play will become a piece that high school, college students and even parishioners will use to raise awareness about the challenges that face refugees and the displaced — and funding to support JRS programs — by performing staged readings or producing a fully staged production of the play.
"We realized that the idea of 'us and them' doesn't exist…that it's all 'us,'" said Trafton. "We cannot and should not attempt to 'depict' a refugee's story — nothing on a stage can ever come close to the reality of the refugee experience — but we can and should bear simple witness in telling their stories. Inviting the audience into an experience of listening to these stories is the best way that can 'accompany,' and — ultimately — hope must be at the heart of this piece."
"They have taken this project and created a piece that will be very moving, we are tremendously grateful to the students and faculty for their extraordinary work," Aber said.
"We hope the production of Imago Dei: Journeys of Courage, Hope & Home on campuses around the country will inspire lifelong advocates for refugees and the world’s displaced, and supporters and advocates for the work of JRS/USA," said Aber.
Tickets are available now. The Black Box Theater is located in the Harris Center, opposite the gym on the JHS campus at 900 Gordon Lane. Visit the school website for more information.
Earlier: JHS Sacramento producing play about refugees
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