On Tuesday night – the day after the Trump administration announced that nearly 200,000 Salvadorans now in the U.S. will have to leave, and the day Trump seemed open to negotiating a new immigration deal, and around the same time a federal judge in California ordered the administration to restart the DACA program – Jack Reuler and Joseph Haj stood together on the stage of Mixed Blood Theatre in Cedar Riverside. “This evening will make the political personal,” said Reuler, Mixed Blood’s artistic director. “Theaters make poor forts, but great bridges,” said Haj, artistic director of the Guthrie.
The two theater leaders were introducing “Enacting the Dream,” a free community event about the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. It was technically a Guthrie “Happening,” one in a series of in-the-moment public conversations Haj has been hosting at the Guthrie. But instead of taking place on the Guthrie’s Level Nine, it was at Mixed Blood, whose neighborhood includes some 4,500 people from 65 countries speaking 93 languages. A near-capacity, mostly white crowd had gathered to learn more about the realities of living in perpetual uncertainty. “This is part of our everyday conversation,” Reuler said.
The evening began with a reading from Karen Zacarías’ play “Just Like Us,” which she based on the real lives of Dreamers. Zacarías’ “Native Gardens” was a hit at the Guthrie last summer. Since September, when the Trump administration announced the end of DACA, Zacarías has made “Just Like Us” free to any institution that wants to use it to raise awareness. Born in Mexico, she once faced the possibility that she would be deported.
After the reading from the play, which follows four Latina teenagers in Denver – two documented, two undocumented – whose lives are complicated by the craziness surrounding immigration, things got real.
Carra Martinez, the Guthrie’s director of community engagement, led a panel discussion with immigration attorney Julie Carlson of Zimmer Law Group; Raúl Ramos, a resident artist at Mixed Blood; Sabrina Diehl, an actor recently relocated from Miami who played a role in “Just Like Us”; and a high school student we’ll just call Karina.
Carlson led us through the basics of DACA and DREAM, which are not the same. “DACA is always temporary,” she said. “DREAM is a way to becoming permanent.” She equated the end of DACA to whiplash. She talked about a student with a 4.0 GPA and a soccer scholarship who couldn’t travel outside the U.S. to play because she might not get back in.
Ramos explained how immigrants’ hopes are limited in the so-called land of opportunity. “Many young people don’t even consider college,” he said. “Some quit high school and get jobs. They’re already giving up.” He reflected on how “we [immigrants] are judged by the actions of a few. Historically, that has not changed.”
Diehl, who recently came to Minnesota from Miami, feels “immense pressure to do a good job. You cannot fail.” Her mother is an immigrant from Guatemala who finished college; her grandfather was a Cuban immigrant. For Diehl, “moving to Minnesota has been this out-of-body experience.”
Karina was the evening’s poster child for everything wrong with current immigration policies. Her younger sisters are documented; she is not. The older she gets in the current climate, the more her options narrow. “When I get sick, I can’t go to a doctor,” she said. “I never chose to be different from everyone else. Everyone sees you as ‘that alien.’ That turns into you hating yourself for not being born here. … I can’t say I’m Mexican. I can’t say I’m American, either. I’m not anything.”
Martinez urged us to end on a positive note, to suggest a meaningful action. Carlson offered this: “When we are citizens, we can pick up the phone. Email your representative and congressperson. DACA and DREAM have huge support among U.S. citizens. And vote! Vote your conscience and goodwill.”
Opens tonight (Thursday, Jan. 11) at the Southern: “Forever Flight.” No words are needed to tell this family-friendly story of a lonely boy, his paper airplane, and his journey to growing up. Inspired by Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince” and Windsor McCay’s comic strip “Nemo in Slumberland,” Animal Engine’s production, created in collaboration with director Ryan Underbakke (CTC’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” Live Action Set’s “Seven Shot Symphony”), with original music by John Hilsen, this world premiere stars Animal Engine’s co-artistic director Karim Muasher. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($8 kids, $10 adults, free to ARTshare members and children who can sit on laps). Ends Jan. 21.
Opens Friday at the Gremlin Theatre: “A Steady Rain.” Peter Christian Hansen, Gremlin’s founding artistic director, stars in Keith Huff’s play about two Chicago police officers whose lifelong friendship is sorely tested. Chicago playwright Huff, who also wrote for television’s “Mad Men” and “House of Cards,” took inspiration from the Jeffrey Dahmer case. So, not a comedy. Hansen is Joey, Dustin Bronson is Denny; Ellen Fenster directs. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($28; under 30, pay half your age). Ends Feb. 3. Remember: Gremlin is now in the Vandalia Tower complex in St. Paul.
Saturday at the U’s Barbara Barker Center for Dance: Fourth Annual TCFF Dance Flicks Film Festival. An evening of dance films and discussion presented by the Twin Cities Film Fest. This year features two screenings. The first, at 5:30 p.m.: “Ze’eva Cohen: Creating a Life in Dance,” hosted by choreographer and dance historian Judith Brin Ingber. The second, at 7:30: “Dance Film Shorts,” a diverse collection of Minnesota, national and international short films including many award winners. FMI and tickets ($8-$20).
Saturday at the Ordway: Spectrum Dance Theater: “A Rap on Race.” In 1970, James Baldwin and Margaret Mead held a lengthy, candid, far-ranging conversation on race. It was recorded, transcribed and published as the book “A Rap on Race.” Forty years later, playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith and choreographer Donald Byrd, artistic director of the Seattle-based Spectrum Dance Theater, created a new work based on this historic talk. Fusing dance with theater, set to music by Charles Mingus, it goes beyond the limits of language and enlivens our current conversation around racial and cultural equality. The Seattle Times called it “a tight, 80-minute mix of quest and showdown.” With Byrd as Baldwin, Kathryn Van Meter as Mead and company artists from Spectrum. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($19-40). Come at 6:30 for a pre-show discussion on racial justice in the arts that will include excerpts from Threads Dance Project’s “The Secrets of Slave Songs.”
Saturday and Sunday at Crooners: Bryan Nichols and Brandon Wozniak Live Album Recording. Nichols is a pianist, Wozniak a saxophonist. What, no drums or bass? In 2017, the two discovered their mutual love for “People Time,” an album of duets by pianist Kenny Barron and saxophonist Stan Getz, recorded live in Copenhagen in 1991. “We got to talking about how fun it might be to do our own recording in a similar vein,” Nichols said. Fun for the audience, too. Nichols and Wozniak have been friends and colleagues for 10 years, playing together in various configurations, achieving what Nichols calls “a near-telepathic interplay.” They’re planning a mix of original compositions and standards, with an album to follow. Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Sunday at 7:30. FMI and tickets ($10-12); 763-760-0062.