Written by Michelle Botello
We can visualize the issues about the border today, building the wall, and immigration, but let’s put aside everything and go see this play at City College that the Theatre Department will be presenting called “Just Like Us” at the Black Box Theatre starting September 27th.
Some of the inspiring student actors and actresses expressed their opinions about the play, their roles, and what the border means to them.
In order to explain further, Yvana Aldarez, 22, actress, said she feels good about playing a role in such a familiar subject. Aldarez said, “when I took the audition for the plays I chose specifically a monologue that was from “Just Like Us” for the impromptu reading, and I was really excited about it because I do know people who this affects personally who lost their privileges with the Dream Act and had to figure out something else.”
Also she talked to me about her stepmother, “she was a natural born in the Dominica Republic and she didn’t have citizenship. She was living in the US for a while with my father without citizenship and I think she finally got her citizenship, I wanna say, six years into their marriage”.
It is not as easy as just getting married and you become a citizen right away, she explained. “You have to go through a process, there are also a lot of tests, and you have to have residency for a certain amount of time.”
In August 2019, over 50,000 people were apprehended at the border for trying to enter the US, less than over 60,000 in July. Gary Tallaksen, 62, actor, said, “Well, I think a lot of people give up because they’re dying, they’re dying to get here too, right?
They’re still going through deserts and trying to get over here and have some things like we have.” Tallaksen pointed out that the immigrants are longing for rights and, as one of the actresses pointed out, opportunities.
Gary Tallaksen plays the role of US House of Representatives Tom Tancreto, Republican from 1999-2009. Tancreto ran for presidency in 2008. He was part of the “We Build The Wall” in January 19, 2009 and agreed on the wall to wait and see how the wall will affect things, and sees it as part of a strategy.
He said, “Tom Tancreto was, and I guess he’s still involved in politics, apparently, but he was congressman in Colorado and he fought for the Anti-immigration Act. He wanted to ban people from coming in and he stated that publicly, right out on a podium. He said, ‘If you don’t speak English, then you gotta go’. Really, a US Congressman to say something like that?"
Tallaksen said that Carol Vizzi, the character and himself will be doing a scene that’s really important “maybe people can learn something from it." A story that touches so many lives is “feeling really good for me,’ said Tallaksen.
“I think it’s because two years ago I came here, I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t know a whole lot about the Latina community, and now I got a lot of friends and cast friends and I’ve seen some of the problems some of them had, and trying to get here from the border on time for classes...and some start at 3:30 4:30 in the morning.”
Tallaksen has been growing within the City College community and sees how Mexican students are dedicated to coming to school daily and on time.
Tallaksen shared about someone in his family. “My sister’s daughter married a guy and they came over from Honduras...they had two kids, and now he’s gone. Now he can’t get back in the United States.”
Tallaksen hasn’t been across the border in probably 10 or 15 years, and not for any particular reason. He wants to go see the dentist there though. When his brother said he would take him when ‘all this is over’, Tallaksen recalled what Vanessa Flores said over SDS Radio on Wednesday September 18th on the Wednesday Rock Shock Hour interview with host Michelle Botello, “and then we got into all that with Vanessa...that’s her home. What do you mean ‘it’s a mess’?"
We had to agree that not visiting TJ because of Trump issues is a silly excuse. Vanessa said her 'home' (Mexico) is just as good as ever.
Tallaksen hopes that “they""wake up and start treating people the way they should treat people. Let’s look at humans. Let’s not look so much at what color of their skin is.” He also said, “If we open up a few eyes here with the young kids that are going to school as they grow up and they get into politics, maybe they can make some changes.” He also plays recruiter and cop.
Guadalupe Nuñez, 19, actress, felt pressure over her role because this is a personal issue for a lot of people nowadays. She wants to perform it well so she can feel that this is the story, she is attached to this, and that she is delivering her performance well. It comes from personal and familiar experiences, she said.
Nuñez plays Josefa, mother of one of the girls, Maricela, and she tells how she blends into her character. “I see a lot of my mother and grandmother in Josefa.
Even though I’m not personally like Josefa, I see a lot of my mother and grandmother, who I am really attached to, and I try to let them out in my own character. I think about what would my mother do in this situation, how would she react, what about my grandmother, how would she feel?"
Nuñez spends her time at the US side of the border unless she has a task or chore. “I accompany my aunt who goes there now more frequently because she’s doing her treatments there(dental)."
She has good hopes of the play.
“I hope that people see a different point of view because in the, for example, another thing that is mentioned in the play, a lot of people, or the media, most people talk about the bad things and not really about the good things that the immigrants can help improve America, for example in the media there are crimes that have been committed by immigrants but they don’t talk about the successes. We have one-sided stories, not being more open to learning more.”
She is in ballet dance and theatre and she dedicates herself to becoming the best she can be. Vanessa Flores, 21, plays the role of Yadira, an undocumented high school student. “You can see kind of her trajectory of how she’s trying to go to college to try and have a normal life but the circumstances and the time being of the play just doesn’t help her at all, so it’s really, for me it’s really humbling to play this cause I really took the whole thing with people that I know and as Mexicans.”
The play is portrayed in around 2007 and is put together by the San Diego City College Drama Department and is directed by Katie Rodda, 50, director. An actress portrays Helen Thorpe on stage during the play sharing her thoughts and ideas about the issues being acted out against undocumented people.
For example, she voices out how she wants to know what these laws (laws brought up by the four girls going to the prom) mean and how they affect young people. The dialogue in the first act is important because it relates concerns students may have in their lives being undocumented or documented and friends with the latter.
As director of this play, this subject means something to Rodda. “I think that education is a right, not a privilege. I think people who are here and working hard and are contributing to society deserve to be here. I know that immigration is a thorny subject and a lot of people have very strong feelings about it.”
She said, “Well, I would like to see DACCA reinstated.” This would be one way to solve the problem we face today. Rodda said she would give passes to those living productive lives in the US to stay here legally.
At City College, she sparks up the students with a motivational speech about adrenaline and attitude. That’s how she does it. Kristin Arcidiacono, 50ish, dance instructor, is known to adopt the dance routines in most of the plays at the school.
She began her life of dance with a love for Jazz, later took years of ballet, tap, then musical theatre, and contemporary. This play involves a modern jazz type of number with four different songs. The four girls perform this dance so well it is mind-blowing. “I think it’s a very timely piece of work and I’m really looking forward to seeing it.”
The border issues came up and she said, “It’s really hard. Born and raised in San Diego, I have mixed feelings. I’m so glad I’m not a politician...because I feel for my hispanic brothers and sisters.”
She grew up going to Mexico almost every weekend and loves it so much having that freedom to go back and forth across the border was very important in her life. “I wish that my hispanic brothers and sisters have the same ability.”
Theatre is about rehearsing and memorizing lines, reading a script, digging into a character’s profile, and it all makes a complete success. One of the girls in the play said the part is fresh for her. She is Roxanna Camargo, 21, plays Clara, a documented girl.
She has witnessed people from the real life story of the play who visited the college and met them. It made her feel like she has to put her best forth. Also, she said that because it is a true story, she feels like she needs to be accurate.
There’s more than meets the eye. There’s teamwork and loyalty for these actors. Camargo helps a another cast member with her interview.
Kelsey Morales, 21, plays Elisa, and Lucy, and her roles are born a US citizen, Morales said, “I hate Lucy because she doesn’t know anything that her father tells her.” She is referring to a role she herself plays. Also, she knows a lot of undocumented people and shr said that they live in the shadows, they don’t know life outside of what they grew up with.
Schedule is as follows: Students: $10 Gen. Adm.: $15
Sept. 27/ Oct. 4, 8pm
Sept. 28/ Oct. 5, 8pm
Sept. 29/ Oct. 6, 2pm
Special $5 matinee performance:
Thurs. Oct. 3 2pm
15th and C street
Black Box Theatre
San Diego City College 2019
http;//citycollegetheatre.eventbrite.com for tix