Thoughts on “Just Like Us”

Scenes+from+the+Second+Space+production+of+%22Just+like+us%22.
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Thoughts on “Just Like Us”

Scenes from the Second Space production of

Scenes from the Second Space production of "Just like us".

lance lagoni

Scenes from the Second Space production of "Just like us".

lance lagoni

lance lagoni

Scenes from the Second Space production of "Just like us".

Elizabeth Anton, Staff Writer

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Should illegal immigrants be allowed to become citizens in America, or should they be deported regardless of what they have and haven’t done? That is the question the play “Just Like Us” challenged. Just Like Us was shown at Elgin Community College the first and second weekend of November.

Directed by Susan Robinson, a theatre instructor of ECC, the play follows four young women into their adult and college lives, briefly showing their journey along the way. It is based on the events of real women, two of which are undocumented immigrants, from the timeline of 2002 through 2008.

Looking at the play from an entertainment perspective, I did not enjoy it. It felt dragged on and dulled out. There were moments where the pauses were too long, or the energy seemed low during the less emotional scenes, such as when the girls are sitting in the college dorm. Being honest, if I was watching the play just to watch it instead of review it, I would’ve passed the chance up just to stay home.

However, I was given the opportunity to watch it, and I learned from it. Within the real timeline, the featured documented portion of their lives started when I was 3 years old and closed when I was 9. I had no idea that any of what these girls dealt with was an issue at all. I never imagined as a little kid that things like deportation or that people were trying to live on an annual salary of $17,000.

I never knew the difference between myself, a complete American born citizen, and an undocumented child who learned their education alongside me and with the possible struggles their family was experiencing. The play allowed the opposite side of the spectrum, the side of the children who grew up undocumented. From moments like being denied from college acceptance, hearing local hate speeches against them, watching their parent leave the country to avoid prison, all the way to living in fear of the very moment an IRS agent or cop will discover they are illegally in the country. The two undocumented girls portrayed this through out the play, ultimately allowing a much different perspective to what most Americans possess.

A strong point made both in the play, and by audience members, was what actually makes an individual an American. A country made through immigration yet torn at the edges by situational laws. In the case of these girls, their families were hard workers, scraping for money, and paying taxes. They carried all the same responsibilities of any American, but only a small percentage of the rights. They were not criminals – only individuals looking to have a decent life. Yet once found out to be undocumented, a heavy and unwarranted discrimination was placed on them.

I understand legalization is important, but maybe if it was easier to do, the issue wouldn’t be so big.

Towards the end of the play, there was a telling interaction between the partial narrator and original author, Helen and the lead undocumented girl, Marisela  Helen is writing a novel on another’s life, and with that, using her perspective. “Your voice is my voice” Marisela stated before she confronted Helen with the following line; “If this book is about me, why aren’t I the one writing it?”, feeling as though Helen is warping her to be how she sees fit.  Of course, this confrontation was resolved with a heart felt understanding, but it made the ending of the play all the more representational of the character’s relationships.

I feel that everyone, no matter age or social status, whether they were an actor or organizer of the play or even an audience member, learned something after watching this play. This is what made watching it so important and so worthwhile.

Stepping away from politics and controversy, I do think the acting was well done. Personality was clear, and the switch up to character roles for a single actor was clear. I salute those quick costume changes because having only 30 seconds is rough. I also noted the music was relevant to both the subject and time period, which is always a plus on the aesthetic.

I know I said it felt dragged on, but I still believe Robinson did a very good job directing it because otherwise, the play wouldn’t have had the impact on me that it did.

I hope to see more incredible work from ECC’s theatre team, as I’m looking forward to the next production.