Yale Drama Prize winner explores immigration through autobiographical play in Hartford
2023 Yale Drama Prize winner Jesús I. Valles brings their one-person show to Hartford this weekend. The autobiographical play focuses on immigration and naturalization, and what it means to be a “citizen.”
In “(Un)Documents,” Valles chronicles their family through the years — their life in Mexico, their struggle as undocumented people to eventually become naturalized citizens, and the devastation they experience when Valles’ older brother is deported back to Mexico.
Valles said their brother’s deportation caused them survivor’s guilt.
“Every time that I was [seen as] an 'ideal' immigrant, or the version of a model citizen this country was asking for, I was also reinforcing the very metric by which my brother was deemed somewhat unfit to stay in this country,” Valles said.
The tendency for families who face deportation is to be silent about it, Valles said, adding that shining a light on their own family’s struggles in “(Un)Documents” is “therapeutic.”
“It gives me a particular sense of clarity about who the people I love most in the world are, and what policies and what forces of the state we have stacked against us,” Valles said. “I think that’s something really encouraging and quite life affirming.”
“(Un)Documents” is being presented by Hartford’s Heartbeat Ensemble, as part of (im)Migration 360, a series of performances, workshops and discussions focusing on the migration experience.
“Technically, migration means a temporary relocation to another region or country and immigration means a permanent relocation,” said Godfrey Simmons, artistic director of the Heartbeat Ensemble in a statement. “But what do we really mean when we say 'immigrant?' If we’re citizens of the world, aren’t we all 'migrating?' Or is the word immigration just code for illegally migrating?"
“(Un)Documents” runs Friday and Saturday night, Aug. 18 and Aug. 19, at 8 p.m. at the Carriage House Theater in Hartford.