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Shelter: New Play About Young Asylum Seekers To Appear at Kennedy Center In Washington, D.C.

Shelter: New Play About Young Asylum Seekers To Appear at Kennedy Center In Washington, D.C.
scene from play Shelter
  • CalArts Center for New Performance presents stories of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S. and anvigating the deportation and shelter systesm
  • Exploring the immigration crisis, Shelter will be performed on June 21st in the Kennedy Center's Family Theater at 6 pm.
  • Click here to watch a video feature on Shelter from PBS SoCal. Click here for high resolution photos.

In the wake of reports on deportations of Central American asylum seekers, Shelter channels the voices of the people behind the news. Presented by CalArts Center for New Performance this new work of theater illuminates the lives of unaccompanied Central American youths who have made the hazardous journey to the U.S. and now must navigate the shelter and deportation systems. A project of Duende CalArtsShelter “goes after the heart of displacement by delving into the human crisis of immigration,” said American Theatre magazine. 

As part of the Millennium Series, Shelter will be performed on June 21st in the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater at 6 pm. 

Written and conceived by writer, performer and CalArts faculty member Marissa ChibasShelter is directed by celebrated Mexico City-based director Martin Acosta and choreographed by CalArts alumnus Fernando Belo

“We are looking at the crisis though the lens of theater—which due to its physical and poetic nature inspires conversation in ways that traditional news can’t,” Chibas said. “Shelter is based on extensive interviews that tell the stories of undocumented youth and those of their teachers, lawyers and caseworkers—giving voice to the multiple perspectives of those involved. Their stories convey the human consequences, not simply the facts.”

Chibas and Acosta created two versions of the production. The first was a “site-responsive version” which premiered in April in East Los Angeles’ Lincoln Park. There, the story unfolded outdoors in and around a 20 foot shipping container, evoking the experience of traveling on la bestia, the notorious train that conveys immigrants to the U.S.-Mexico border. The LA Weekly praised the production for “the compelling power of Chibas’ oddly hopeful tale and the tautly riveting invention of Acosta’s dynamic movement-based staging.” 

In the populist theatrical tradition of the Federal Theater Project and El Teatro Campesino, a second “mobile-theater  version” of Shelter can be easily performed in sites such as theaters, community centers, conference rooms and parks. 

In order to facilitate dialog, Shelter stakeholders created engagement and learning curricula for those directly affected by these issues, such as child refugees, as well as for affected communities. The Shelter team has conducted a series of workshops and events including a workshop for youth at the Los Angeles headquarters of CARECEN, the largest Central American immigrant rights organization in the country. A  “mobile-theater  version” of the production was also staged at CARECEN. 

Issues of immigration, sanctuary and deportation are among the most pressing facing the nation and the world today. By giving voice to those enmeshed in the ongoing crisis, coverage of Shelter can be linked to breaking news. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, “in 2014, roughly 69,000 kids from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras flooded the U.S.-Mexico border, traveling alone at great personal peril.”  In May, PEW  reported that during the first six months of fiscal 2016 apprehensions of unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border totaled 27,754. As thousands await hearings in backlogged immigration courts, Reuters reports that “U.S. immigration officials are planning a month-long series of raids in May and June to deport hundreds of Central American mothers and children found to have entered the country illegally.”

Established by Chibas in 2009, Duende CalArts brings prominent Latino(a) and Latin American artists from the performance community to develop adventurous projects at CalArts Center for New Performance

CalArts Center for New Performance is a participant in the Global Connections–IN the LAB program, funded by The Andrew W.  Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the professional not-for-profit American theatre. Shelter is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. The production is supported, in part, by the Office of Los Angeles City Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo. 

CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP), the professional producing arm of California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), was established to provide a unique artist- and project-driven framework for the development and realization of original theater, music, dance, media and interdisciplinary projects. Extending the progressive work carried out at CalArts into a direct dialogue with professional communities at the local, national and international levels, CNP offers an alternative model to support emerging directions in the performing arts.

California Institute of the Arts has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions. As successive generations of faculty and alumni have helped shape the landscape of contemporary arts, the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry, and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines and cultural traditions.