We had the distinct pleasure of receiving critical feeback on the new musical TAKE ME AMERICA from a veteran of the Canadian refugee/aslyum process — for ten year’s, this person served as a “judge” and Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board. This person saw the show a few weeks ago and had this very insightful, interesting feedback to share. Enjoy.
The asylum process is not an easy subject to treat through this medium — as it is never easy for the actual participants in real life — and I applaud the courage and creativity that has gone into the Village Theatre production…and the film on which it was based. What came through clearly was the authentic and over-arching desire of the refugees to find new lives in America, whether or not their stories were truthful or met the official criteria for asylum. The gay character, Jean, who tried repeatedly to succeed by changing his claim, epitomized this in a disarming way. The same theme was beautifully expressed by Asif, in the song, “Surfing in Gaza.”
I felt the motivation of the decision-makers was portrayed less sympathetically and the characters seemed comparatively superficial. Their musical numbers, “I Just Work Here,” “Gotta Get’ Em”, and the refrain, “punch a clock, save a life,” gave me a chill. That’s not to say such attitudes don’t exist, but this is a sort of trite characterization of government officials. The new agent on the job did illuminate the struggle to show compassion while still assessing credibility and applying the legal requirement for a “well-founded fear.” The challenge to communicate and avoid misunderstandings (without an interpreter present) also got some deserved attention.
I’m very grateful for this whole experience and throughout I kept wishing that I had been able to make a contribution when the musical was being developed.
Please keep up your good work at the Village Theatre. I hope to sample more during future visits to Seattle.