A Look at the Past and the Future at the Immigration Center

(Photo by Tom Reing)

Young people and those who’ve been around a lot longer have a lot to learn from each other, and a good deal to share with the rest of the world.

That’s the general idea behind “How I Got Here – Where I’m Going,” a series of monologues to be presented Monday night at 7:30 at the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia, 7 South Cedar Lane in Upper Darby.

The monologues will be presented by three actors from Philadelphia’s acclaimed Inis Nua Theatre Company, and the material is drawn from both the senior and youth programs at the Immigration Center.

Tom Reing, the theatre company’s founder, is directing the presentation.

“It’s an intergenerational piece where we have some immigrants who became Americans, and some first-generation people,” says Reing. “Then we have some young people who have connections to Ireland as well and are part of the youth group—they’re the next chapter of the story.”

The program is underwritten by a grant from the Irish government. “They issued a call for programs dealing with the Irish diaspora, and I had thought this would be a good project,” Reing says. “I wrote a grant application for it, and here we are.”

The monologues are based on interviews with the senior and youth groups, which started in January and ran through May.

Reing says he wasn’t looking for anything in particular—just their experiences. For example, one of the things he discovered was with members of the youth group who, while they recognize their Irish-ness, haven’t had enough experiences with it to recognize the ways in which that identification is unique.

Members of the youth group (known as Foróige) wrote little essays, and in some cases Reing interviewed them.

The seniors, on the other hand, had a very different view.

“They had a lot of stories about having this idea of America as a Hollywood film,” says Reing, “and it wasn’t quite that way. Also, even though I didn’t ask about it or bring it up, they had a lot to say about how easy it was to get into America back in the day, but now it’s really, really tough. It doesn’t matter where people come from—they’re cracking down on everyone.”

One example from the old days, Reing says, involved a man in the senior group who hadn’t extended his visa and thought he was going to be deported. The immigration authorities at the time asked him who he was staying with.

“He said to them, ‘I’m staying with my cousin,’” Reing says. “And they said to him, ‘Well, get your cousin to sponsor you.’ And he did, and then it all went through. It was as easy as that.”

Each group was interviewed separately.

The next task was translating the interviews into dialogue to be spoken by three professional actors.

The project is co-sponsored by Inis Nua and the Immigration Center.

In between each monologue, local musician John Lionarons will be providing musical interludes.

All told, Reing says, “it’s a little pastiche. It’s kind of like this little quilt of what it’s like in the Irish-American community in the Philadelphia area today.”

Entry is free and all are welcome. Space is limited. Contact Reing at tomreing@inisnuatheatre.orgfor reservations.

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