Showing posts with label immigrants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label immigrants. Show all posts

Sunday, October 22, 2017

REVIEW: Immigration Integration at Pivot Arts' Don't Look Back/Must Look Back

Pivot Arts Presents the World Premiere of
Directed by Devon de Mayo and Devised with the Ensemble 
Written by Tanya Palmer
Conceived by Julieanne Ehre

(front, l to r) Ashlyn Lozano, Sarah Lo and Christopher Acevedo 
All Photos by Michael Brosilow.

October 20 – November 19, 2017
A Site-Specific Performance Experience 

(left to right) Jin Park, Christopher Acevedo, Samantha Beach, Sarah Lo, Phyllis Liu and Lucy Carapetyan

Endless forms, queues, words and stairs. Information, education, investigation... In Pivot Arts' newest site specific work, the intimate audience of 16 experiences immigration integration. The journey encompasses pre-entry classes on how to request food and water, and find the bathroom if you've never seen the inside of an airplane, to ESL classes, to a barrage of questions in the citizenship application process, five years down the road. It was especially effective to be separated from the friend I came with, and herded around, not knowing where we were headed, why, and when I might see her again. The cast facilitates the process as other immigrants and immigration officials, interspersing bureaucratic instruction with poetic, frenetic synchronized motions and screen imagery.  

 (front, l to r) Ashlyn Lozano and Edward Mawere with the cast of Pivot Arts’ world premiere of DON’T LOOK BACK/MUST LOOK BACK. 

(front) Christopher Acevedo with the cast of Pivot Arts’ world premiere of DON’T LOOK BACK/MUST LOOK BACK. 

This production intrigued me, since my Swedish immigrant great grandparents first settled in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood 3 generations ago. Uptown was also my neighborhood for 4 years, when I first moved to Chicago in the early 90's. Although I was only coming from the suburbs of Ohio, there was still a bit of a learning curve as I acclimated to skyscrapers, urban crime, public transportation, and the best and worst our city has to offer. One of my vivid, early Uptown memories is of people in Asian conical hats, working the urban gardens next to utilitarian high rise apartments. It was such an unexpected juxtaposition to me. 

My mother was an ESL teacher for years, and we were frequent hosts to visitors from all over the world. So, I've heard many first hand adventures and adjustment stories. Still, I can only imagine the culture shock, moving to a giant city like Chicago, from another continent, speaking a different language, and scrambling to learn new customs.

(left to right) Christopher Acevedo and Ashlyn Lozano 

The Chinese Mutual Aid Association serves as an appropriate venue, that adds much to the production, via the wall art and institutional vibe. There are only two main locations in the show, with a short walk across the street, though there is much movement within the first building. If you have mobility issues, expect frequent trips up and down the stairs, and small desk seating. The closing ceremony has straw mat floor seating and only a couple chairs. I'm still recovering from major knee surgery in August, so it was a bit of a challenge for me, but I made it, albeit slowly and with painkillers in advance.

The ultimate takeaway is immigrant and refugee empathy, in a closing ceremony complete with written, folded origami promises placed in sand and a communion of unusual fruit. There are some interwoven stories gleaned from interviews with Uptown immigrants, though I was hoping for more first hand accounts of the experience. A series of personal stories would have been more interesting, though the premise of making the audience immigrants is effective. 

(left to right) Edward Mawere and Jin Park with a projected photo from James A. Bowey’s exhibit “When Home Won’t Let You Stay”

Pivot Arts is pleased to present the world premiere of DON’T LOOK BACK/MUST LOOK BACK, a site-specific performance experience in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, directed by Devon de Mayo and devised by an ensemble of actors and designers, written by Tanya Palmer and conceived by Julieanne Ehre. Audience members are taken on an immersive journey inspired by the stories and experiences of Uptown residents, many of whom came to Uptown as refugees. 

DON’T LOOK BACK/MUST LOOK BACK will play October 20 – November 19, 2017 in various Uptown locations starting at the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, 1016 W. Argyle St. The intimate performance experience is limited to 16 audience members per show. Tickets, priced at $35, are currently on sale at 

DON’T LOOK BACK/MUST LOOK BACK will feature Christopher Acevedo, Samantha Beach, Lucy Carapetyan, Phyllis Liu, Sarah Lo, Ashlyn Lozano, Edward Mawere and Jin Park.

The performance is inspired by stories of escape and loss from local residents who fled their countries and arrived here to make Uptown their home – and the systems and people that they’ve encountered along the way. Blending movement, images and storytelling, Don't Look Back/Must Look Back brings audiences into the experience of making a home in a place where everything is unfamiliar and the sands are constantly shifting beneath your feet. 

(pictured) Sarah Lo with a projected photo from James A. Bowey’s exhibit “When Home Won’t Let You Stay”

The performance also features images from documentary artist James Bowey’s exhibit “When Home Won’t Let You Stay,” a portrait of refugees in America and their stories of hope and perseverance in the face of violence and loss. For additional information, visit

“Don’t Look Back/Must Look Back continues Pivot Arts’ initiative to create site-specific performances where audiences participate in unique experiences,” comments Pivot Arts Director Julieanne Ehre. “Last year’s The Memory Tour took audiences on a journey through memory and Don’t Look Back/Must Look Back uses a similar format. Audiences will have the opportunity to experience the lives of local residents and refugees while moving through various locations.” 

The production team includes Patricia Nguyen (associate director), John Blick (production manager), James Bowey (video and photographs), Connor Ciesil (sound designer), kClare McKellaston (costume designer), Justine B. Palmisano (stage manager), Giau Truong (lighting and installation designer), Sammy Ziesel (assistant director) and Adrian Shelton (production assistant).

Location: Begins at Chinese Mutual Aid Association, 1016 W. Argyle St.
Regular run: Friday, October 27 – Sunday, November 19, 2017
Curtain Times: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30 pm.
Tickets: $35.Tickets are currently available at

A FREE pre-show event will be held on Sunday, October 29 at 5:30 pm at 1016 W. Argyle St. Artist and performance scholar Patricia Nyugen will moderate a discussion with her father, Vietnamese Activist, Tam Nyugen, artists from the Pivot Arts production and clients and staff from Chinese Mutual Aid Association. For additional information, visit  

DON’T LOOK BACK/ MUST LOOK BACK is funded in part by an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts with major in-kind support from Chinese Mutual Aid Association.

About the Artists
Devon de Mayo is a director, devisor and teacher. Most recently, she directed Harvey at Court Theatre. Other directing credits include: You on the Moors Now (The Hypocrites), Sycamore (Raven Theatre), Animals Out of Paper (Shattered Globe Theatre), You Can't Take it With You at (Northlight Theatre), Jet Black Chevrolet (side project), Lost in Yonkers (Northlight Theatre), Compulsion and Everything is Illuminated (Next Theatre); An Actor Prepares (University of Chicago); and Roadkill Confidential, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler and Clouds (Dog & Pony). Directing and devising credits include: Guerra: A Clown Play, a collaboration with Mexico City based artists La Piara (performances in Mexico City, Chicago, New York, Bogota, Albuquerque and Madrid); The Whole World is Watching (Dog & Pony Theatre Co. with Chicago Park District), Infiltrating Bounce (San Antonio Luminaria Festival), The Twins Would Like To Say (Dog & Pony at Steppenwolf Theatre), As Told by the Vivian Girls (Dog & Pony). In 2015, she served as Resident Director under Stephen Daldry for The Audience on Broadway. Devon also serves as an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, Loyola University and the University of Chicago. She received her MFA in Theatre Directing from Middlesex University in London.

Tanya Palmer is a dramaturg and playwright. Her plays include Body Talk, Fatherland, Barbra Live at Canyon Ranch, Spring and Trash and The Memory Tour, and have been developed or produced at Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Hangar Theatre, Solar Stage, the Montreal Fringe Festival, The Harbourfront Centre, HERE and Pivot Arts, where she is an Artistic Associate. She is a member of MC-10, a newly formed Playwrights Collective in residence at the Greenhouse Theater Center. Her work has been published by Smith & Kraus, Samuel French and Playscripts, Inc. She is the Director of New Play Development at Goodman Theatre, where she coordinates New Stages, the theater’s new play program, and has served as the production dramaturg on a number of plays including the world premieres of 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, adapted and directed by Seth Bockley and Robert Falls; Smokefall by Noah Haidle, The Happiest Song Plays Last by Quiara Hudes and the Pulitzer Prize–winning Ruined by Lynn Nottage. Prior to her arrival in Chicago, she served as the director of new play development at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where she led the reading and selection process for the Humana Festival of New American Plays. She is the co-editor, with Amy Wegener and Adrien-Alice Hansel, of four collections of Humana Festival plays, published by Smith & Kraus, as well as two collections of 10-minute plays published by Samuel French. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she holds an MFA in playwriting from York University in Toronto.

Julieanne Ehre is the founder and the director of Pivot Arts. She both leads the organization and curates performances including the Pivot Arts Festival, Live Talk series and conceived/directed The Memory Tour. She was the NEA/TCG New Generations “Future Leaders” Fellow at the Goodman Theatre, where she served as producer on Latino Festival, New Stages Series and conceived of and produced the Goodman’s Artists Talk series. Julieanne served as a delegate to the Santiago a Mil Festival in Chile and the ITI World Theater Congress in Xiamen, China through Theater Communications Group and was the co-chair of the Arts and Culture Committee for Chicago’s 48th Ward. As the Artistic Director of Greasy Joan & Co. for five years, she directed and produced critically acclaimed and premiere adaptations of classic plays and worked as a freelance theater director. Ehre holds an MFA in Directing from Northwestern University.

About Pivot Arts

Pivot Arts produces and presents contemporary and multi-disciplinary performance. They develop new work and present performances throughout the year culminating in a multi-arts festival. Their vision is that of a vibrant community where unique collaborations between artists, businesses and organizations lead to the support and creation of innovative performance events.

 (front, l to r) Sarah Lo and Lucy Carapetyan with the cast of Pivot Arts’ world premiere of 
DON’T LOOK BACK/MUST LOOK BACK. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

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