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New theater group gives performance on immigration past and present

  • Owen Gebhardt and Ben Gebhardt of Wilton rehearse for their upcoming performance in "Sanctuary" by The Whiting Hill Theatre Project in Wilton. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Owen Gebhardt and Ben Gebhardt of Wilton rehearse for their upcoming performance in "Sanctuary" by The Whiting Hill Theatre Project in Wilton. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Owen Gebhardt and Ben Gebhardt of Wilton rehearse for their upcoming performance in "Sanctuary" by The Whiting Hill Theatre Project in Wilton. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Owen Gebhardt and Ben Gebhardt of Wilton rehearse for their upcoming performance in "Sanctuary" by The Whiting Hill Theatre Project in Wilton. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 10:32AM

A new theater group in Wilton will be presenting its first performance this weekend, showing three historical immigration stories as people leave Europe fleeing war and famine to seek a better life in America.

“It’s very relevant,” co-director Chance Lee Joyner said in an interview Friday. “You can get an understanding of how immigration is today by understanding how it was in the past.”

The Whiting Hill Theatre Project was started by Joyner and Linda Stowe-LaDouceur, using a cast that’s a combination of youth and adults to present features with a message.

The two decided to focus their first production on immigration, Stowe-LaDouceur said, because of the current political climate around immigration and refugees.

“The current political climate is polarizing, because it is affecting human rights, and there is no way around that,” Stowe-LaDouceur said.

The play, called “Sanctuary,” follows three separate immigrant stories, including Irish immigrants forced out of their family home by the potato famine and Polish and German Jewish families fleeing Hitler.

Stowe-LaDouceur adapted the play from previous performances she wrote as part of an immigration unit she taught to her students as her private one-room school she runs out of her home. Most of the performers in Whiting Hill Theatre Project’s premiere performance are alumni of the school, though anyone can participate, Stowe-LaDouceur said.

Though all the stories depicted are fictional, many details are drawn from real-life accounts, including those stories she knows from her own family history, Stowe-LaDouceur said. 

Her husband’s grandmother immigrated to the United States alone, as a 15-year-old from Ireland. Her own great-grandmother came from Sweden with her five children, one of whom was disabled, and was kept in limbo for weeks while officials decided if her family would be allowed to stay in the country. 

“People leave their homes for all kinds of reasons – the inability to feed themselves, threat of violence. Sometimes they’re leaving because they have to, more than they want to,” Joyner said. 

Prior to the performance, three real-life immigrants from the community will speak to the audience about their own immigrant experience, including Miralem Mulabegovics of Milford, who is originally from Bosnia, Sali Polus of Manchester, who is originally from Iraq and Justin Mazimpaka of Milford, originally from Rwanda.

“Sanctuary” will be performed at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre on Oct. 13 at 1 p.m. Admission is free, and donations to support the Wilton Town Hall Theatre will be accepted.

Stowe-LaDouceur said she is already planning a second offering from The Whiting Hill Theatre Project, based around the environment. For further information about “Sanctuary” or future productions, or to join the Whiting Hill Theatre Project, contact Stowe-LaDouceur at 809-9505.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.