Immigration narratives feel like ghost stories to me.
They haunt us.
We all come from them but we fear them. We know the lessons of them but we play out the same cycles over and over again. It was a crazy idea but I put it to my designers- what if this were a ghost story. What if it was a Greek tragedy that played out over and over throughout history, but the ethnicities changed? What if these people were trapped in this tragic limbo forever?
I had gotten obsessed with how people come to America. I’d seen Body Cam footage on YouTube of people from South America stuffed into a transport truck, their bodies literally spilling out when the doors opened. I thought about my Irish relatives coming over on boats, stowed away between freight. I thought about how immigrants have traveled for centuries, the unwanted, hide among goods and commerce. So, I wanted a set that reflected this, something open and ghostly, Greek and purgatorial: a void that seemed to go on forever, but populated with boxes, belongings and shipments.
I put the challenge to the actors: you’ll be naked up there, so you have to be big and you have to be honest. I thought about Greek tragedies (the way Arthur Miller, himself, described this play) and the way the tragedy of a single man never stopped at the man. Oedipus brings a plague upon Greece. Eddie Carbone brings a pox upon all of us. The cast is great. And the cast was brave. I told them: “This is not going to be your typical Miller. Oh, and also, this could fail miserably.”
Because I believe theater has no place being done if it can’t. If it is not tempting failure, theater becomes stasis. It becomes the same people in the same rooms forever with the same fears having the same conversations.
In a world where we can so easily treat goods better than people, I think a little risk is necessary. No, let me correct that.
A lot of risk.
Or else we deserve to be haunted.
Sean Christopher Lewis