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August 22, 2013

Chicago Youth Tackle Difficult Issues Through Theatre

Watch On Stage, Chicago Students Tackle Immigration, Poverty, Race on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

In a diverse immigrant neighborhood in Chicago, young people are using theatre as a way to deal with tough issues in their lives and humanize their experiences for outsiders.

The Albany Park Theatre Project (APTP) in Chicago is a unique after school program where students write and perform plays about their own communities, tackling subjects such as immigration, poverty and racism.

“The idea of working in a neighborhood where you would have stories that came from literally all over the world and that were fresh, were immediate, you would also have access to cultural traditions from all over the world, that was thrilling,” said APTP co-founder David Feiner.

In its latest production called “Home/Land”, APTP is taking on the subject of illegal immigration, a particularly pertinent topic considering some of the students themselves are undocumented or have family members that are.

“A lot of people don’t know about these things,” said Bladimir Orduno, a member of APTP. “That’s why we come up here and we tell them. That’s why we go into our community and gather these stories to share with people that don’t know what’s really going on.”

APTP is now performing “Home/Land” to packed houses in its small community theatre, and has garnered praise from critics. But perhaps APTP’s most powerful impact is the one it has on its young participants.

“In my family, we’re not in such a good economic sense — standpoint. It really didn’t seem like I — I didn’t really receive much hope that I was actually going to go into college,” said Orduno. “APTP really gave me that hope that I can go to college.”

Warm up questions
  1. What are some of the challenges that immigrants face living in the United States?
  2. If you could only bring one suitcase full of your things to a new country what would you pack?
  3. Sample questions from the US Citizenship Test – View answers on “US Citizenship Q & A”
    1. What is the supreme law of the land?
    2. What does the Constitution do?
    3. What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?
    4. What is the economic system in the United States?
    5. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
    6. If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
    7. What are two Cabinet-level positions?
    8. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?
    9. What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?
    10. What is one reason colonists came to America?
Discussion questions
  1. Is living in a diverse community a good thing, bad thing, or some of both? Explain your answer.
  2. How does theater help students to process some of the challenges faced by immigrants?
  3. The Albany Park Theater Project has empowered and given hope to many students who are first generation immigrants. Explain how or why this happens?
  4. How do the arts help people to process and live through difficult times?
Follow up activity

Pass out the “Myths and Facts about Immigration” sheet and review it with your students.

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