“Six Songs from Ellis” will be performed in Western’s Theater on May 24th, at 7:30PM.
The University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance will tour several locations throughout Wyoming with “Six Songs from Ellis,” an original work that captures the voices of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island in one of the greatest human migrations of all time.
The production ran in the following Wyoming communities: Laramie April 24-29; Cheyenne, on May 14; Sheridan, on May 15; Thermopolis, on May 17; Casper, on May 18; Torrington, on May 19; and with the support of UW Fine Arts Outreach, the Wyoming Arts Council, the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, ThinkWY/Humanities Council, and UW’s College of Arts and Sciences, will tour to the following Wyoming communities: Cody, on May 21; Riverton, on May 22; Rawlins, on May 23, and Rock Springs, on May 24.
Tour performances, unless noted otherwise, are free and are open to the public. Post-show question and answer sessions will be conducted by humanities scholar Dr. Eric Sandeen following each performance. Additional theatre and dance workshops, as well as humanities lectures, will be held in conjunction with performances in each community.
Choreographed and directed by UW dance faculty member Marsha Knight and co-directed by Leigh Selting, “Six Songs from Ellis” is a multi-media dance-theatre work that centers on the oral histories of the immigrants and refugees who passed through Ellis Island. Millions of immigrants and their stories entered the United States through the gates of Ellis Island during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, over 40% of Americans can trace their ancestry to this period of relatively open immigration through New York’s harbor.
The piece was conceived by Knight, who was so affected by the opening of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in 1990 that she began to consider the possibility of creating a work about the immigrant experience, and to conduct research in earnest at the Oral History Museum at Ellis Island, which alone houses over 2000 oral histories.
A seminal production was presented in 2009, which explored how immigration and refugee crisis are as critical topics now as they were 100 years ago, and how attitudes toward access and response to need and crisis can benefit from stories – inspiring, cautionary, and human – of those who helped to build this country.
Knight’s subsequent extensive research, in particular during a recent year-long sabbatical, of approximately 500 oral histories has resulted in a broader glimpse into the sea of possibilities for this piece, with 88 individuals being represented to date.
“Over the past months of developing the script and getting it on its feet, I continue to find stunning the commonalities past and present regarding immigration,” noted Knight.
“These similarities might be about the will to contribute uniquely to American society, the range of these contributions, their effort and pride in family and home, and of places in the world still in conflict. The oral histories have the wisdom and reflection proffered by time, and they offer story and perspective about obstacles, opportunity, hope and achievement.”
Excerpts for the 2018 production include themes of economically forced separation, quotas, genocide, exclusion, location (Syria, Ukraine), and religious bias, as well as reflections on freedom, access, economic contribution, and American identity.
“The piece has a particular resonance in the current moment, as we as a nation consider again our relationship to immigrant voices,” said Knight.
“Depicting the immigrant experience as human and individual is at the heart of this work.”
Monday, May 14 Cheyenne Civic Center, 7:00 p.m., $10/$5
Tuesday, May 15 Sheridan at WYO Theatre; 7:30 p.m. (free)
Wednesday, May 16 Sheridan at WYO Theatre, Wyoming Girls’ school and other school guests; 10:00 a.m. (free)
Thursday, May 17 Thermopolis, Hot Springs County High School, 7:00 p.m. (free)
Friday, May 18 Casper, Kelly Walsh High School, 7:30 p.m. (free)
Saturday, May 19 Torrington, Eastern Wyoming Community College Auditorium, 7:00 p.m. (free)
Monday, May 21 Cody, Cody High School, Wynona Thompson Auditorium; 7:00 p.m. (free)
Tuesday, May 22 Riverton, Robert A. Peck Arts Center/CWC, 7:00 p.m. (free)
Wednesday, May 23 Rawlins, Rawlins High School, 7:00 p.m. (free)
Thursday, May 24 Rock Springs, Western Wyoming Community College Theater, 7:30 p.m., (free)
PERFORMERS AND THEIR HOMETOWNS:
Hannah Kipp, Houston, TX
Jenna Blazek, San Antonio, TX
Aili Maeve McLellan, Houston, TX
McKendrey McGown, Glenwood Springs, CO
Andrew Thornton, Riverton, WY
Justen Glover, Arvada, CO
Eli West, Green River, WY
Caleb O’Brien, Aurora, CO
Becca Maniscalchi, Aspen, CO
Baylee Butcher, Loveland, CO
Heidi Carlson, Rapid City, SD
Mariah Leigh Brewer, Rapid City, SD
Killian Ramey, Golden, CO
Haley Nigro, Brighton, CO
Elizabeth Daly, Cheyenne, WY
Jordan Himelrick, Aurora, CO
Madison Drab, Castle Rock, CO
Walter Taylor, Cheyenne, WY
Stephanie Young, Eugene, OR
Samantha Brooks-Smith, Bozeman, MT
Laura Kelly, Buffalo, WY (Understudy)
The event is free and open to the public. The community is encouraged to attend. Please contact Marsha Knight firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain detailed information for each community.
Persons seeking admission, employment or access to programs of Western Wyoming Community College shall be considered without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political belief, handicap, or veteran status.