“No Roosters in the Desert:” Narratives of Immigration

Louisa (Senior Morgan Porter) relays traditional Native American stories.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on immigration. Nor am I a professional theater critic. However, I do enjoy seeing talented actors and actresses perform thought-provoking and entertaining plays on stage. Naturally, I absolutely loved “No Roosters in the Desert.”

For those students who are completely lost right now, “No Roosters in the Desert” is a play written by EMU alumna Kara Hartzler (’94) that was performed over Homecoming weekend.

It will also be showing two weeks from now on October 25, 26, and 27, at 7:30 each night.

The script follows four women on their trek across the desert of Arizona to the ride that is waiting to carry them to their new lives in the United States. It is a compilation of true stories from immigrant women who have made the journey to the U.S., and it bears witness to the struggles and pain that they suffered while on that journey.

From the start of the first scene, I could tell “No Roosters” was not going to be like any play I had ever seen before.

Firstly, the props and set were stationary. Secondly, there was an odd and somewhat spooky trio of silent characters who crept about the stage, almost stalking the women.

The Movement Chorus, as they were called in the program, made only the most miniscule movements in shifting around the stage. They were like a creepy, curiously fascinating chorus of witnesses who found no greater delight than in watching and listening to the immigrants.

I found them distracting, but I also realized that the Chorus added another dimension to the play.

In addition to their quiet stalking, the Chorus played the role of snakes, cows, and characters in the traditional Native American stories told by one of the women, Louisa.

I do not want to spoil any of the stories, but I will say that they involved rolling heads, flying bones, male genital parts, and snakes.

On the subject of the stories in general, I would like to give a round of applause to Senior Morgan Porter (Louisa) for her fantastic storytelling and to the Movement Chorus – Sophomore Joo-Ah Lee, Sophomore Chris Parks, and First-Year Meggan Garcia Sheridan – for truly bringing the tales to life. I can honestly say that I eagerly anticipated each story and that they were one of the highlights of the play for me.

On a more serious note, “No Roosters” instilled an ache in my heart that had not existed before. Our country has become a place where the government and media project only a negatively identity onto undocumented immigrants and the countries they come from.

In the words of Marcela (played by Junior Rose Jantzi), “If you’re illegal, you’re Mexican. If you’re Mexican, you’re illegal.”

In an interview with the public defender assigned to her case, Guadalupe (played by Junior Amanda Chandler) declares, “This country is supposed to be about freedom and democracy. I want my rights!”

Hearing that statement makes me die a little inside, as our pledge of allegiance itself concludes with “With liberty and justice for all.”

I wonder what it means when a country speaks these words so easily one minute and violates them the next. I wonder what implications this has for all American citizens, because with the exception of Native Americans, we were all immigrants at some point.

We all came to this country with hopes of a better life, and for some reason, we got it. Now, for some reason, we are the privileged who get to decide who we want in our country.

I hope that you see the play next weekend. I hope it sparks conversation here at EMU, because as college students in America, we have boundless opportunities to make a difference.

May the voices of Alejandra, Guadalupe, Marcela, and Luisa ring out on campus and echo long after the last curtain closes.

Lauren Sauder, Sports Editor 

Categories: Style

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