Anon(ymous) timely story of refugee perseverance

Play directed by Studio 58 graduate

The cast of Anon(ymous). Set by Jessica Oostergo, costumes by Mara Gottler, lighting by Alan Brodie, photo by David Cooper
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Reported by Kristen Holliday

Anon(ymous), presented by Langara’s Studio 58, is a timely retelling of a classic tale, addressing themes of refugee displacement and a quest for home, says director Carmen Aguirre.

Aguirre, a graduate of Studio 58 in 1994, has returned to Langara to direct the play. She says she was drawn to the adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey in part because she was a refugee herself.  Aguirre was six years old when her family fled Chile in 1973.

“I thought I could bring the sensibility and the lens of an exile,” Aguirre said. “It is a work that really challenges the accepted narrative that North America is a safe place for refugees.”

‘They’re not some inhuman other’

Aguirre said although the script is over 20 years old, the themes have become increasingly relevant. To highlight this, she sets the opening scenes of the play in a present-day refugee detention centre at the border of United States and Mexico. Here, a young boy named Anon begins his journey through the U.S. in search of his disappeared mother, trying to recover memories of the home they fled from.

Ashley Cook, a third-year Studio 58 student, plays the lead role of Anon. She says she hopes audiences will connect with the play’s characters and see the humanity in refugees.

“The people who are experiencing oppression and war and genocide…they are someone’s daughter, they are someone’s dad, and we really get to see that in the characters in this play,” Cook said. “They’re not some inhuman other.”

A moving performance

Lucy Hotchkiss, an audience member who attended the Nov. 17 matinee performance, said she was moved by the play’s depiction of refugees who have died or are struggling trying to make a better life for themselves.

“I cried through the whole thing,” Hotchkiss said, through tears. “Just because we know it’s real, the role that geographic luck plays in your life is so wrong.”

Performances of Anon(ymous), which kicked off at Studio 58 on Nov. 14, will run until Dec. 1.

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