Challenges of immigration explored
By David Brensilver
Aaron Jafferis’ one-man show Stuck Elevator has been reimagined since it enjoyed at reading at the 2010 International Festival of Arts & Ideas. At the time, the work was being developed in workshops at the Yale Institute for Music Theatre, after which Jafferis, a New Haven native brought it to the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab (2011), among other theater-development programs.
The work, which features a score by Byron Au Yong, is described on the International Festival of Arts & Ideas website as “a comic-rap-scrap metal musical prompted by the real life experience of a Chinese restaurant delivery man trapped in a Bronx elevator for 81 hours.”
The issues surrounding immigration and the challenges faced in this country by undocumented immigrants are as important and contentious as they were when Jafferis and Au Yong wrote Stuck Elevator. What has changed since 2010, is the work’s presentation – in particular, the expansion of the show’s cast.
After the piece’s reading here in 2010, Jafferis was convinced that four additional characters being portrayed on stage would propel the drama.
During a telephone conversation in late April, Jafferis said the expanded cast allows the work to explore more thoroughly the life Guang, the work’s main character, had in his native China before immigrating to the United States. That Guang’s wife and son are now portrayed on stage makes more obvious all that he left behind to come to the United States. In turn, the decisions with which so many immigrants struggle – not the least of which is whether to remove oneself physically from family in order to provide a better life for them – are more directly revealed.
While he had concerns about detracting from the loneliness and isolation depicted by Guang, Jafferis said the addition of characters has served to “heighten the inner conflicts he’s grappling with.”
The larger story, of course, is that of so many undocumented immigrants – and “the crucial role they play in New Haven and (across) the country,” Jafferis said, pointing out the influence of New Haven’s “immigrant-rights community.”