Cars rush along River Road, past a lot where day laborers wait to be selected. A memory of a restless spirit haunts the highways. A yearning for a restless mother haunts the heart of her abandoned son. The joyful sounds of morning birdsong punctuate a narrator’s rapturous description of vineyards and purple lupine.
So begins the latest Word for Wordcast, a two-part narration of Greg Sarris’ Citizen, directed by company member Gendell Hing-Hernández. In a semi-regular series of podcasts, Word for Word’s unique adaptation process is given the radio play treatment in Word for Wordcast, which began with September’s three-part production of E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops and continues in February with Books and Roses by Helen Oyeyemi.
As with a staged Word for Word play, each word of each page is read aloud, interpreted by various cast members from the point of view of their respective characters. This gives the podcast versions the effect of an audiobook as much as of a radio play—albeit with multiple actors. While during a full Word for Word production the narrated characters stride across the stage in full regalia and three solid dimensions, in the audio version these dimensions are dependent on an individual’s ability to conjure them up at home, an exercise in focus. A workout for the imagination.
As Salvador, the aforementioned abandoned son, Edie Flores smoothly moves the bulk of the narrative forward, his voice coloring each passage with a golden resonance. Through him we learn of Salvador’s abandonment, first by his mother, and then by his older brother. His struggles to earn money and restart his life in Santa Rosa, where he stays with his aunt Eldine (Carolyn Dunn), are warmly described by Flores in a lilting—if sometimes lulling—cadence.
His reliance on Eldine and her boarder Marcos (Carlos Aguirre)—who first takes Salvador to the day labor lineup to find work—encapsulates the experiences of so many new immigrants who rely on tenuous connections with distant family to establish themselves in their new home. That Salvador is U.S.-born, and therefore a returning citizen, is both a source of relief and impedance. It’s hard for him to connect with his newly found family members and unfamiliar terrain. And without English language skills, even most low-wage work is out of reach. All in all, he discovers that the holding pattern of his old life has followed him into the new, but he remains hopeful, relishing each small victory.