In and Out of Shadows – Stories about Undocumented Youth

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In and Out of the Shadows

Courtesy The Marsh

Immigration reform is center stage right now – a top priority for President Obama’s second term in office. It is also centre stage for so many young people, many of our students here in California, who may be among the 11 million people in the U.S. without documents. They either came to theUS as young children or their parents immigrated to the US and remain undocumented.

Their stories form the basis of new musical called "In and Out of Shadows" at the Marsh Theatre in San Francisco, performed by members of the Marsh Youth Theatre group. Written by Gary Soto, it is based on interviews with undocumented teenagers from diverse ethnic backgrounds living in the Bay Area, who describe how their dreams for the future look really bleak without papers. No college would accept them. No employer could employ them. They would be invisible.

For example, Homero Rosas came to San Francisco from Mexico when he was 6 years old.  “My parents would tell me I wasn’t from here, but up until then I didn’t know what that meant,”….. “I didn’t know it meant I couldn’t get financial aid, I couldn’t get a job, I couldn’t aspire to anything, really. I felt trapped.” His story is dramatized through his character, Juan.


Through AB 540, the California law that allows undocumented students to attend college and pay in-state tuition, Rosas was able to graduate from high school, attend college and pursue acting.

Similarly Alondra Duarte-Ferman, 15, plays Paola, a 16-year-old undocumented Guatemalan student, who is Salvadoran but was born in theUnited States.

As she says, “My character and I are similar, except she can’t get a driver’s license and she can’t apply to jobs,”….“I think about what it would be like if my character had papers and could do those things that I have the opportunity to do. It makes me appreciate everything a little more.”

Gary Soto, who grew up in theCentral Valley, was inspired by the lives of working class Latinos. He describes the courage of the young actors who speak up for young immigrants living in fear of being deported or abandoned if their parents are undocumented and deported. Many of them speak from personal experience.

"In looking at the subjects I really had to think about what are the moments that would really touch really someone," …….."There may be risk," he said. "Like we don't think La Migra, the border patrol, would show up to gather up some of the kids and the parents in the audience as well. Or I.C.E.  But I think it's brave of them, young people who have very little acting experience or zero acting experience to say yeah, I think I could play this part."

Emily Klion, program director for the MYT Teen Troupe: “We wanted people to see that undocumented teenagers were just exactly the same as every other teenager with the same hopes and dreams,” …..“But that they are constantly coming in and out of the shadows.”… “These kids are dreamers — they dream big and they are not deterred by their status. They are very optimistic.”


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