UNC Charlotte's 'Migrant X' Play Tells The Story Of North Carolina's Latino Community
On a recent rainy Wednesday evening, a group of around 10 students gathered on the stage of UNC Charlotte’s Belk Theater. The weather forced them to rehearse inside. But this weekend, they’ll be outdoors premiering their newly commissioned play, “Migrant X.”
Alumnus Ken Quiroz, one of the actors, describes it as "dreamlike."
Quiroz was one of a few students who met with playwright Georgina Escobar. She was commissioned by the university to create a play about the experience of the Latino and immigrant community in Charlotte after a group of Latino students in the university’s theater department spoke up about feeling underrepresented.
Quiroz says he remembers sitting down with Escobar as she jotted down notes in a small notebook.
“To see that turn into the script that we have now and having us actually act it out,” Quiroz said, “seeing it all come together, it's a little overwhelming, but it's also awesome at the same time.”
"Migrant X" follows the life of a student recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program who tries to help another student who has been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Throughout the journey, the story profiles the experiences of other Latinos.
Even though Quiroz graduated from UNC Charlotte as a theater major this spring, he says after reading the script, he knew he had to be involved in the play.
“I saw a story that needed to be told,” Quiroz said. “And this is the story of not just one particular person, it’s the story of thousands of people — hundreds of thousands of people — across the U.S.”
He reached out to the director CarlosAlexis Cruz and was cast as Guero, a Spanish slang term for a person with blond hair.
Quiroz is one of two alumni performing in the show. Cruz highlights the importance of having the students that spoke up about Latino representation performing in "Migrant X."
“For me, it's also very fulfilling to have at least two of those previous students that are kind of leaving this legacy of being Latino students in the theater department at UNC Charlotte,” Cruz said.
All Latino characters are performed by Latino cast members. Cruz even cast an engineering and a pre-med student in the show.
“We're making reference to literally our story, our Charlotte recent story and history,” Cruz said. “We put in perspective what actually our Latinx students in this region come from and what they have to deal with almost daily.”
The play takes place outdoors and is performed in a style called "promenade theater," meaning the audience moves from location to location throughout the show. Escobar says she chose this style of performance intentionally.
“I just thought it would be fascinating for your community to hopefully learn something new, something they didn't know about the migrant experience, served to them from a very different experiential angle,” Escobar said.
The play is based on the stories Escobar heard as she spoke to students and community members in Charlotte. Manolo Betancur, the owner of Manolo’s Bakery and a local activist for the Latino and immigrant community, is not only one of the characters but also one of the actors.
“The level of truthfulness that is brought to the project is unparalleled for me,” Cruz said. “Manolo telling his story in the play beats any actor.”
While the stories are based on reality, the play is written in what Cruz describes as "Latinx Futurism," bringing in elements of fantasy and science fiction. But he says the authenticity of the story is clear.
“We sometimes take for granted, when we do shows, we try to separate those from reality,” Cruz said. “This is not this show. And actually, no show should be like that. Shows are based on reality, especially those shows that are trying to say something about certain social issues.”
Cruz says having Latino voices represented in the arts is crucial.
“I've been waiting for something like this,” Cruz said. “This is my story. And this is now in the main stage.”
The show will run from Oct. 2-6, in the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month. Tickets are $18 for the general public and are available on the university’s website.