HYDE PARK — A star-studded cast will hold a free virtual performance of a 2,500-year-old Greek drama Wednesday night, as the performers and local advocacy groups link the ancient depiction of refugees’ experiences with migrants’ modern struggles.
A dramatic reading of Aeschylus’ “The Suppliants,” a play about 50 women seeking refuge in Argos from forced marriage and violence, will be held on Zoom at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets can be reserved through Eventbrite here.
David Zayas of “Dexter,” Andrea Patterson of “Blue Bloods” and Frankie Faison of “The Wire” are among the performers. They’ll share a virtual stage with a chorus of Garifuna singers and musicians from Belize, Honduras and Guatemala.
The reading will be followed by a panel discussion featuring members of the Hyde Park Refugee Project and Chicago-based nonprofit GirlForward. Panelists will share their “gut responses” to the timeless aspects of refugees’ experiences, and the audience will be invited to ask questions and make comments.
The performance — and the discussion between refugees, advocates and community members looking to educate themselves — can show how migrants today face similar problems to the play’s titular suppliants, “even though it’s thousands of years later,” said Diane Rudall, Hyde Park Refugee Project member.
“I hope it gives people a chance to express themselves and their views … and certainly to give them a new sense of how complicated the issue is, and how painful it can be for refugees who are not welcomed,” Rudall said.
The Suppliants Project is one of a series of projects by Theater of War Productions, which uses theatrical performances to address social issues like prison reform, gun violence, political violence and other subjects.
The performance is translated and directed by Bryan Doerries. Other presenters include the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the University of California-Irvine.
Beyond preparing for the panel discussion, the Hyde Park Refugee Project has been busy helping a newly resettled family of nine with their transition to the neighborhood, co-Director Lisa Jenschke said.
Typically, volunteers will “work directly with the resettlement agency from day one,” Jenschke said. But for the most recent family, an agency placed a family in Hyde Park “and then called us and asked if we would be able to provide any support — it kind of came a little bit in the opposite order that we usually do.”
“We had some great volunteers that really stepped up and did a lot of work with that family,” she said. “Three of the family members have now found jobs; the kids are in school, in remote learning or some combination of that … they’re working on getting green cards; everything is in the works right now. It’s the same work we would’ve done with any new family; we just weren’t expecting it.”
The refugee project raised and donated about $25,000 in pandemic relief for resettled families before requests for assistance slowed down in February, Jenschke said. Now, donations will be directed toward resettling new families and returning the project’s summer camp to a fully in-person offering.
To donate to the Hyde Park Refugee Project or apply to volunteer, click here.
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