Anon(ymous) explores hardships faced by refugees

Photo by Dana Wehmann

Entering its final weekend in the Adler Theater, “Anon(ymous)” follows a young refugee struggling to find a comfortable home in America after escaping from his war-torn native land. Following recent debate about renewing DACA and the family separation policy, “Anon(ymous)” is an important play that explores the real hardships refugees encounter while living in the United States.

In this contemporary reimagining of Homer’s “Odyssey,” the Greek hero Odysseus is depicted as an American immigrant named Anon rather than a king. Throughout his journey, a homeless Anon sleeps in restaurants and eats out of garbage bins.

“The message that our director [Mary Ellen Allison] wanted us to take away from this show is that there are people out there who don’t have homes who are trying to find a place to sleep every night,” said sophomore assistant stage manager Jack McCaffrey. “The powerful emotion behind our actors as well as everything else that’s been put into the show really helped get that message across.”

“Anon(ymous)” opens with the student cast recollecting their favorite memories of home. Tranquil recollections about rice fields and farm cows contrast with Anon’s memories as he recalls the sound of bombings and little boys roaming the streets with M16s.

After a goddess enlightens him, Anon gains the courage to search for his lost mother, whose eyes, skin and voice are his only valuable memories of home. During his search, he meets other refugees who have faced similar hardships, like working tirelessly in sweatshops and performing gruesome jobs to get by.

“The hardships that [Anon] goes through in this show could happen to literally anyone coming from anywhere coming into this country — it doesn’t matter the race, the gender or the sexual orientation of whoever it is that’s coming in,” said Jacob Thompson, a sophomore double major in filmmaking and theater acting.

“I liked doing the characterization for this show because not only did almost everybody play more than one role, but we were all an ensemble of refugees,” said Thompson who played Senator Laius and a truck driver named Strygal.

As for the most important takeaway from this show, Thompson said, “I think that people learn more than they might expect to from this show, so I hope they leave with an understanding that you can’t assume anyone’s background. You have to know that everyone’s had struggles in their life.”

The first black box theater production of each semester only gives the cast about three weeks to rehearse the script before adding lights, sound and music to their final production.

“Anon(ymous)’ went through several different phases … what really brought it together was when we’re at tech and we had the sound and light cues to tie everything together,” said junior stage manager Christine Lee.

The playwright Naomi Iizuka has said that one does need to be familiar with the “Odyssey” to understand the play, which is partly because “Anon(ymous)” was originally produced by a children’s theater company. Even though the play is rooted in complex issues, unique perspectives are portrayed in highly accessible ways.

“Anon(ymous)” will be performed in the Adler Theater on Oct. 25, 26 and 27 at 8:00 p.m. and at 2:00 p.m. on Oct. 27.