About 300 suitcases are stacked at either end of the stage. They come in different colors and finishes and there’s no telling what’s inside. I try to pick out my favorites, maybe the oversized mustard traveler or the boxy blue number, but singled out they’re not so impactful as piled high, all mixed in together.
The staging is unique at this Albany Park Theater Project production, but then so is everything about the vibrant company. Since 1997, the talented teens of this youth theater group have brought to life the stories that surround them in one of Chicago’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. The students of APTP research, write, and perform their own work in an effort to humanize difficult issues facing their communities such as discrimination or life on food stamps.
APTP’s current production Home/Land tackles the struggles of immigration-rights. The topic is timely and ever-present, but no pundit dispute of Alabama’s HB 56 law or news footage of an Arizona SB-1070 protest humanize the players in these political wrangling like the poignant performances of Home/Land. This play is a layered, living thing. A Mexican-born father is ripped from his family. A newlywed couple crosses the Rio Grande searching for a better start to their new life. A child joins the El Salvador guerrilla after his family is murdered. A Jordan-born student is refused work. The honesty in these performances is a testament to the dozens of interviews the students conducted and two years they spent creating this provocative and profound work.
Already extended far after its original run, Home/Land‘s final weekend of production is April 27-28. For a shot at long sold-out tickets, I’d recommend joining the wait list and arriving at the theater an hour before curtain. If you aren’t able to make it to the theater check out a clip below, as featured on PBS News Hour. I cannot wait to see what APTP does next, because its mission and the inexhaustible passion and talent of its members will stay with me long after Home/Land‘s curtains have closed.