Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jose Torres-Tama tonight at Vanderbilt: invisibles get stage time in "Aliens, Immigrants, and Other Evildoers"

Props from "unplugged" performance of "Aliens, Immigrants, and Other Evildoers" by Jose Torres-Tama

Putting a face on the invisible is what I appreciate most about artist Jose Torres-Tama, whose one-man show "Aliens, Immigrants, and Other Evildoers" comes to Vanderbilt University's Student Life Center tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Just as Jacob Riis tore back the curtain on slums and poverty in New York in the 19th century, and just as Dorothea Lange's images of Depression-era farm workers sparked a national awakening, Torres-Tama brings the stories of our marginalized foreign-born neighbors to the stage.

Audiences come to know specific people whom Torres-Tama has interviewed over the years, as if we have interviewed them ourselves.  A 19-year-old young man who almost lost his arm rebuilding New Orleans, and a woman who saw her father for the first time when she snuck across the U.S.-Mexico border as an eight-year-old, are among those we get to know via the artist's costumed performances.

Song, poetry, and multimedia accompany these tales. The images, words, and even the humor (yes, there's humor) are geared towards adults ("Not for the faint of heart," says Vanderbilt).

I watched the "unplugged," abbreviated preview performance, and I highly recommend the full multimedia version tonight, part of the On the SIDE series of Vanderbilt's Great Performances. Vanderbilt students and staff have special pricing, but tickets are $10 for non-Vanderbilt students with I.D., and $30 to $40 for the general public. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Student Life Center.

The faces and stories told by Torres-Tama need to be revealed. "Aliens" is our high-definition glimpse.

For more information about the meaning and message of the show, read an interview with Torres-Tama on New Orleans' Pelican Bomb.

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