A Labor of Love

Day Laborer Theater troupe member Victor Wermer engages workers at the Signal Hill Job Center during a performance on last week.

Cornerstone Theater Company, a nationally recognized community theater company that builds bridges between diverse communities, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), an alliance dedicated to improving the lives of day laborers in the United States, have announced the debut of Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras (Day Laborer Theater Without Borders) at the Hollywood Community Job Center, December 20 at noon. The December 20 performance will mark the Center’s 11th anniversary, with a celebration lasting from 10am to 2pm.
Made possible by funding from the Ford Foundation and featuring the talents of day laborers and domestic workers from across Los Angeles, the 15-member troupe will voice the stories and concerns of the day laborer community and contribute to the discourse on the heated topic of documentation and immigration in the U.S. Throughout December, the troupe will perform at community-specific venues such as work sites, street corners, high schools and community centers throughout Southern California.
Spearheading this collaboration are Juan José Magándi and Ethan Sawyer. Magándi appeared in the original production of Los Illegals, the springboard production from which The Traveling Day Laborer Theater Troupe was launched. He is currently the director of Signal Hill Day Labor Center. Sawyer is a Cornerstone Project Fellow and a recent graduate of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at UC Irvine, with a Masters of Fine Arts in Acting.
Michael Garcés, Cornerstone Theater’s artistic director, and playwright for Los Illegals, believes the time is ripe for such an unprecedented project. “Day laborers and domestic workers are a disenfranchised population, under attack by demagogues and activists who scapegoat immigrant communities for the sake of political manipulation,” Garcés said. “This project will provide a meaningful and exciting platform for dynamic art-making, political discourse and social change.”
In writing Los Illegals, Garcés spent a year among day laborers, domestic workers, immigration lawyers and activists on both sides of the debate, gathering stories for the creation of the play. The play, which ran during the spring of 2007, was staged in the parking lot of Armory Northwest, which was transformed into a job center that might be found outside a home improvement retail store. The Los Angeles Times praised the production as a “timely antidote to the way the current immigration policies are being debated.” Day laborers, activists and other audience members inquired into a touring version of the show, and universities made numerous requests for Cornerstone to provide workshops on how to engage communities in dialogue about timely and relevant issues through theater.
Cornerstone realized the demand for discourse on documentation and immigration went far beyond what a single production could accomplish. The company began conversations with NDLON about the creation of a new theater troupe that could act as a permanent voice for the stories of the day laborer community. The Traveling Day Laborer Theater Troupe is the product of these conversations.
For more information, visit http://www.NDLON.org.

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