Cooperative Performance's 'Ellis' Seeks to Humanize the Immigrant Narrative

Feb 7, 2018

Immigration, and the stories of immigrants, are front and center in this country - from the debate over the future of DACA, to the proposed border wall, no-fly lists and travel bans.  It is a challenging time to be an immigrant in this country.

"Immigrant has become, I feel, synonymous with the word 'criminal' lately in our political climate," says Kelly Coffey of Cooperative Performance.  Coffey, along with Don Russel, thought there were stories that we're not hearing, and their project Ellis was created as a response to the negative narrative.

The original work incorporates personal stories of immigration from the Milwaukee community through poetry, dance, spoken word, music and art. Russel says that Ellis was created to celebrate the diverse past and present experiences of immigration - including not just the frustrations, but the joys.

"We find often in political discourse the humans being discussed become dehumanized - so immigrant becomes this idea rather than a person, and we wanted to re-humanize immigrants," he notes.

Coffey, Russell, as well as actor and immigrant Alejandra Gonzalez joined Lake Effect's Bonnie North to talk about the genesis of Ellis and why theater can foster a more effective dialogue about immigration:

Ellis opens Friday and runs through February 24 at Alverno College’s Pitman Theater with a free show at Milwaukee City Hall on February 18.