How do families stay together, even when they are kept apart? The Fountain Theatre presents a gripping new docudrama, a compilation of true stories that explores the rippling impact of mass deportations on families. The world premiere of Detained, written by The Lillys 2021 Lorraine Hansberry Award-winning playwright France-Luce Benson and directed by Mark Valdez, winner of the 2021 Zelda Fichandler Award, opens February 19 at the Fountain Theatre. Performances will continue through April 10, with three public previews taking place February 16, 17, and 18 at 8pm.
Originally commissioned by immigration attorney Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, Detained is based on interviews with longtime U.S. residents held in immigration detention, and with their family members, advocates, attorneys and representatives of ICE. Inspired by their stories, Detained explores how families fight to stay together as increasingly cruel U.S. immigration legislation keeps them apart through mass deportations and immigration detention centers. It offers a heart-wrenching and in-depth look at the human lives behind the policies, and celebrates the strength and determination of the ordinary people who must fight against an unjust system while keeping their hope and faith in humanity intact.
“All of the stories in this play are true, and they are heartbreaking,” says Benson. “The more people I met, the more time I spent with them, the more important it became to tell their stories. When you go through trauma, you want to be seen, to be given a voice. My own family immigrated to America in the 1970s, and my father received a humanitarian award for the work he did at Krome Detention Center in the ’80s and ’90s. This is his story too, and a way for me to honor the sacrifices he made for us.”
When Rabinovitz first approached Benson, President Obama was still in office. Under his administration, more people were being deported than ever before. Since then, with harsher immigration legislation enacted under President Trump and the current Covid-19 health crisis, the situation for many immigrants has become ever more dire. As more stories of injustice persist and legislation changes, so does the play.
“This play is a living document, and I’m constantly updating it,” Benson says. “People think that now that Biden is president, things are better. But thousands of people are still facing deportation every day. Many of these people have been living in this country for decades. They own houses, run businesses, pay taxes, have families.”
Characters in the play include a teenage foodie aspiring “chef-lebrity,” a U.S. Veteran, and a mother of two who works as a roofer in New York City. Together, their collective voices weave a compelling and complicated tapestry.
Ensemble members, who play a range of roles, include Liana Aráuz, Camila Betancourt Ascencio, Christine Avila, Will Dixon, Jan Munroe, Theo Perkins, Marlo Su and Michael Uribes. The creative team includes scenic designer Sarah Krainin; lighting designer Christian V. Mejia; composer and sound designer Marc Antonio Pritchett; media designer Matt Soson; props designer Katelyn Lopez; and costume designer Jeanette Godoy. Movement choreography is by Annie Yee. The production stage manager is Anna Kupershmidt. Stephen Sachs, Simon Levy and James Bennett produce for the Fountain Theatre. Producing underwriters include the Phillips–Gerla Family and Donald and Suzanne Zachary. Executive producers are Miles Benickes and Diana Buckhantz.
Detained was developed, with a generous grant from the Miranda Family Foundation, at Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York under artistic director Billy Carden.
Detained opens February 19 and runs to April 10. Proof of both vaccination and booster will be required for admission. Patrons must be masked at all times in the theatre, except when actively eating or drinking in our upstairs indoor café/outdoor deck. Snug, surgical grade respirator masks (N-95/KN-95/KF-94) that cover both mouth and nose, are strongly encouraged, but blue surgical masks are acceptable. Cloth masks are no longer approved.
For reservations and information, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.