THEATER REVIEW | The Veterans Play Project

Around Veterans Day, it’s common to hear the phrase “some gave all, but all gave some.”  The Veterans Play Project succeeds in showing the many different and often hidden burdens those who have served carry with them.Unlike many portrayals of war, the stories told in the play are not fictional. They were collected from more than 100 Minnesota veterans, some of whom act in the play and bring life to their personal experiences.  Adding to the realism, 13 of the play’s 20 cast members have served or are now serving in the military.The Veterans Play Project tells the story of the fictional Midwest town of Smedley, whose inhabitants must decide how to honor the veterans among them.  The town is forced to confront the question, when two Hollywood movie producers roll into to town, wanting to turn the large rock face in the center of the town into a veteran’s memorial and make a movie about the process. In Smedley are veterans who have served in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Bosnia, as well as more recent conflicts.One storyline follows a group of them that has banded together as part of the “Occupy” movement to prevent a bank from seizing a Korean War veteran’s house. As they wait for the bank to arrive, each veteran pulls back the curtain on his or her own memories as they talk amongst themselves.One of them is played by Samuel Ortiz Verdeja. Continue Reading

Minnesotans march for immigration reform

Holding banners that said “Now is the time” and “Citizenship for 11 million,” thousands of Minnesotans marched through downtown Minneapolis early Saturday afternoon to show their support for an immigration reform bill passed by the Senate and currently awaiting action in the U.S. House of Representatives.Before the march began, the crowd gathered in front of the Basilica of Saint Mary. A group of Aztec dancers performed traditional Mexican dances while more than 20 buses dropped off marchers who had traveled from Northfield, Worthington and other cities outside the metro area to attend the event.Religious leaders from several different faith groups led a brief prayer service on the Basilica steps before the march, each reflecting on the injustice of the current immigration system.“We need legalized citizenship for all people and a process that keeps families together,” said Chad Gilbertson, pastor of Holy Trinity United Methodist Church in Prior Lake. “Regardless of nationality or status, we are united under the same God.”  After the service, the march began by heading straight down one side of Hennepin Avenue until turning on Sixth Street to arrive at the plaza in front of the Hennepin County Government Center.Marchers filled the street, holding up signs and banners, and chanting “Sí, se puede” and “Justice now” as onlookers stopped to watch them pass. What is Comprehensive Immigration Reform?While proposals vary, the elements of comprehensive immigration reform generally include:1) Establishing a path to legal residency and citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already in the United States.2) Providing for family reunification and reducing backlogs 3) DREAM Act — This would establish a path to citizenship for the many young people who were brought across the border by their parents and have spent most of their lives in this country.4) Strengthening enforcement at borders and workplaces.5) Reforming and rationalizing the work visa programs and protecting worker rights.After filling the plaza at the Hennepin County Government Center, speakers from diverse groups including the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Minnesota AFL-CIO and several churches spoke. Several remarked that it was usual for the organizations they represented to agree on anything.All said the time for reform was now and that they were hopeful that the immigration reform legislation which passed the U.S. Senate earlier this year will be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives yet in 2013.In the crowd, Claudia Jimenez, a Northfield resident who legally immigrated to the United States 18 years ago, said that she, too, is hopeful that immigration reform will happen this year and she said it is long overdue. “It needs to happen soon. It will make life better for my friends, for my family, and for the entire community,” she said. Continue Reading