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The American Dream
My father puts on the news every night while we eat dinner. I don't pay attention much, but every day I hear something about the border crisis. I listen to how Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez describes the conditions in detention camps, I watch how my government reacts to the growing amount of immigrants caught at the border, and I ask myself: what can I do? The answer: isn't much. I don't have alot of money to donate, I don't live near the border, and I'm only fourteen.
So I did what this theatre nerd could do to help raise awareness.
I wrote a play.
I love plays so, so much. This is the third full length play I've written and I plan to write more this summer. I love telling stories like this, it's what fuels me. I can educate and entertain at the same time. I hope this play does that for you, and I hope it isn't too much of a bummer.
THE RACE TO FREEDOM
CAST OF CHARACTERS
DENNIS WOOD: Announcer of the races. Shoots and releases ICE guards on contestants.
THOMAS COLLINS: Guest announcer of the races. From Virginia. Sympathizes with contestants.
LEON TORRES: Mexican citizen trying to cross the border into America. Fifteen, uneducated, running to find his father that made it. Caught by ICE and sent to a detention center.
MARIA MORENO: Mexican citizen trying to cross the border into America. Nineteen, nine weeks pregnant. Running for a better life for her child. Gets shot crossing and doesn't make it.
ESTHER HERNANDEZ: Mexican citizen trying to cross the border into America. Seventeen, educated until she was thirteen, then sent to work. Running to find a better education. Succeeds!
AUTHOR’S NOTES: The audience should not be a physical ensemble. Instead. their cheers and applause should be played overhead by speakers.
The contestants do not need to be running across the stage. Instead, they can run in place.
All Spanish is generated by Google Translate. If necessary, the actor/director and I could work to improve it.
Blackout. Sports music begins to play. Lights slowly go up on DENNIS WOOD and THOMAS COLLINS, the race announcers. They are sitting at a round desk with a microphone and various different colored buttons upstage right, on an elevated portion of the stage. The American flag is on a screen upstage center.
DENNIS WOOD: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to The Race For Freedom. I’m your host, Dennis Wood, and alongside me is my special guest, Thomas Collins.
THOMAS COLLINS: It’s very good to see you tonight, Dennis. And it’s especially great to be in the [name of theatre] this evening.
WOOD: It’s a very good venue, Thomas. I’ve been announcing here for since the start of the season, and there’s never been a dull night. Lovely crowds, lovely crowds.
COLLINS: I don’t find it hard to believe, Dennis, I must be honest with you, this is my first time watching these kinds of races.
The contestants enter the stage in single file and stand in a row, facing downstage. WOOD and COLLINS do not acknowledge them.
WOOD: Really, now? Well, you’ll surely find it a very enjoyable and American game. Here comes our Mexicans! (AUDIENCE cheers. COLLINS raises his eyebrows in surprise at how WOOD referred to the contestants.) Let me explain the rules of the game.
Each Mexican here is running for a chance for a new life in America. They come from slums in Cancun and Toluca, wishing for a better life, although most never make it. The Mexicans run one at a time and need to pass a few obstacles, and if they make it a mile away from the Texas border, they made it! The grand prize: a life in America!
COLLINS: So, an obstacle course?
WOOD: In a sense.
COLLINS: Well, what better way to ensure who’s worthy of entering our country than a good ol’ fashioned test of merit?
WOOD: Of course, Thomas, of course. The good American way. (COLLINS nods) First Mexican: Leon Torres! (AUDIENCE cheers) Leon Torres is from the small town of Villahermosa, he’s fifteen, uneducated, and is coming to America for work.
LEON spits in the direction of the announcers. He begins to stretch and warm up.
WOOD: Woah, there! A spicy one, eh?
LEON: I’m not spicy, pendejo.
COLLINS: Oh, Mr. Torres, I’d like to hear something about yourself, if you wouldn’t mind.
LEON: I’m here to find my family, not to find work.
WOOD: My apologies, Torres, but that’s what it says on our notes here-
LEON: (Spits) I don’t care about your notes. I’m not here to chat, I’m here to f'ing run.
WOOD: On with the race, y’all.
LEON gets into runner's stance. A whistle blows and he starts to sprint. He stares straight ahead.
COLLINS: My goodness, he really knows how to run!
WOOD: They all start strong, but wait ‘til he gets to the obstacles. Watch where he puts his weight: he’s leaning forward, leading with his head. That’ll be the end of him when the guard dogs through them off.
COLLINS: Guard dogs?
WOOD: An eighth of the way through the race, we release he K9 ICE units. They’re blood hounds.
LEON runs faster, looking around for the dogs.
COLLINS: Not to be disrespectful in the slightest, Dennis, you know we’re good friends.
WOOD: (With his hand over a blue button, watching LEON) Of course.
COLLINS: Oh, doesn’t this seem the slightest bit unethical?
WOOD: Well, it’s not against the law.
WOOD presses the button. The sound of dogs barking plays loudly overhead. AUDIENCE cheers. LEON keeps running with renewed vigor, almost unfazed.
WOOD: Ladies and gentlemen, we have just released the K9 units! (Audience cheers again) Look at Torres go! Ah, he isn’t taking my advice about the weight- (LEON sticks up his middle finger)
COLLINS: He’s a very strong runner, we must say. Brave, too.
WOOD: You call that brave?
COLLINS: He’s really outrunning those dogs, I wouldn’t have known they were even there. He doesn’t seem to be losing energy.
WOOD: My notes say he spent his life working hard labor on a corn farm.
COLLINS: You can see that. He’s disciplined.
A bell rings. LEON starts to appear frightened. AUDIENCE cheers wildly. COLLINS is confused.
WOOD: Ladies and gentlemen, time for everyone’s favorite part of the race: border patrol! Torres has just made it to the fences and has been spotted by armed guards!
WOOD: All are armed with an M27 IAR rifle.
Gunshots are heard. LEON starts to swerve and looks up for bullets.
COLLINS: Oh, this isn’t good. I don’t think he’ll make it.
WOOD: He won’t if he doesn’t fix his form.
LEON: (Panting) F OFF!
LEON trips, AUDIENCE gasps. He jumps up, but he has hurt his ankle. The gunshots are getting louder, indicating that they’re getting closer to him. LEON is hit in the thigh by the third gunshot. He screams and they stop.
COLLINS: God, stop, he’s bleeding! You got him! (AUDIENCE cheers wildly)
WOOD: Watch out, Torres! Here come the ICE guards!
Enter ICE GUARDS. They violently pick up LEON and drag him away, kicking and screaming.
LEON: Wait! No, no, my family! My madre! Mi madre, she’s in America, Nueva York, please! (A guard slaps him across his leg with the rifle. He screams. It’s terrifying. He is dragged offstage.)
WOOD: And that brings Leon Torres out of the game and one less border rat in our country. (Applause from AUDIENCE.)
COLLINS: (Somber) Leon Torres will be missed. Where are you sending him?
WOOD: Leon Torres will be sent to the Clint Detention Center with the rest of the Mexicans for seventy two hours at most, then deported back to Mexico.
COLLINS: Oh, that’s not that bad.
WOOD: To be frank with you, Collins, I don’t think he was really going to his madre in Nueva York.
COLLINS: Why not?
WOOD: Well, look at him. That’s the same face of the Mexicans who steal our jobs in this country.
COLLINS: (Quietly) Oh, I don’t think so.
WOOD: Next up in the race is Maria Moreno. (She steps up and begins to stretch slowly.) Maria Moreno is a very special case, ladies and gentlemen. She is our first pregnant Mexican! How long have you been pregnant, Moreno?
MARIA: (With slow, shaky English) Six months.
COLLINS: Six months! Are you sure you should be running?
MARIA: I been through worse. That’s why I come to America.
WOOD: Good luck in America with that accent, Moreno. Hey, we’ll give you extra points for your alliteration! (He laughs and turns to COLLINS, who doesn’t laugh)
COLLINS: Dennis, I don’t think she should be running.
WOOD: Well, she didn’t want to come to America the right way, so now she has to run.
ESTHER: (From the row) There is no right way.
WOOD: Excuse me?
ESTHER: There is no “right way” to legally come to America. Not with your system. And no one stays in those detention centers for seventy-two hours. My uncle has been gone for two weeks-
WOOD: If you’re not currently running, you must be silent, little lady.
ESTHER: I’m not your little lady.
COLLINS: Lets… get on with the race. Maria, why are you running today?
MARIA: I seek asylum for me and my baby.
COLLINS: I wish you luck, Ms. Maria Moreno.
A whistle. Surprised, MARIA begins to run.
COLLINS: (To WOOD, whispering) We can’t send the dogs on her.
WOOD: Why not? It’s how we play the game.
COLLINS: She’s pregnant, Dennis. Have you no mercy?
MARIA runs slowly. She is steadying her breath and saving her energy.
COLLINS: She's pregnant, Dennis. Have you no mercy?
WOOD: Listen, Thomas, I know you're an empathetic soul, but that's not how we play this game. If they win the race they can win the American dream! And look at those Mexicans: if Moreno didn't run this race, she'd have to sneak across the border, and still she wouldn't be an American. She could live in the country all she wants, but she'll never be like us.
COLLINS: Like us…
WOOD: Oh, don't get me wrong! When I say that people always call me a racist or a bigot, but I'm practising my first amendment rights. Here's the truth: living in America and using American resources doesn't make you an American, but that's what these Mexicans think. They think if they raise their children here and send them to our schools, their children will be American. But they're all wrong. An American is an American citizen with an American passport and an American life. No green cards, no green cards. Do you see me with a green card? Now, I'm not a racist! It's not because they're brown. It's because they're trying to be one of us… when they're not.
MARIA moans in pain and slows down. The barking becomes louder and she falls, holding her stomach.
MARIA: Me ayuda…! Me ayuda!
COLLINS: I told you! She’s pregnant, look what happened!
ICE GUARDS run in. She is begging for her life. One shoots MARIA in the stomach and then in the head. She dies. AUDIENCE goes wild.
WOOD: And that was the first death of the night, ladies and gentlemen! (AUDIENCE screams louder)
COLLINS: (Standing up, enraged) Why are you cheering!? Why are you happy!? An innocent woman just died by the hands of your government and you’re laughing? You’re cheering and clapping? Are you insane?
WOOD: Thomas, you need to calm down-
COLLINS: This is madness!
WOOD: (Pushing him down) Thomas! Thomas! (Sitting down, like talking to a child) Just one more Mexican, just one more, then you’ll be done. You’ll never have to watch this again. (COLLINS doesn’t respond. Into the mic) Our last contestant of the race is Esther Hernandez, who we have all been made familiar with.
ESTHER immediately gets in runners stance.
ESTHER: I’m already warm, let’s go.
WOOD: Would you like to say anything before risking your life?
ESTHER: One thing: When I win this, I’m going to get a GED. I’m going to go to law school and become a politician. And then I’m going to end this f'ing race. (Small boos from AUDIENCE, but she remains smiling.)
A whistle blows and ESTHER begins running. She has perfect form and is the fastest so far. COLLINS is interested.
WOOD: Well, folks, we have an experienced runner on our hands today. Perfect form, if I do say so myself.
ESTHER: Thank you!
WOOD: (Sarcastically) Witty, too.
WOOD presses the button and barking is heard. ESTHER stops. She pulls out a plastic bag and throws the contents across the stage.
WOOD: What is she doing?
ESTHER: Throwing bacon! Never said I couldn’t!
The sound of barking fades away and ESTHER begins to run again.
WOOD: Well, this is surely a historic day, ladies and gentlemen. Hernandez is in the clear. (AUDIENCE boos)
ESTHER runs faster as gunshots are heard. She swerves and ducks expertly and the crowd yells and boos. The ICE GUARDS enter, but she fights them off.
WOOD: This is unbelievable! Hernandez might be the first Mexican to win the race!
ESTHER kicks an ICE GUARD in the groin and he falls. She sprints and finishes the race. A happy medley plays as AUDIENCE boos and yells. COLLINS stands and cheers- the only one happy.
COLLINS: (Running to meet ESTHER) Ms. Hernandez, it’s such an honor. I wish you luck in all your endeavours.
WOOD: Congratulations, Ms. Hernandez, you’re the first Mexican in the history of The Race to Freedom to finish the race.
ESTHER: Oh my God, this is amazing! Mira, mama, I made it! (Crying with happiness) I made it!
COLLINS: You're going to do great things, Ms. Hernandez.
The scene freezes and a single spotlight opens on ESTHER.
ESTHER: Four years after today, I got my acceptance letter to Harvard. Harvard! I never dared to get my hopes up about an Ivy league school, nonetheless the hardest one to get into, but here I am! (Pulling out a crisp white envelope from her pocket) This is my acceptance letter: see, it's real! "Dear Esther Hernandez, we are pleased to inform you of your acceptance to Harvard…" (Tearing up) I'm sorry, if I go on I'll become a complete mess, more than I already am. I finally have a future here in America. It's my country, too. I belong here.
The spotlight fades out on ESTHER and another lights up on COLLINS
COLLINS: When she runs for congress, I'd vote for her. She'd make some needed changes around here.
Wake Forest, North Carolina
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