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UP CLOSE: Northwood School Drama Club to present ‘Anon(ymous)’ at LPCA

February 8, 2019
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The poster for the Northwood School Drama Club's production of Naomi Iizuka's "Anon(ymous)" shows nine silhouetted children without homes.

Some are short. Some are tall. Some have long hair. One has an afro. A few basic features are noticeable, but these kids essentially have no identities.

"The whole purpose of the play, if I could give it a purpose, is to humanize the story of a refugee," said director Noel Carmichael. "Rather than hearing statistics, you look at a human experience. I think that's important for the students. None of the students in this play are refugees, which is a relief, but it means we had to dig into what that experience is really like and why we're doing it. One of the things that I always like to mention before we get into rehearsal is that we're giving a voice to people that don't have a voice, and we're giving a face to people that don't have a face."

Article Photos

Back from left, William Vanterpool-Sanford and Courtney Fairchild and, front from left, Jazzy Valenzuela and Angelia Castillo of Northwood School rehearse Naomi Iizuka’s “Anon(ymous)” at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts Tuesday, Feb. 5.
(News photo — Griffin Kelly)

The drama club will perform Iizuka's play "Anon(ymous)" at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13 for free at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Discussions on immigration and refugees will take place after each performance.

At its core, the show is an adaptation of Homer's "Odyssey," only instead of being about a Greek soldier making his way home from the Trojan War and encountering all sorts of mythical beasts, Iizuka puts a modern spin on the ancient epic. It follows a refugee boy trying to find his mother in America after being separated in a storm.

There are some callbacks to Homer's poem with characters such as the one-eyed butcher Mr. Zyclo (Polyphemus the Cyclops) and the goddess Naja (Athena).

The production features student-actors from South Africa, the United States, China, Tibet, Guatemala and Tanzania.

Sophomore Sean Kwgakwga of South Africa plays the lead role, Anon. Originally, Kwgakwga wanted to play a side character. He's acted in shows before, but those were smaller productions.

"I wasn't really confident enough (at first)," Kwgakwga said, "but then Ms. Carmichael saw potential in how I and the character Anon are similar and how we fit each other."

Carmichael said it can be hard to find the words for why she wanted Kwgakwga in the lead role.

"I guess there's something charismatic and unassuming about (Kwgakwga)," she said. "I like that for Anon because he is representative of any refugee. This could be any refugee's story. You could say he's a normal person. He's not flamboyant. He's not arrogant. He just is."

Sophomore Angelia Castillo plays Anon's mother, Nemasani. In the play, Nemasani works in what is essentially a sweatshop, where she makes clothes but also a burial shroud for her son. The shroud is a catch-22, Castillo said. Sewing the shroud leads toward acceptance and moving on, but if she ever finishes the shroud, it's as if Anon really is dead and never coming back.

"I try to put myself in the character's shoes and think, 'what if you were in that position? What if you lost someone so close to you?'," Castillo said. "You're in the new place. You've left everything behind - your culture, your family. The only things you knew are gone, and now you have to try and survive in this place by yourself."

Both Kwgakwga and Castillo said they appreciate the topical message and story of the play.

There are some asylum seekers in South Africa, but it's not at the same level of intensity as in the U.S., Kwgakwga said.

"It's similar but not as bad," he said.

Castillo praised the school for putting on the production.

"A lot of people need to know, be educated or have some sort of a feel of what's going on because a lot of us don't really know what these immigrants or refugees go through," Castillo said.

Carmichael said building empathy and understanding is what she'd like the actors and audiences to learn.

"You hear about migrants drowning or dying in transit," Carmichael said, "but they never have names or faces, and I think that's what we're trying to do here."



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