The state of the nation is a polarizing one, punctuated by hotly debated topics, not the least of which is anti-immigrant legislation and policies regarding the working class. While it may seem like these issues have only just recently permeated the public consciousness, this has been a point of contention for years. Playwright Cherríe Moraga’s new play, Watsonville: Some Place Not Here, shows us this.
In the story Watsonville, workers’ rights in a cannery plant are threatened when wage cuts are instated and a new government bill to seek out undocumented immigrants is introduced. The women take charge and unite together. Then there’s a cannery strike, a vision of the Virgin and an earthquake.
Etched deep in Moraga’s work as well as at Milagro Theatre is the theme of family. This production has a mother and daughter working together – Bunnie Rivera, who portrays Dolores, and Rosalie Siler, who plays Susana. Both are not only Milagro regulars, but performers who have worked together many times in other Moraga plays.
Siler said. “There’s so much depth and meaning in Cherríe Moraga’s work. Her writing connects us and calls us to action. That’s powerful activist theater and it stays with you.”
Rivera has worked with Milagro since the 80s, performing onstage and serving on the Board of Directors. Many of her family, including her other children, have had their place at Milagro, performing, doing tech or as stage crew. “I come from a family of very strong Latina women,” she says. “My mom was an advocate for migrant workers in Hillsboro. She was a force to be reckoned with!”
It is no surprise that the themes of Watsonville and the words of Moraga, ring true and close to her heart. “The issue of poisoning our environment, ethnic inequality, and immigrant issues are important to me,” Rivera said. “How the constitution can be abused while the government can be bought and hold the people hostage is very disturbing to me.”
“My mom was the first model of a strong woman and she certainly set the standard,” Siler said. “I took my son to the Women’s March in Portland in January 2017. It was a sad and scary time, but being there made me truly believe, as a woman, that we are in this together, we won’t be silent, and we ARE making progress.”
Watsonville: Some Place Not Here is directed by Elizabeth Huffman. Milagro Theatre, is at 525 SE Stark St. Opening night is May 4 with a post performance reception catered by Tortilleria Y Tienda De Leon. Tickets at milagro.org, by phone 503.236.7253, in person at 425 SE 6th Ave, or at the box office one hour prior to show time.