The creative force behind “Alma,” includes, from left, Benjamin Benne (playwright), Brandon J. Simmons (director) and actresses Anabel Hovig (Alma) and Klarissa Marie Robles (Angel). COURTESY PHOTO, Theatre Battery

The creative force behind “Alma,” includes, from left, Benjamin Benne (playwright), Brandon J. Simmons (director) and actresses Anabel Hovig (Alma) and Klarissa Marie Robles (Angel). COURTESY PHOTO, Theatre Battery

Pertinent play, a ‘very human’ story hits local stage

In ‘Alma,’ Theatre Battery shares a new tale of an undocumented family in the U.S.

True to its mission, Theatre Battery at Kent Station continues to express performing art tied to relevant social issues – for all to see, interpret and discuss.

This summer season the company shares “Alma” – or “#nowall” – an engaging, intimate and, at times, funny story of an undocumented family living in the United States, appropriate for those caught in the throes of the immigration plight.

In essence, the play examines and questions: what is the American Dream and is it still obtainable in today’s troubling times?

The story – the work of nationally-acclaimed playwright Benjamin Benne – opens this weekend and continues through Sept. 1, possibly longer, at an original-transformed theatre space donated through sponsorship from Kent Station. Admission is given to the public at no cost through Radical Hospitality.

Benne, in writing a play that’s poetic and elusive in style, reframes the American Dream through the eyes of a mother on the precipice of deportation.

“It has many layers, but at the core it’s really about a mother and daughter, a family and the love between those two characters,” Benne said of his work, a professionally-done, fringe theater workshop production. “But there’s so many outside forces, systemic oppression, that are creating barriers between them.

“For me, I want (the audience) to take away a very human story about a mother and daughter.”

The play follows Alma, an undocumented immigrant, and her daughter, Angel, who was born in America.

Nearly 18 years ago, Alma crossed the border between Mexico and the United States, pregnant with a child and great dreams for their life ahead. Now it’s December 2016, and since immigrating, Alma has been studying for her citizenship test while Angel has studied for the SATs. On the eve of Angel’s exam, the nation is holding its breath for the inauguration when Alma discovers that her daughter isn’t studying anymore.

The play, under the direction of Brandon J. Simmon, features Seattle-area actresses Anabel Hovig (Alma) and Klarissa Marie Robles (Angel).

Benne wrote the play in response to President Trump’s call to build a wall to divide the U.S. and Mexico, and the country’s controversial immigration stance that has generated much public angst, debate and rhetoric.

The play also hit home for Benne. “There’s a mixture of sadness and anger, particularly because my mother was an immigrant from Guatemala,” he said. “So it felt very personal very early on.”

The play directly speaks to a diverse population, the immigrant communities of Kent and South King County. It also allows a voice, one of empowerment to the audience. The play will integrate the audience, fielding post-show discussion and giving leaders and followers the chance to debate issues, circumstances and share what’s being done to support immigrants.

Logan Ellis, Theatre Battery co-founder and producing artistic director, said the play is pertinent. Ellis, who grew up in Kent and graduated from Kent-Meridian High School and Green River College, established the theater company to bring socially pertinent contemporary plays to diverse audiences.

To date, Theatre Battery has produced six summer main stage productions, four new play festivals and three series of developmental workshops.

“Alma,” unlike past shows at Kent Station, comes across as “very real,” Ellis said.

“As we introduce it to the community, we’re seeing an outpouring of support from the many immigrant and refugee resource organizations, churches, families and schools in the Kent area who resonate with this conversation and want to participate in that,” said Logan, who collaborates with Benne as a student at the Yale School of Drama.

Born and raised in Los Angeles County, Benne lives today in Minneapolis, Minn. He begins a residency at Yale this fall in pursuit of a masters of fine arts degree in playwriting.

“Alma” was selected to appear at the Eugene O’Niell National Playwrights Conference, a high honor, earlier this summer. Benne hopes the play will be received nationally.

ON STAGE

Production: “Alma” (or “#nowall”)

Stage: Theatre Battery at Kent Station, 444 Ramsay Way, Suite 107, next to Karate Kung-Fu

Performances: 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Aug. 16-Sept. 1, with a potential extension to Sept. 8. Previews of the play are Aug. 16, 17.

Length: Approximately 90 minutes

Cast: Featuring Anabel Hovig (Alma, the mother) and Klarissa Marie Robles (Angel, the daughter)

Creative team: Mari Salinas, dramaturg; Lex Marcos (scenic designer); Kat Laveaux (costume designer); Amber Parker (lighting designer); Lindsey O’Connor (sound designer); Gianna Gargiulo (props designer); Kait Mahoney (stage manager); Kait Mahoney; KyeAnne Wilde (associate stage manager); and Brandon J. Simmons (director).

Also: The company is combining networks with the city of Kent, Kent Station, the Kent School District, Living Well Kent, Mother Africa, Eat with Muslims, and other local nonprofits to facilitate a conversation series that follows performances and features the work of community leaders that are advocating and providing services to the quickly growing population of immigrants and refugees in South King County.

Admission: No ticket charges. Fifty tickets for each performance can be reserved online through theatrebattery.strangertickets.com. The remaining 30 tickets will be released at the door to walk-ups starting one hour before each performance.

More information: theatrebattery.org, Facebook.com/Theatrebattery, or Twitter: @theatrebattery

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