Six Songs from Ellis
Premise and Research
Millions of stories came through Ellis Island during the years of comparatively open immigration (1892-1922). An exhaustive effort by the Oral History Program at Ellis Island Museum began in the 1970’s to gather oral histories of immigrants and refugees who passed through New York’s Harbor.
Six Songs from Ellis is a multi-genre work based on these stories, and of commonalities past and present encountered by those taking drastic steps to improve their lives. The voices of 88 immigrants from 25 countries are represented in this full-evening dance/theatre work where oral history audio is blended with actor’s use of text, dance and physical abstraction, projection of historic images and music true to country of origin.
Six Songs is the outcome of my 2016-2017 sabbatical in NYC where I spent months at Ellis Island’s Oral History Library listening to and editing oral histories, developing the script, gathering historic images, signatures, and considering structure. Script content is based entirely on oral histories of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island—many excerpts thematically grouped having to do with reasons for leaving, forced removal from home, reflections on this and their journey, arrival in the NY Harbor, and statements on their lives as Americans; reflections on a lifetime of contributions made to our society. These thematic chapters are the “Six Songs”; to the end of understanding of why people make drastic moves to change their life.
Relevance and content of this work are indeed timely.
A Thematic Offering Of Human Voices
Photo Credit: David Andrews Photography