Following a warm welcome from Rogelio Minana, the department head and professor of Spanish at Drexel University, a group of 18 students between the ages of 7 and 15 from the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn prepared to perform “The Adventures of Kid Quixote.”
The play is an adaptation of “Don Quixote,” the world famous novel written in 1605 by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes. The kids’ version offered an intimate look into the complex experiences that migrant children face.
“The Adventures” originally debuted back in 2016, around the same time that the presidential elections were in heated swing. The alignment between the play’s beginnings and the political climate showcase the controversial time in America and ultimately added a new layer to its narrative.
The performers usually carry out gigs in classrooms and private homes. All thanks to the people who packed in and filled up the auditorium of the Van Rensselaer dormitory Feb. 19, the small collective graduated to seeing its largest turnout ever.
Each child was credited for taking part of the unique retelling of the classic, combining their experiences with their personal Latinx outlooks on life.
The curator noted that including the many different voices was nothing short of a collective process; everyone chimed in with reading and translating the original book to English, spending a lot of time narrowing down the perfect synonyms from a thesaurus, writing new scripts and co-creating its fresh narrative.
Stephen Haff, owner of Still Waters in a Storm, the nonprofit organization that facilitates the after-school rehearsals expressed how he admired their dedication.
Haff shared that the youth who participate are committed to their ambitions, having cranked in around 10 hours of practice each week for the last two years.
The underlying theme of the interactive and intimate performance broadens on the context of the politics of suffering and injustice, and the trials and joys of the migrant children — a raw mirror of their everyday experiences. Narrated in both English and Spanish, viewers were able to witness the varied sights firsthand.
“We all have to be resilient — in this country, some more than others,” Haff said.
The children who were cast in the play do not have to try out to perform. As such, Haff shared that much patience was needed in the writing of the songs and orchestration of the play to ensure the underlying theme of the beauty of imagination and the worth of human life was properly conveyed.
“I thought that for such a young age they were very mature, they kept to what they were doing. They really shined light on not only the play, but what’s going on in the world today. I loved how the leading role was a female. It was powerful,” Hanley Higgins, a freshman studying global studies, said.
It was also no coincidence that a young girl was chosen as the play’s lead.
“A girl playing the part gets everyone excited. Viewers respond to her choosing of persona,” Haff said.
Chloe Richardson, a pre-junior who is also pursuing global studies had an enlightening experience with the play.
“I thought it was really emotional and evocative. The children were really talented. They even had a scene where they were writing their pen pals — kids in detention centers — which I think made it more profound. Everyone should see it,” she said.
One of the most notable scenes included a segment where the children mimicked exchanging letters with children separated from their families and pondering life in the outside world.
Maria de la luz Matus-Mendoza, associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Global Studies & Modern Languages also had an amicable view.
“I think it’s a good effort and it’s very encouraging that kids are deliberating their lives, the day-to-day life, and putting it in the context of a classic,” she said, mentioning she is all too familiar with the complexities that come with mastering the Spanish language.
“[These kids] owning the piece and making it public shares the beauty of the book,” Matus-Mendoza said.
By making the piece public, the plights faced by the pure, young spirits of children are showcased in a fascinating tale.