Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.
When Sol and Luna’s biological mother is deported, the two sisters are adopted by White family, a single mother and her young daughter Stella. When Mrs White passes away unexpectedly, the three girls are orphaned – Sol and Luna for the second time. Andrea Cabeza and Araceli Ferrara’s Sol, Luna and Stella offers a rich and topical exploration of the loss of the mother figure, Catholicism, the consequences of the USA’s family separation policy, and the cultural identity of first-generation children. Cabeza, who is originally from Mexico, came to Canada 6 years ago. Ferrara was born and raised in Canada, after her grandparents fled Chile during the coup. Informed by their perspectives on the immigrant experience, the play examines the divergent ways that political and historical circumstances shape Sol, Luna and Stella, and how these three young women come to define familial bonds.
Sol, Luna and Stella plays on Wednesday October 9 as a part of Caminos, a festival of new performance works and experiments convening Latin, Indigenous and diverse communities running October 3 – 13, 2019.
Creator and co-writer Cabeza discovered her passion for performing arts at 10 years of age in her native Cancun. After arriving in Canada, she graduated from Humber College’s Acting for Film and Television program in 2015. She is an actor, producer and director of theatre and film, and regularly leads new work with her production company Chameleon Productions. Cabeza spoke with SesayArts Magazine about the poetic inspiration for Sol, Luna and Stella, the varied cultural perspectives it embodies, and the opportunity to explore social and political topics through the forum of theatre.
SesayArts: Speak to us about the origin of Sol, Luna and Stella… How did you conceive the idea for this play? Is it based on personal experience?
AC: In the context of the separation of families in the US border with Mexico, I had been reading and seeing countless interviews that moved me and ignited a passion to represent and voice my community. The inspiration for this show was born out of Ruben Dario’s poem “Margarita.” “Margarita” has been a poem that I’ve known since very young, and it is a poem I often recite to myself out of pleasure. One evening last year, I found myself reciting the poem, and when I got to the last verse something connected. The poem ends;
“Ya que lejos de mí vas a estar,
guarda, niña, un gentil pensamiento
al que un día te quiso contar
It is a very loving goodbye from the narrator in the poem to a young girl. I asked myself, what if this poem was being told from a mother to her daughter moments before they were separated? The mother knows she is about to be taken and wants to leave an enduring message of love with her child.
Sol, Luna and Stella is not based on one personal experience. I am an immigrant from Mexico that came to Canada at the age of 20. I have been fortunate; I had opportunities and means in my life to go through immigration channels to be where I am. But I recognize that not everyone has the same good fortune. And even though our experiences may differ, I feel connected to them and feel a need to shine a light on their humanity.
With the concept for this play, I asked Araceli to join me in writing to enrich the story with more perspectives on this matter. Araceli is a born Canadian whose family immigrated from Chile. Like the characters in the play, she has a first-generation perspective. She understands what it’s like to feel displaced growing up, what it’s like to have more than one culture you identify with, and how it can be to live in a country where your culture’s a minority.
Araceli and I both committed ourselves to explore the world of the play, to explore the characters within it, and to try to flesh out as much as we could from the story. I believe that together and with the collaboration of our company, there is truth to be found within this piece.
SesayArts: What has the creative and developmental process been like to bring the play to the stage?
AC: We have spent a lot of time in the rehearsal room, with our actors and director, working through the script, working through the characters, pushing ourselves to a point where we felt the story we wanted to be heard was the one that was being told. A lot of work has gone into this script from the very beginning; it is constantly in progress and has grown so much from where we first started. It’s exciting to see a piece creatively flourish, which is directly due to the collaboration of our team and the time we have committed to this project.
SesayArts: What do you hope audiences understand about the themes that the play explores, especially racial dynamics, cultural identity, and the USA’s family separation policy?
AC: Just like a mother and a father, your culture contributes to who you are. Growing up in an environment that is culturally consistent leads to a simpler attachment to that culture within our identity. But, when growing up in an environment where your culture belongs to a minority, an experience of loss and dissonance occurs within our ourselves. One’s cultural identity is such a personal experience, so when it came to writing the characters, we wanted to explore the different aspects of one’s relationship to their own cultures, in this case, Colombian-American.
This piece takes a stand regarding the USA’s family separation policy not from a political point of view, but a human one. The event of separation isn’t part of the play, but we explore what happens to the people who live it and how that one event affects them for the rest of their lives. We explore the fractures these events create in people’s lives and the scars that remain.
SesayArts: What can audiences of Sol, Luna and Stella expect to see at Caminos?
AC: We have curated four scenes of the full play that will be performed at Caminos. Audiences can expect a piece of the play that will capture the essence of our themes and invite them to connect with the characters and their journeys. The play entwines the styles of magical realism and linear storytelling, a taste of both is part of our production at the festival.
SesayArts: What do you hope that they will think about or talk about after seeing the show?
As an artist, the best reward for your work is to evoke something within your audience. Whether it’s an emotional, rational or inquisitive reaction regarding the themes, the humanity or the politics, we hope our audience will find the impetus to have a dialogue about these events, in the hopes that we can create empathy and unity across cultures.
SesayArts: The final word is yours. What would you like to add that I haven’t asked?
AC: I want to take the opportunity to thank the members of the theatre community for the platform we have been giving in sharing this story. We feel it is the right time, if not already late, to give a voice to immigrants and their uncertain journeys looking for a better life. We hope this piece of theatre will represent our immigrant community with truth and dignity.
News You Can Use
What: Sol, Luna and Stella, created, written and performed by Andrea Cabeza |Writer: Araceli Ferrara |Written in collaboration with Tamara Almeida, Ara Glenn-Johanson and Victoria Urquhart | Directed by Ara Glenn-Johanson
Performed by Tamara Almeida, Victoria Urquhart, Andrea Cabeza |Voice Performer: Bella Caballero
When: Wednesday October 9, 2019, 7.30 pm, evening program runs 90 mins
Where: Native Earth Performing Arts Centre, 585 Dundas Street East Toronto, ON
Info and Tickets: caminos.ca
© Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya / SesayArts Magazine, 2019