Making the invisible visible Nov 10, 2012

by Anna W

“Yo miro al norte, pero el norte no me mira a mí.”  “I look north,” says the migrant everyman in Teatro Línea de Sombra’s Amarillo, “but the North doesn’t look at me.”

And yet the North does look at the young man, the woman, the child for whom the wall hides an almost mythical place of longing.  The North stares them down through surveillance cameras and night vision devices until they have been stripped of their humanity and melt into the desert sand together with their empty water bottles, their discarded shoes and clothes, their backpacks. 

“Yo no soy nadie.”  “I am nobody,” says the young man before he tries to scale the very real wall that forms the backdrop of the appropriate performance at OTB.  The use of both the vertical and the horizontal space through the help of video projection makes it possible for the performers to reach out to hands that cannot grasp them, travel on La Bestia, the infamous train that crosses Mexico from South to North carrying those who have not been crushed by it first, climb and fall, and become faceless figures on the black and white screens of the ever present surveillance equipment.

For the migrant on his way north, identity stays behind.  From the collage of voices emerge only fragments of personal narratives, told mostly through those left behind, in the performance they are the women—even though “Amarillo” does reflect that women and children are making the perilous journey themselves in alarmingly high numbers.

The lack of specific identities that the performers might engage with works well with the performance concept underlying Amarillo, and in general Teatro Línea de Sombra’s approach to theatre.  During the Q&A on Friday evening director Jorge Vargas explained that these actors do not pass through the dressing room on their way to the stage.  They come directly from outside and present--rather than perform—the grim reality of the thousands who wander the desert, confused, too dehydrated even to cry.   The tears should be ours. 

To call this performance well thought out, compelling and visually gorgeous—even though true—is beside the point: “Amarillo” is necessary theatre, theatre that in some ways seems out of place within the four walls of a performance space, in front of an already well-informed, sophisticated audience.  It’s theatre that has to reach out to those who keep refusing to engage with the very human tragedy of what is happening right now on the US-Mexico border.


Anna Witte