Experiencing 'The Foreign Student Experience' at The Core Theatre
Updated: Jan 16, 2020
The Foreign Student Experience is exactly that: an experience. Described as “a special devised theatrical piece” by The Core Theatre Artistic Director James Hansen Prince, the project was funded by a special grant for theatre practitioners in Richardson, TX.
Prince worked with 5 international students from UTD, creating a presentation that is part storytelling, part conversation, and part community experience. The Foreign Student Experience gives you a taste of what it’s like to come to the United States on a student visa.
In essence, my takeaway from the piece is that it’s essentially asking a question: What’s it like to be you? The piece is asking us to ask that question more, and to be empathetic and curious about those from who we are different.
The project does a lot to answer that question. Upon entering the building, you land in a jammed line of people along the narrow lobby. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to wait or try to maneuver up to the box office. When I got up to the box office, I was given a 2-page application to complete and assigned a number. When my number was called, I was guided to my seat. But not before a security check, including a metal detector and being asked if I was carrying weapons or drugs.
Once in my seat, my number was called again and this time I was interviewed about the application I had completed in the lobby. We were given a glimpse of the interview process for people seeking student visas, and I did feel uncomfortable when during my interview I was asked if I planned to engage in prostitution. The actors were effective in their intensity and intimidation. I also felt annoyed that I couldn’t just sit down in my seat without all of the extra stops. The point was not lost.
After everyone in the audience was interviewed, the students/actors took turns sharing their personal stories, each illuminated by a special spotlight. The production was stripped down the minimum requirements of a stage, some chairs and small tables, and a white projection screen. It was fun to see the pictures of each students’ childhood play behind them as they shared their story.
Then, to maintain the experience as interactive, we all ate a meal. Small plastic containers were passed out and had small portions of food from each country represented: Taiwan, Kenya, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria. It was interesting to have a communal meal as part of a live theatre event, and it was helpful in opening a dialogue between the actors and the audience.
The themes of community, family, success, and unity were prevalent. I came away from it with a clearer understanding about not only cultural differences, but how the United States is viewed by citizens of other countries.