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Teen refugees to see play they helped inspire (Video)



A play being staged for students this week at Playhouse Square shares the stories of migration of teenagers and their families.  

Playhouse Square commissioned Cartography to explore the issue of migration through the stories of five refugees who were forced to leave their home countries and begin new lives. The characters are based on the experiences of teenagers who now live in Cleveland and around the world.

Christopher Myers, the play’s writer and designer, says migration can be even harder on teenagers because it is happening at time when they are trying to discover themselves.   

“In the middle of this time of life in which you are always asking, ‘Who am I? What do I want to be?' Who shall I be,' they are asking that in an even more pointed way, and they are confronted with new nationalities, new languages, new communities," he said. "In that they have to ask the same questions that every teen has to ask, but they have to ask it with a more pressing need to answer those questions in a satisfying way. And I think that is at the center of what we are thinking about with Cartography. ” 

Earlier this year, Myers and Kaneza Schaal, the director of Cartography, visited CMSD's John Marshall Campus to speak with teenagers who had recently moved to the United States. The teens attend the Teen Response afterschool program, which helps them adjust to a new culture, language and education system.  

Refugee Response, a nonprofit organization that assists with challenges of resettlement, started the program last year.   

The students told Myers and Schaal their stories of migration and the reasons their familes left countries that include Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq.  

“We wanted to put young people at the center of a conversation about movement, human movement, about migration. We also wanted to put young people at the center of a contemporary art conversation, said Schaal. "But at the end of the day, we want this piece itself to function as platform for these young people to keep talking to each other.”  

Morning matinee performances of Cartography began Tuesday and will continue through Friday at the Mimi Ohio Theatre.