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“Anon(ymous)” tells the untold stories of refugees

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In "Anon(ymous)," a young refugee called Anon escapes his war-torn country to wash up on an American shore.

Courtesy of Ken Jacques

Courtesy of Ken Jacques

In "Anon(ymous)," a young refugee called Anon escapes his war-torn country to wash up on an American shore.

by Sydney Faulkner, Contributor

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San Diego State’s newest theatre production, “Anon(ymous),” will make audiences stop and think: What does home mean for a refugee?

Written by UC San Diego’s Naomi Iizuka and directed by Randy Reinholz, “Anon(ymous)” made its debut Sept. 29.

The play explores the life of a young teenager who has been separated from his mother after escaping their war-torn country and becoming a refugee in 21st century New York City.

The opening scene of “Anon(ymous)” included multiple students reciting the phrase “where I come from,” followed by dialogue featuring specific characteristics of their native land.

This opening scene captivated the audience through the inclusion of multiple cultures’ experiences.

In one single scene, there was the voice of beauty, happiness, loss and heartbreak. The cast was truly intriguing from beginning to end.

Reinholz said the play is based off of Homer’s “Odyssey.”

It is no coincidence that the timing of “Anon(ymous)” lined up with the current political issues regarding refugee and immigration policies.

“It makes total sense for what we have going on in our country today,” Reinholz said. “It is no secret that strong military forces are reason for some displacement of these refugees. Currently, 63 million people are classified as refugees because of displacement by war. It just makes sense to raise awareness on what is happening.”

Reinholz said his favorite part of this process has been working with the students.

“Anon(ymous)” features students from the Philippines, Vietnam, Serbia, Taiwan and Mexico, as well as multiple first generation immigrants.

The play spoke to each individual on a personal level.

“After finding out that ‘Anon(ymous)’ was the production of choice, and shedding many tears while reading it, I knew I had to be a part of it,” assistant director Vinh Nguyen said. “I moved to the United States from Vietnam when I was 10, so it really hit home.”

Vinh said that one of the things he enjoyed most about the time leading up to the performances was watching the students discover their characters and the magic of finding themselves along the way.

On a mission to make “Anon(ymous)” as real as possible, students and others involved in the production invited refugee communities in the San Diego area to their final dress rehearsal before opening night.

Brian Ting, who plays the main character Anon, said meeting with actual refugees, then laughing and crying with them, was the best part of the entire experience.

Another cast member, Thomas Block, said the play could not have been done at a better time. “During rehearsals, the news broke that President Donald Trump reinstated the travel ban and that DACA would possibly be ending,” Block said. “It really brought the cast and crew together knowing that we wanted to take a stand and make a statement.”

Anon’s story of trying to find his way back to what feels like home is an accurate and raw look into the lives that refugees lead, trials and all.

Some parts are hard to watch. However, most often the things that are the hardest to watch are the ones that need to be the most seen.

The cast and crew set out to make a statement, and the performance of “Anon(ymous)” did just that.

The show runs Oct. 4 – 8 in the Experimental Theatre and begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $17 for students and $20 for general admission.

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