‘Anon(ymous)’ opens Thursday at Edison

| Theater Editor

Editor’s note: This article’s headline has been corrected to put the play’s start date on Thursday.

“Anon(ymous),” a play by Naomi Iizuka and the first show in the Performing Arts Department’s season, may initially seem distant from events on Washington University’s campus. As a modern retelling of Homer’s “The Odyssey,” the show follows Anon (played by senior Trent Ellis) as he escapes his war-torn country, becomes separated from his mother and tries to find his way—and his family—in America as an illegal immigrant.

When keeping in mind the number of first- or second-generation immigrants on Wash. U.’s campus, issues of diversity and acceptance, as well as the societal disconnect that minorities and all students face in life, the play feels much closer to home.

“I think it’s really important that students see this play because it talks a lot about some of the immigration issues that our country currently faces,” Ellis said. “You get the separation of homes, the disintegration of the family structure…those forgotten faces that no one ever gets to see again.”

“Anon(ymous),” despite its purposefully ambiguous title, deals with the distinct identities of those that America would often rather forget.

“Those people that are currently waiting at the border down south—I think it helps us be mindful that they’re not criminals, that they may actually be human beings who want a home like we all want a home,” Bill Whitaker, the show’s director, said.

Including last year’s “My Children! My Africa!” Whitaker has often done, as he put it, “theater that matters.” He called “Anon” the “origin story” for events in the real world, including those in Ferguson, Mo., that show the manifestations of separation and prejudices between people.

Ellis thinks that Wash. U.’s busy student body could also take a lesson or two from the character of Anon.

“I think students at Wash. U. could take some of Anon’s drive and determination to find his home,” Ellis said. “Just stick with something. Find something that you love to do. Put all your energy into getting back to something that you love.”

That “something” has become theater for Ellis over his four years at Wash. U. His character’s driving motivator, however, is finding his mother, played by senior Chelsea Whitaker.

“Sometimes you want people to connect to so badly,” she said. “I feel that at Wash. U., there are so many missed connections, and not being able to have the deep relationships that you want to just because of the environment at Wash. U.”

Chelsea hopes that students find that connection, as well as an academic understanding of immigration, in “Anon.”

If students need even more academic stimuli, playwright Iizuka will be at Wash. U. this week not only to see the play but also to lead a playwriting workshop at 11 a.m., a colloquium at 4 p.m. and a talk-back after the 8 p.m. show, all on Friday, Oct. 10 in Mallinckrodt Center.

“Anon(ymous)” runs in Edison Theater from Thursday, Oct. 9 through Sunday, Oct. 12. Shows will be held at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 for students.