Asylum exposes pain of refugee crisis in a beautiful tribute


Huston Watson/TOWER

Jacob Strier, Contributing Writer

Asylum was unconventional, informative, all-enveloping and breathtaking. Written by a collaboration of Masters students based on the dire stories of refugees, particularly Syrian: Asylum educated and entertained its first viewers last Thursday afternoon at their final dress rehearsal. The hour-long play, which included several stories, along with informational skits about refugee life, was particularly strengthened by a series of eloquent monologues delivered by the actors and actresses. Viewers were seated alongside the walls of the Experimental Theatre facing inward, where the group of Masters performers brought the struggles of refugee life into action amongst a sea of bewildered and saddened eyes.

Asylum fittingly drifted away from the every-day numerical figures and political banter we are too often immersed in regarding the refugee crisis in Syria: it focused instead on conveying its message by way of human stories and anecdotes. We were presented with varying perspectives: a young woman in love, a Syrian university student, and Holocaust survivors. Coming from disparate backgrounds, the characters proved that the animal of war and destruction can impair any human life without bias.

The gripping play did not shy away from profound emotional stimulus. In one scene, the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons delivered by two of its survivors were used to prove uncomfortable realities about today’s Middle Eastern refugee crisis. Too all those who blindly suggest such a tragedy like the Holocaust could not repeat itself: Asylum truly commands you to open your eyes to the suffering of today’s millions of refugees.

Asylum is particularly timely, set against the political backdrop of the United States ushering in a new administration which vocally and legally opposes refugees. The play teared down stereotypes about refugees. Any and all preconceived notions about refugees I harbored upon entering were quickly amended. The people in exodus from Syria are millions of professionals, students, mothers, fathers, and children. People like me or you, most of whom with lives forever altered by political matters out of their control, who are forced to flee their lifelong homes.

In its frequent use of light and dramatic music, the audio-visual effects of Asylum enunciated its emotional punch. I experienced the refugee crisis through new theatric means: a rap, a ballet number, and a poetry recital. The play closes on a stirring and poignant note. Huddled together with the other performers in a raft on the projected “sea,” sophomore actress Leah McLelland recited a portion of the 1883 poem by Emma Lazarus, inscribed on New York’s very own Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Upon walking out of the Experimental Theatre after seeing this provoking and emotionally burdensome play, I could only imagine the same false scenario again and again. Placing myself in a refugee’s shoes, tearfully kissing farewell to the home and soil upon which I was raised and spent my childhood memories, and embarking on the lengthy and strenuous journey to a foreign and distant land.
Asylum was a must-see for the Masters community, our fellow peers have formed an important, captivating, and awakening play. I immediately gained a deeper awareness of the refugee crisis and its painful consequences on people just like me. This play additionally served as an uncomfortable and important reminder that people are suffering, and it is up to us in our position of relative safety and privilege to extend a helping hand to the downtrodden masses, “yearning to breathe free.”