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The Daily Wildcat


‘Mother of Exiles’ explores gun violence and fear

Courtesy Lisa Pierce

Elaine Romero, award-winning playwright and assistant professor at the School of Theatre, Film and Television. The latest installment in her trilogy of plays about the border and social justice comes to the UA April 20.

The play “Mother of Exiles,” opening April 20, will give people the chance to watch a play about a Latina woman who teaches on the Arizona-Mexican border. 

It is the second installment in a trilogy about the border and social justice ideas written by Elaine Romero, an award-winning playwright and assistant professor in the UA School of Theatre, Film & Television. The themes, according to Romero, are gun violence, ideas and their effects and fear.

Romero’s beginnings in playwriting began thanks to an assignment in a creative writing class when she was a freshman in college. She discovered she was able to more eloquently tell a story through the format of a play. It is something that’s stuck with her since. 

Romero said that for the assignment she “could only think in dialogue,” so once her professor suggested that she write a play, she knew it was for her.

“I wrote a play and I have dutifully done so ever since,” Romero said. “I’ve written plays since I was 18, and I continued to work on one after the next, and you know, it has taken me all over the world.”

As a result of her traveling, Romero found inspiration to tell more stories by being exposed to different places and people with different ideas. 

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“As a U.S. playwright, I have the honor of getting to know this country that I live in and being invited to see all the nooks and crannies of this country, and these places reveal themselves to me and then I have the responsibility to reflect back what I see,” she said. 

This is important to Romero’s art because by observing and instilling traces of the real world, she gives life and meaning to her plays. She said that it is her way of showing how she sees and experiences the world in which we live.

This infusion of ideas is something that was present with her process in writing “Mother of Exiles.” She said that one of the main factors that caused her to write this play was the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and discussions in Arizona legislature to arm teachers in order to protect students against the horrors of a sometimes harsh world. 

“I was living in Chicago at the time, and I became interested in a play that would investigate a question of ‘What if we did arm teachers?’ and ‘What would that look like?’ and ‘What could happen?’ ” Romero said. 

This question is fundamental to the play and her way of taking these real life events and creating something that is artistic and revelatory of her ways of viewing the world and showing what it looks like to her. 

“I think that stories look at the world that we’re in, and they help us ask questions about the world that we’re in and help us negotiate the moment that we’re living in. And I think that this play is very much of this moment,” she said. 

The themes Romero said are in the play are a result of what she has seen. It’s a mix of fear, which feeds a need for control, the clash between ideas and the “need of the state to control things” and “thoughts and ideas overall.”

What Romero said she hopes audience members gain from the play is the urge to create conversation about the reality that the play presents. 

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“I want them to be involved in this story that we are telling together, and I want them to have their own experience and their own reactions,” Romero said. 

She also anticipated that people will attend with “open hearts and receive the play.”

“We can’t tell the audience what to think and feel,” she said.

But Romero said that she also thinks conversation will come out of it, and it excites her.

Romero not only said she sees the theatre as a way for people to learn about the world through the art presented, she believes it’s also a good way for people to heal, especially when the world is in a tumultuous state. 

“You’re always welcome at the theater. No matter who you are, what city you’re in, no matter what country you’re in, even though you might think you need an invitation, you have an invitation. You’re always welcome at the theater,” Romero said. 

According to Romero, accepting the invitation will heal your soul in ways you could never expect. 

The guest director, John Muszynski, who works in Chicago, has collaborated with UA theatre before and said he believes in the importance of the play showing what goes on in the world. 

“It’s extremely timely and it’s very thought-provoking,” he said. “It’s going to make discussion.” 

While some of the events are controversial, Muszynski said that it’s not anti-gun or takes any stances. It shows a perception of the world, ideas and how decisions bring about changes in the environment. 

With all the issues of what’s going on, he said that the play is set “tomorrow,” in the very near future, which gives the viewer insight into what could happen.

“[It shows] the potential of where we could be, if we allow it to happen,” Muszynski said. 

“Mother of Exiles” will run from April 20-22 in the Harold Dixon Directing Studio, Drama Building, Room 116. Show times are at 8 p.m. with a matinee showing on April 23 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7.

For more information about “Mother of Exiles” or to buy tickets, go to

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