An adaptation of Augusta and Noble
Written by Carlos Murillo
Directed by Lisa Portes
For receptive 8-year-olds and up
Runs approximately two hours, including one 15-minute intermission
A Children’s Theatre Company World Premiere Production
Gabi Castillo, a bright, 14-year-old Mexican-American girl living on the South Side of Chicago, is accepted into a very different, elite high school. Through her Global Perspectives class, she learns secrets about her past and her parents, discovers her own inherited strength, and begins to understand what it means to take risks. In today’s world of immigration raids and Dreamers, fear and uncertainty, Gabi inspires a modern-day lesson in bravery, courage, and finding power in what seems like a powerless situation.
Join us following select performances of I Come From Arizona for talkbacks with community leaders!
Saturday, October 20, after the 2pm performance | Panelists: Michele Garnett McKenzie, Deputy Director, The Advocates for Human Rights: Rudolfo Gutierrez, External Consultant to the Executive Director, HACER (Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research); Jose Gonzalez, Executive Director, LatinoLEAD; Senator Patricia Torres Ray (DFL, District 63); John Keller, Esq., Executive Director, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
Sunday, October 21, after the 5pm performance | Speaker: Sarah Brenes, Program Director, Refugee & Immigrant Program, The Advocates for Human Rights
Saturday, October 27, after the 5pm performance | Speaker: Madeline Lohman, Senior Researcher, The Advocates for Human Rights
Caution: This is a complete synopsis of the play, so it is full of spoilers. This script is still in development. Content is subject to change until script is solidified.
Early in the morning on Chicago’s South Side, Gabi Castillo wakes up to find a suitcase waiting by the door and her Papi packing food into a plastic bag. She explains that she is nervous about starting school the next day at Northside Prep, an elite high school across town. Out of the thousands of people who apply to Northside Prep, Gabi was one of the few to be accepted. Gabi is confused about why Papi is packing. Papi confesses to her that he is heading home to Arizona because his father, Gabi’s Abuelo, is sick and needs help. Papi promises that Mami will take Gabi to her first day of school but Gabi knows that will not work. Mami has to walk Jesús, Gabi’s little brother, to school and Mami doesn’t drive. Also, Mami did not want Gabi to go in the first place and hid her acceptance letter. Gabi will have to take the CTA (Chicago public transportation) by herself. Papi makes Gabi promise to be good and look after Mami and Jesús. He encourages Gabi to keep her head up and assures her that she belongs at Northside Prep.
The next morning Gabi wakes up to her Mami yelling that she will be late. Gabi asks Mami why she didn’t tell her that Papi was leaving. She is frustrated that Mami is keeping a secret. Just then, Jesús enters the kitchen and asks what the secret is about. Mami announces that she has a present for Gabi: a cellphone to be used only for emergencies. When they head out for school, Gabi agrees to let Mami walk her to the blue line but no farther. Jesús notices that Gabi packed her stuffed rabbit and pokes fun at her. Mami reminds Gabi to use her whistle if someone is messing with her and if anyone asks where she is from, to tell them she is from Arizona. Gabi promises to pick up Jesús from school and they part ways. The crossing guard greets Gabi. She has known Gabi and her family since Gabi was a baby. She explains that even when Gabi was young, she knew that Gabi was smart and going to make something of herself. She tells Gabi that the whole neighborhood is proud of her. Gabi boards the blue line.
A ragged looking man stands up and asks for money from everyone on the train. While everyone else is ignoring him, Gabi offers a candy bar. The ragged man becomes angry and yells at Gabi about how some American jobs are “taken down there” to Mexico. Gabi runs off of the train. Ricardo, a new classmate of Gabi's, asks about the stuffed rabbit. Gabi lies that her little brother put it in her backpack for good luck. He pulls out a spider man action figure. They realize they are in the same first class. Ricardo pulls out a new iPad to look at a map and is shocked Gabi doesn’t have an iPad also. Ricardo asks if she is Puerto Rican. Gabi is confused and tells him she is not Puerto Rican. Ricardo asks, “what are you?” and Gabi responds that she comes from Arizona. Ricardo keeps pushing and asks if she is Latinx. Gabi clarifies that she is Mexican. Ricardo assures her that he is okay with Mexicans. Ricardo asks if she is “legal.” Gabi assures him that she was born here but that it isn’t any of his business. Ricardo discloses that he is Puerto Rican and Polish.
They find their classroom where they meet Fiona. Fiona calls Ricardo “Richie” even though he asked her not to. It is revealed that Ricardo & Fiona have known each other since Junior Kindergarten. They both attended Parker, a private school. Fiona explains that it is the best private school in Chicago, and asks where Gabi went to school. When Gabi explains that she lives on the South Side, Fiona becomes nervous and explains that gangs and shootings happen on the South Side. Fiona declares that being from the South Side probably helped Gabi get into Northside Prep because the scores are weighted based on your neighborhood. Fiona explains that she was moved out of private school because her parents thought it would be good for her to see “the real world.”
Ms. Chan walks in and asks the group why they should care about global perspectives. Ricardo suggests that global perspectives are important because, with the evolution of the internet, we can now see world events as they are happening. Fiona explains that it is important to learn about global perspectives so that you can protect yourself from people who don't belong. Gabi challenges her by stating it is a good thing to have people from different cultures living together. Fiona argues that you have to be careful that those people are safe. She states that we “can’t just let anyone in” and need to be careful of terrorists, criminals, and people out to steal our jobs. Ricardo tells Fiona that she "sounds like a total Republican" to which Fiona replies "so what if I am?" Ms. Chan breaks the class out into groups to debate whether or not there should be a wall between the United States and Mexico. Gabi, Ricardo, and Fiona are in a group. Gabi challenges Fiona by stating that you can't call people bad just because they come from another place. Gabi confesses that her parents are from Mexico and aren’t terrorists or criminals. Fiona explains that Gabi’s parents may be an exception but that companies are moving jobs to Mexico to pay people less which puts Americans out of work. Then, people come here illegally from Mexico so more Americans lose jobs. Gabi tells the group about her encounter on the train and that it isn’t her fault the man didn’t have a job. Fiona declares that it might not be her fault but some people don't work and take advantage of the system. Fiona explains that she doesn't mind if people "have skills, speak the langage, or fit in." Ricardo calls her comment racist which causes Fiona to become angry and demand an apology. Fiona states that she thinks there should be a wall between the US and Mexico and that if people did not come to America legally they "should get in line like everyone else." Ricardo shares a story he saw on social media about a father who has been in the country for 30 years and was deported. Gabi begins to think about what would happen if her parents were sent back to Mexico.
Ms. Chan calls the class back to their seats and polls the class for who is pro-wall. Ricardo doesn't raise his hand for either pro or against. He explains that his grandfather was born in Poland and fled from the Nazis. If there had been a wall, he might not have been born. His statement inspires the first assignment and Ms. Chan instructs them to research their family history. Fiona, Gabi, and Ricardo are in a group to do the family history project together.
Gabi stays after class to talk to Ms. Chan. She explains to Ms. Chan that she doesn’t have anyone to interview; her Papi is in Mexico and Mami won’t want to talk about it. Ms. Chan encourages her to try talking to her mother. Gabi and Ricardo head to their next class. Ricardo asks if Gabi has ever been to Mexico. Gabi is not happy about this question and asks if he has ever been to Poland or Puerto Rico. Ricardo explains that every summer he either goes to Poland with his dad or Puerto Rico with his mom. Ricardo’s parents are divorced. Fiona shares that she wishes her parents would get a divorce since they fight all the time. She blames it on the fact that her dad voted for Trump and her mom "would've voted for Bernie but got stuck with Hillary." They all exchange phone numbers. When Gabi pulls out her flip phone, Fiona pokes fun at the fact that it is so old. Fiona invites both Ricardo and Gabi over to her house the next day to work on the project.
Late that evening, Gabi sits at the kitchen table buried in homework. Jesús comes into the kitchen and asks when Mami is coming home. Mami had to pick up extra shifts while Papi is gone. Jesús asks if every day will be like this and expresses frustration that it took so long for Gabi to pick him up from school. Gabi promises that he will never again have to be the last kid picked up from school. Jesús asks about Papi but Gabi ignores the question and offers to tell him a bedtime story. The two become scared when the apartment buzzer sounds. Jesús tells her not to answer it but she rings down to ask who it is. She can hear nothing but the sounds of the street outside the door. Jesús asks her to finish the story but Gabi yells at him to go to bed. Jesús states that she is the meanest sister ever.
The next morning, Gabi tells Mami about someone ringing the buzzer. Mami is angry that she called down and reminds her to never answer the door. Gabi asks Mami why she and Papi came to Chicago. Gabi tells Mami it is for a school project but Mami becomes afraid. Gabi tries to continue the conversation but Mami changes the subject. Gabi asks if Mami will have time tonight to answer the questions but Mami has to work again. Gabi becomes angry and yells that Mami is trying to make her fail out of Northside. Mami agrees to answer one question: why did they come to America? Gabi learns that Mami and Papi came to America because Mami was pregnant with Gabi and they wanted a better life for her. Jesús asks again where Papi is. Mami tells Jesús that Papi is in California visiting a cousin. Gabi is still angry and pushes Mami about why she is lying. Gabi’s phone rings; it is Fiona reminding Gabi that they are going to her house after school to work on the project. Gabi tries to explain that she has to pick up her brother from school but Fiona won’t hear it.
Fiona’s house is much different than Gabi’s house; Fiona clearly comes from money. Fiona admits that she hasn’t been able to talk to her mom or dad because they are on a business trip, but she did read their Wikipedia pages. According to Wikipedia, Fiona’s family has been in American since the 1800's. Her dad’s family emigrated from Germany and her mom’s family emigrated from Ireland. Ricardo hasn’t spoken to his dad because he is living at his mom’s house right now. Fiona suggests that they talk to Ricardo’s mother for the project since she emigrated from Puerto Rico. Ricardo explains that Puerto Rico is part of America so she can’t emigrate from Puerto Rico. Fiona asks how Gabi’s research is going and Gabi has to admit that she doesn’t have much because her mom was busy working. Fiona introduces everyone to her housekeeper, Yadira. Suddenly, Gabi remembers that she is supposed to pick up her brother from school.
Jesús is clearly upset that Gabi left him at school; she was so late that the school almost called the police. Gabi tries to comfort him but Jesús pulls away angrily and expresses his frustration that everyone is lying to him. Jesús tells Gabi about his friend Arturo who's father was taken by "the ice cream truck," confusing Ice Cream with ICE, and begins to worry that ICE will take away Mami and Papi. Jesús begins to cry and Gabi comforts him. The buzzer goes off again. Gabi goes to the receiver and pushes the button but only listens. Gabi promises that everything will be okay but Jesús doesn't believe her because she promised that she would pick him up from school but forgot.
Gabi arrives at school and finds out that Ricardo and Fiona finished the project over the weekend without her. Fiona is clearly upset that Gabi did not pull her weight in the assignment and volunteers them to present even though she knows Gabi is not ready. While Fiona showcases her beautiful family tree built on her iPad, Gabi begins to feel anxious about the assignment when the world shifts and we start to experience Gabi's waking nightmare. The stage is converted to Gabi's distorted nightmare with strobe lights, underlying ice cream truck music and flashbacks of conversations overlapping each other. As the chaos crescendos, we return back to the classroom where Fiona is finishing her presentation. Gabi begins to try to tell her story but starts to cry and flees the classroom.
Ms. Chan comforts Gabi in the hallway and offers to give her an extension on her assignment but Gabi explains that it wouldn’t make a difference. Papi is in Mexico and Mami is always working and won’t answer her questions. Gabi worries she does not belong at Northside Prep. Ms. Chan asks Gabi where she is from but Gabi refuses to answer. Ms. Chan encourages her to try to talk to Mami again.
Gabi confronts Fiona for forcing them to present when she wasn’t ready. Fiona expresses that she wishes she was back at Parker. Gabi explains to Fiona that she feels the way Fiona's Irish and German ancestors felt hundreds of years ago which renders Fiona speechless. Ricardo invites Gabi to his house after school but she declines because she has too much to do. Ricardo offers to come over to her house to help. Gabi does not take the offer and vows to do everything by herself. Fiona apologizes for not being sympathetic about the assignment and admits that it is hard for her to imagine that not everyone lives like her.
Gabi leaves school and is traveling home when the crossing guard stops her to ask why she isn't in school. Gabi explains that she doesn't belong at Northside. Gabi asks the crossing guard where her parents came from. The crossing guard explains that her parents came to Chicago when Gabi was just a baby and barely spoke English. Gabi asks if her parents came here illegally but the crossing guard doesn't know. Gabi asks, "Am I illegal?" and the crossing guard holds her close and says, "you're a human being, human beings can't be illegal, they might not be documented, but you can't be illegal." The crossing guard encourages her to ask her mother these questions.
Late that night, Gabi is working on homework at the kitchen table when the phone rings. It is Papi. Papi tells Gabi that her Abuelo passed away. Gabi asks Papi if he really is in Arizona and he admits that he is in Mexico. Papí assures her that he wasn't sent back by ICE and that he will be home soon. Papi asks Gabi to pass along the message to Mami that he is on his way home and promises to call again when he can. Gabi lays her head on the table and begins to sleep. We are transported to her nightmare. We hear the distorted apartment buzzer and an ICE agent bursts through the door wielding a giant popsicle. He demands to know where her mother and father are. Gabi is cowering under the kitchen table. Just then, Mami enters looking exhausted after a full day of work. Gabi tells Mami what she learned from Papi. Gabi stirs up the courage to ask Mami what she dreamed about when she was a kid. Mami is reluctant to answer but Gabi keeps probing. Gabi becomes hysterical while explaining what she has been through today. Mami tells her not to worry which makes Gabi angrier. Gabi expresses that Mami has, "no idea what it's like to be humiliated." Mami becomes angry and explains that she is humiliated to be cleaning other people's houses and take care of other people's kids and have them not even look at you. Mami starts to leave when Gabi asks if they are undocumented. Gabi explains that she knows she won't be able to go to college or get scholarships if she is undocumented. She asks what the point of her hard work is if she is only going to end up cleaning skyscrapers and babysitting like her mother. Gabi accuses Mami of ruining everything. A line has been crossed and Mami admits that she and Papi are undocumented. Gabi tries to storm away angrily but Mami demands she sit and listen to the whole story. Mami explains that she married Papi and became pregnant with Gabi. The town where they lived was dangerous and there were many fights between gangs. She explained that Papi's cousin was shot and killed by one of those gangs. They decided to leave Mexico to ensure a better life for Gabi but didn't have much money so they borrowed from Gabi's Abuelo. Mami explains how they had to wait in the desert for the coyote who would get them to America. But, the coyote took their money and they had to walk across the desert. Mami went into labor and a man they met helped get her to safety in Arizona. Gabi apologizes for her anger and begins to cry. Gabi had no idea that Mami went through so much in order to get to America and worries that they will be forced to return to Mexico. Gabi realizes that Papi will have to make the same trek to get back to them.
The next day, Gabi is woken up by Jesús, who made her a bowl of cereal. Gabi explains that she is not going back to Northside and Jesús worries that she will not go back to school because of something he did. He admits that he heard Gabi and Mami's conversation last night. Gabi admits that she is scared and tells him she doesn't belong at Northside. Jesús tells Gabi that if she doesn't belong at Northside, how will he ever belong? He tells her that Mami almost died to get to America and didn't do that for her to give up. Jesús changes her mind and Gabi goes to Northside. Before she goes, she gives him the stuffed rabbit.
Back at Northside, students start to worry that Gabi isn't coming back. Gabi walks into the classroom and volunteers to present what she learned about her history. She explains to the class that she travels all the way across the city every morning for her education and her parents traveled all the way across the desert to make a better life for her and her brother.
Later that evening, Gabi and Ricardo watch Jesús play soccer at a nearby park. Ricardo compliments her presentation and admits that he learned a lot. Gabi tells him about Papi and that she is scared he will not be able to come home. Gabi invites Ricardo over for dinner and they make plans for Gabi to join Ricardo for dinner. Gabi ensures that she is inviting him over to her house just as a friend. Ricardo admits that he isn’t into girls so it won’t be a problem. Just then Ricardo’s phone rings. It is Fiona hoping to join them for dinner as well. In the distance, we see Papi making his way home.