IMPRESSIONS: Ping Chong and Company's "Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ" at The New Victory Theater

IMPRESSIONS: Ping Chong and Company's "Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ" at The New Victory Theater
Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram

By Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram
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Published on January 29, 2018
Photo: The New Victory Theater

January 13, 2018, 2pm

Choreographer: Ping Chong in collaboration with cast

Writer/directors: Sara Zatz and Kirya Traber in collaboration with the cast

Projection design; Katherine Freer 

Dancers: Edwin Aguila, Monica Victoria Tatacoya Castañeda, Syl (Andrea) Egerton, Mohammad Murtaza, De-Andra Pryce, Porscha Polkahantis Rippy and Rafael Rosario

What production could be more appropriate for this past week than Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ, as we stagger around in response to the racist remarks from the U.S. President and the fight over DACA? In this disarmingly direct performance, seven marginalized youth from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Pakistan, France, and Colombia make their theatrical debut by recounting their experience growing up in New York City. The accumulation of their hardships, presented in matter of fact tones in chronological order, makes each short monologue increasingly more painful. As someone who never forgot Ping Chong’s Humboldt’s Current presented in 1977, I was reduced to tears by the close of this production as each performer gradually connects to their inner self.
Some lines that linger:
“Every student knows the 3 Ds - Duck, dodge, and dip.”
“My father switched from Kurdu to speak with me in English, because you can’t talk about depression in Kurdu.”
“We moved AGAIN!”
“I couldn’t tell her.”
“What advice would you give to younger self?”
Students sit in chairs reading from the Undesirable element scripts in front of them that are placed on music stands. A magenta colored projection of a city skyline is displayed behind them.
Ping Chong and Company's Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ; Photo: Alexis Buatti-Ramos, courtesy of The New Victory Theater
These young New Yorkers speak their own words, seating in front of the audience; they never look at each other other than to clap, once or three times, and make a gesture in unison. They change seats by circling the room only twice. Katherine Freer’s inspired production design with grafitti- inspired graphics mark the passing of each year with tremendous style and energy.
Over the last 25 years in New York City Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ has been performed fifty times, with different casts and scripts but the same structure and timing. The approach is simple, the effect is powerful. For these seven, age 18-22, who endured bullying, domestic violence, gender identity confusion, parental oblivion, and homelessness, this is an opportunity to tell their story quietly and honestly. Their childhoods tested their resources and their statements make us root for their future. 

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