An adaptation of Augusta and Noble
Written by Carlos Murillo
Directed by Lisa Portes
For receptive 8-year-olds and up
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.
CTC’s I Come from Arizona is a non-musical production performed by a small group of adult and student actors. This production is a world premiere – meaning that this is the first time it’s ever been performed in the entire world. The show was commissioned, developed, and originally produced through our new play development lab here at Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN. This play is bi-lingual and performed with a mix of Spanish & English. It centers on the experience of an undocumented family from Mexico and features characters from two contrasting perspectives on immigration.
This production takes place on our Cargill Stage and seats up to 298 people per performance.
Approximate run time: 2 hours including intermission.
Run time and other details are subject to change during rehearsal process.
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 he is packing. Papi confesses to her that he is heading home to Mexico 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. Gabi will have to take the CTA (Chicago public transportation) by herself. Out of the thousands of people who apply to Northside Prep, Gabi was one of the few to be accepted. Papi makes Gabi promise to be good and look after Mami & Jesús. Gabi worries that Papi will not be allowed back into the country when he is ready to come home. She has heard stories about people wanting to build walls between Mexico & America. Papi assures her that he will find a way back. He encourages Gabi to keep her head up and assures her that she belongs at Northside Prep. Papi leaves for Mexico.
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 secrets and in her anger yells that if Papi doesn’t come back, it will be all Mami’s fault. 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. When Gabi arrives at school, she is in awe of the magnitude of it. She worries she will not be good enough. She has a flashback to 6th grade when her teacher encourages her to try for one of the selective enrollment schools. Ricardo, a classmate, 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 1st class. Ricardo pulls out a new iPad to look at a map and is shocked Gabi doesn’t have one. 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 & Polish.
They find the 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. Fiona 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 points out that Gabi has an accent and asks where she is from. Gabi again explains that she is from Arizona but Fiona doesn’t believe her. 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 they begin learning about global perspectives. Fiona explains that it is important to learn about global perspectives so that you can protect yourself and learn how to deal with people coming into your country. 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. According to Fiona, people need to have skills, know how to speak English and adapt to the American way of life if they want to be welcome here. 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. Ricardo makes a joke that Fiona wants to “make America great again.” Gabi tells the class 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 it is the fault of her parents. Ms. Chan halts the conversation by pointing out that Fiona’s shoes traveled all over the world through trade routes to make it on her feet. The same can be said for many people and many of the things we use day to day. Ms. Chan explains that though she looks African-American, she is actually Chinese, Cuban and African. Her husband is from Germany so their baby will be Chinese, Cuban, African & German but most of all American. Fiona asks if that will be confusing for the baby. Ms. Chan explains that she might be confused but the world is confusing.
Ms. Chan assigns the class an assignment to study their family history. The class begins to brainstorm why people might risk their lives to move to America. Gabi suggests that people do it for a better life. Ricardo shares that his grandfather moved to America to escape Nazi Germany. Fiona interjects that escaping Nazis is different than moving to America to steal jobs. Gabi explains that many of them move to America and end up with the jobs that no one else will take. Fiona declares that they should learn English if they want to belong. Ms. Chan encourages the students to debate but debate respectfully. Fiona, Gabi & Ricardo are partnered 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 & 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. 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 & 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 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 next morning, Gabi asks Mami why she and Papi came to America. Gabi tells Mami it is for a school project and she had told the class that they came from Mexico. Mami becomes angry and 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 & 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 1848. 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. Gabi 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. Gabi decides to tell Jesús the truth about Papi. Jesús begins to worry that ICE will take away Mami and Papi and leave them all alone.
Gabi arrives at school and finds out that Ricardo & 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. 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 assures her that she belongs here just like Fiona and Ricardo and that what matters is what’s in your head. Ms. Chan asks Gabi if she was born here or in Mexico but Gabi doesn’t know. Gabi suspects that her parents do not have papers and aren’t supposed to be in the United States. Gabi begins to get nervous that she will get in trouble for telling but Ms. Chan assures her that she is safe. Ms. Chan explains that there is a difference between not having papers and not belonging. Her parents belong in the United States to take care of Gabi and her brother. Ms. Chan encourages her to try to talk to Mami again. Gabi confronts Fiona for forcing Gabi to present when she wasn’t ready. 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.
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. 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. 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 admits that she did not dream of moving to the United States and wanted to stay close by her family. But where they lived in Mexico was dangerous and Mami was pregnant with Gabi. They decided to leave Mexico to ensure a better life for Gabi and her brother. Gabi asks if she wants to go back to Mexico but Mami does not. Their life is in America now and Mami now dreams of opportunities for her kids instead of herself. Gabi asks if they don’t go back to Mexico because they don’t have papers. Mami describes how they traveled through the desert to get from Mexico to Arizona. 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, Ricardo & Fiona check in with Gabi to make sure she is okay. When class starts, Gabi is excited 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 talk about the difficulties of having your feet in two different worlds that are moving apart. 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.
Content Advisories (subject to change as the production goes into rehearsal):
Language: 3 out of 5 stars
Gabi experiences hurtful micro-aggressions around immigration, citizenship and race. Gabi calls her brother a dummy. Ricardo compliments Gabi by saying her presentation was “badass.”
Themes and Situations: 4 out of 5 stars
Gabi’s Mother & Father are undocumented immigrants. Gabi’s father goes back to Mexico and they worry he won’t be able to come back to America. Ricardo asks if Gabi is “legal.” We see Gabi experience hurtful micro-aggressions. Mami describes in detail how they got from Mexico to Arizona. Fiona has negative views on immigration and voices them often. Gabi & Jesús feel anxious that their parents will be taken by ICE. Gabi, a freshman, has some parental responsibilities to take care of her brother Jesús while Mami is working late.
Violence & Scariness: 2 out of 5 stars
A man yells at Gabi on the train.
Sensory Advisories: TBD
Play may contain loud sounds and bright lights. We will update this section after we have started rehearsals and understand the technical elements.
Potentially Anxious Moments: 3 out of 5 stars
Gabi experiences hurtful micro-aggressions around immigration, citizenship and race.