Theater

Republic of Georgia playwright weaves an affecting immigrant's story

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 10/16/19

Although Metta Theatre in El Prado might be considered a rather compact venue for a play that made a splash in Santa Fe last spring, Ketevan Ussery's "Hidden Treasure: A Georgian …

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Theater

Republic of Georgia playwright weaves an affecting immigrant's story

Posted

Although Metta Theatre in El Prado might be considered a rather compact venue for a play that made a splash in Santa Fe last spring, Ketevan Ussery's "Hidden Treasure: A Georgian Immigrant's Story' is sure to be met with enthusiastic applause when it plays here Friday through Sunday (Oct. 18-20).

"New Mexico surprises me so often, the amazing people here, and [I] recently met Ketevan Ussery, artistic director of a 500-seat repertory theater in Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia, who emigrated illegally to the United States in 2000," Bruce McIntosh, Metta Theatre's director said in an email announcing the production.

He said he got to talking with Ussery and ended up taking "a run up to Tierra Amarilla one Sunday afternoon to a theater club to see her one-woman show a few months back, which I thought so impressive." He described the show as trilingual -- Georgian, Russian and English -- with "powerful writing, skillful acting on a bare bones set, high physical energy and movement, resonant trained stage voice -- humor, intelligence, power."

Based on Ussery's remarkable journey immigrating to the United States, ultimately reaching New Mexico from her home in the Republic of Georgia, "Hidden Treasure" is described in press materials as "a magical kaleidoscope of storytelling and transformation immersing audiences in Ussery's intimate, affecting and sometimes dangerous world and introducing eight other unforgettable characters along the way. 'Hidden Treasure: a Georgian Immigrant's Story' promises a rich, surprising and life-affirming odyssey where connection and meaning can be found in the most unexpected places."

Ussery's odyssey began 10 years after the dissolution of Soviet Russia, at a time when conditions were grim. There were sporadic electricity, food shortages and lack of security. Ussery applied at the U.S. Consulate for a visa to travel to the U.S. Her application denied, she sold her possessions and made her way illegally, through Europe to Juarez, Mexico, where she was smuggled by coyotes and landed in detention in El Paso, Texas.

Her play briefly traces the journey to her first job in America, as an undocumented woman immigrant. Responding to a newspaper classified ad, she is hired as a clerk in an upscale Santa Fe jewelry store. It is here the story lands, settling into a detailed account of her at times heartbreaking, at times humorous, initiation into life in America. The play promises a complicated journey where connection and meaning can be found in the most unexpected places.

The play's Santa Fe premiere sold out houses over two weekends in March at Teatro Paraguas, presented by Ironweed Productions, and directed by founder Scott Harrison.

And, if you were wondering about Ussery's immigration status, there's this from Ussery: "John [her American husband] fought a seemingly endless series of immigration applications, denials, waivers requests, more denials and more appeals, that included my having to self-deport to Georgia for four and a half years, with no certainty of my ever being allowed to return to America. Nearly 15 years after I first came to America, I finally became an American citizen."

Curtain times are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a Sunday matinee at 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door. Metta Theatre is located at 1470 Paseo del Pueblo Norte in El Prado. For reservations and additional information, contact mettahondo@gmail.com or (575) 303-0774.

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