In the Moment: Jane Franklin on ‘The Migration Project’ Opening Tomorrow Night at Theatre on the Run

With an interest in the stories of refugees and other wandering souls, which I presumed is based upon my own family fables of wanderings to and in America, along with my work as Director, US Office of Refugee Resettlement, I noticed with interest the upcoming The Migration Project from the Jane Franklin Dance Company, a well-known, long-time creative fixture in the DC area.

 Matthew Rock and Amy Scaringe at Theatre on the Run. Photo courtesy of Jane Franklin Dance.
Matthew Rock and Amy Scaringe at Theatre on the Run. Photo courtesy of Jane Franklin Dance Company.

The Migration Project is an immersive movement, multi-media event with live music developed by the Jane Franklin Dance Company in collaboration with other artists. It will be performed at Arlington’s Theatre on the Run.

Wanting to learn more about The Migration Project (and thinking that the upcoming election results could well have a huge impact on American policies and reactions to refugees and immigrants), it was an honor to chat with Jane Franklin who took time to speak about The Migration Project just before it opens.

David: What was the genesis of The Migration Project?

Jane Franklin. Photo by Enoch Chan.
Jane Franklin. Photo by Enoch Chan.

Jane: Ever present in world news, and discussed from multiple angles and perspectives, the theme of immigration quite suddenly pushed its way forward as the core of a performance piece we developed last year, Wash Over You. In Wash Over You, movement, text and video advances three travelers along. The journey starts and mostly takes place on a boat, where the travelers drift with stream-of-consciousness discussions, while looking for the next place to stop. All in all, Wash Over You is a fictitious tale but inspired by current immigration issues. The travelers are hindered, can’t get through passport control, or find other challenges along the way.

The movement of people, as a group, culturally has just gone on for as long as there have been people. Animals, bird,s and insects have patterns of migration, and it is such a natural thing, this restlessness to find better opportunities, or to leave behind a life because there is no choice.

Why is it important for to bring The Migration Project to life?

This project is a perfect for Arlington because of its diversity. It is an easy fit to stay with what you know. It is a way to miss out too. My children went to public schools, and I was grateful for the parade of kids who came through our house whose families came from many other countries – Ethiopia, Japan, China, Somalia, Iran,and others. Arlington is richly diverse, and with The Migration Project we touch only the smallest fragment. The Migration Project makes perfect sense for this community because Arlington is not ethnically isolated. There is daily interaction with people from other cultures, and we share space and resources.

In talking with Arlington citizens or area residents, the backgrounds of the 15 interview participants varied from ‘Generation 0’ to those who had family lineage dating back to Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln. Three people spoke passionately about achieving The American Dream in just one generation. Several mentioned coming to the U.S. not speaking the language, of a parent being illiterate but able to put kids through college, eventually owning a business, or being able to support other relatives.

Please tell me more about the interviews?

The 15 people interviewed came forward as volunteers. We sought out anyone who wanted to tell their story. I invited one of the older adults from my movement class at Walter Reed Senior Center to do an audio recording, which she did primarily in Spanish. Coming here from Nicaragua, she said “all of the immigrants have a very sad history to come here. In my country the government is not good. I don’t want to remember. It’s a very sad time for me.” Another woman who grew up in Communist Poland said, “when I came here people on the streets were saying hello to me….I don’t know them, why are they saying hello to me?”

Recalling coming here as a child, a woman from Greece recalled, “looking down on the river of lights, something I had never experienced, and I couldn’t believe those were actually cars.”

Tell me about the music that will accompany the performance.

For five performances we are joined by musicians Patrick McAvinue, bluegrass fiddle or Luke Chohany, guitar and mandolin. Other music is by local composers Mark Sylvester, a frequent collaborator, David Schulman, a recent collaborator whose music was used extensively in Wash Over You, and Haskell Small, whose music I’m using for the very first time.

What can audiences expect at a performance? As I understand it will be about 75 minutes in length, with perhaps 15 segments of varying length.

There are four sections but the performance runs without intermission. New to this performance is encouraging audience members to view the performances from different vantage points. We’ve removed the seating from the center of the risers, and placed some artwork on the risers. We hope to get the audience to move from one side to the other when there is a music break. It’s just a way to participate in being there, a bit different than the traditional proscenium approach. We want to break that barrier between audience and performer, because after all we are just people too. Just like the audience. Also, a few of the performances end with a walk down to New District Brewing Company which is about two doors down the street for refreshments, beer included with price of admission.

There is a large-scale black & white poster-like visual on The Theatre on the Run walls and floor, please tell me more about it.

Rosemary Feit Covey (Artist).
Rosemary Feit Covey (Artist).

The artist is Rosemary Feit Covey, a resident artist at Torpedo Factory Art Center. The art was originally shown as The 0 Project, a large-scale sculptural piece meant to give voice to the underrepresented and traditionally ignored. Printed on Dupont Tyvek banner media, it is installed at Theatre on the Run wrapping the interior from floor to ceiling.

Our video artist, Dawn Whitmore, is a resident artist at Arlington Arts Center. She has provided some video that incorporates her hand drawings, fragments of immigration documents, and the voices of four men who share their experience of The American Dream.

All of the artwork is representative of the many voices that participate in making our country what it is today.

What would you like audiences to come away with after seeing the show

I would like the audience to come away with a satisfying experience, perhaps an appreciation for the stories, of the things we share. That is our common ground, and not what should be separating us.


The Migration Project: live performance art installation performs from November 4-19, 2016 at Theatre on the Run- 3700 South Four Mile Run Drive, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call (703) 933-1111, or purchase them online.

Jane Franklin Dance Opens ‘The Migration Project: live performance art installation’ on Friday, November 4th.


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