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Voices of life shared through immigrants’ stories
Storytelling event featured at Thunder River Theatre on Saturday
Storyteller
Photo by Klaus Kocher Storyteller Hazzell Chevez is pictured in May 2019.

The story might be suspenseful and include tense moments at a border crossing. Or it could involve family dynamics, culture and the storyteller’s relationship with her mother and sister, which was beautifully done during last year’s “Immigrant Voices,” a live performance that describes an immigration experience, its successes, challenges and possible solutions.

For 2019, “Immigrant Voices: A Live Storytelling Event,” presented by English in Action, will be performed at the Thunder River Theatre in Carbondale on Nov. 9. Six storytellers are featured, three of whom are drawn from English In Action’s student population. Three members hail from the community at large. 

Five different countries, Rwanda, El Salvador, Colombia, Germany and Mexico are represented by the storytellers, who include: Patrick Bizimana, Miguel Carballo, Ana Quiceno, Tobias Rimkus, Susana Salamun and Beatriz Soto.

“Immigrant Voices” is curated by Alya Howe in collaboration with Writ Large and Thunder River Theatre Company.

“It’s giving our students an opportunity to grow as learners as well as in their own confidence in English-language development,” according to English in Action’s Rachel Schmidt.

Tickets are $10, doors open at 6 p.m. and the performance begins at 7 p.m.

Voices
Photo by Klaus Kocher Writ Large’s Alya Howe applauds English In Action storytellers after “Immigrant Voices” was performed at the Aspen Chapel in May 2019.
The El Jebel-based English in Action, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, served 400 students last year in three programs and with the help of 300 volunteer tutors.

‘Every story is unique’

The storytellers who will share their pieces on Saturday have met weekly since taking a workshop in September where they learned how to craft a story properly, said Schmidt. 

She said subsequent sessions have included “practicing in the safe environment of a workshop.” The dress rehearsal for “Immigrant Voices” was held on Monday and the performance could run about 90 minutes in total.

“Every story is unique. They’re not all necessarily about the immigration process, per se,” Schmidt said. “They’re just tales of love, loss, challenges, how people overcome challenges and what they’ve learned.

“You can expect laughter, tears, jaws agape ...something that can surprise you,” she added.

The silver anniversary year of English in Action has been big on both the development and programming sides. In August, the primary fundraiser at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen featured former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, an immigrant herself, and David Sanger, a correspondent with The New York Times. Within their conversation was reiterated the importance of revamping U.S. immigration laws and the need to come up with a comprehensive plan.

Last month, Fiesta de Tamales, a fundraiser which also helps to support English in Action’s programming, drew a large crowd of students, tutors and community members to Basalt High School.

Voices
Photo by Sarah Kelly Patrick Bizimana crafts his tale with English In Action board member Patrick Curry and fellow student Beatriz Ferrufino, in anticipation of this year’s “Immigrant Voices” which takes the stage Saturday in Carbondale.
The most popular of English in Action's programs is the one-on-one individualized tutoring  that pairs a student with a volunteer tutor. The pairing process, which Schmidt describes as “very deliberate,” involves a six-month commitment of one hour per week. Pairs meet in a convenient location between Carbondale and Aspen. The fee is nominal, $25, and is charged to encourage “a little more buy-in from the students,” she said.

English in Action has since 2015 offered small group tutoring where between three and eight students meet weekly for 90-minute sessions in semesters that span eight weeks. The small group tutoring runs $20.

EIC’s third program, which is called “Open Hours,” is offered Thursday evenings and is tailored to more advanced students “as a way to facilitate more casual conversation,” according to Schmidt. There is no charge for these sessions.

English in Action’s office is located near the roundabout, at 33 Gillespie Dr. in El Jebel. For more, go to englishinaction.org/events or call 970-963-9200.