Joe J. Garcia, Cynthia Marty, Monica Louwerens, Christopher Guilmet
The Stars - Opening
Take the Comforting Hand
Calvary Baptist Church Choir
Hamilton, a small rural farming community in central Texas
1909 - 1942
A NOTE FROM THE BOOKWRITER
This is the story of my grandparents, young Russian Jews fleeing the pogroms of eastern Europe, in 1909.
Matleh & Haskell Harelik in 1919. Matleh's name has been changed to Lean in The Immigrant, which is based on their experiences.
Having come to America's southern shores on the wave of the Galveston Plan, my grandparents Harelik (originally pronounced Gorehlik) settled in a small town in central Texas where full religious observance was difficult. Through the years, they raised three sons and entered the American community. All outward signs of the shtetl life they left behind were gone.
For the family, however, the experiences of my grandparents'
past lives were daily stories that were passed around the dinner table.
And for me, the hero of this quotidian legend was my grandfather
Haskell. I could almost picture him -- the young Jew forced to carry
his life in his pocket -his religion, his aspirations, his search for
safety and stability, and (strangely the most vivid image of all) me. I
could picture myself in his pocket. He was bringing my life to this
place -- this great open space, this unimaginable future that I live in
"Your store -- Look, see that sign up there? Haskell Harelik
-- it's your name." "My name? My name...?" He had forgotten his name.
He had forgotten his journey, his life, his story. Lost. Now I reach
into my own pocket, and there he is -- my great American hero, who
traveled so far to live a simple life, raise a family, plant the seeds
of my future. We bear these seeds from the faded pockets of our fathers
and mothers. We are them, in an unseeable, ungraspable way. And by our
single, potent glance back, their invisible lives are made worthy and
meaningful and immortal. And in the end, when even memory is gone, that
which remains lives only in the telling. I must tell you this story,
for it's all that remains of a good man's life, and all that's immortal
A NOTE FROM THE
I am sitting in the rehearsal room of The Colony Theatre
listening to my talented cast rehearse their songs for The Immigrant.
On a break our conversation turns to our own families. Musical
director, Dean Mora, talks about his Mexican great-great uncle who was
the Archbishop of Los Angeles in 1890. Chris Guilmet, who plays the
title character, shares that his family is from France, through Quebec,
to Maine! Joe Garcia’s family is also from Mexico, Cindy Marty’s are
from Switzerland and Germany, Monica Louwerens’ are from The
Netherlands. Lyricist Sarah Knapp’s Scottish-English ancestors weren't
quite on the Mayflower, but they were on one of the next ones over! Our
wonderful stage manager Leesa Freed’s ‘people’, like mine, playwright
Mark Harelik’s, and composer Steven Alper’s are mostly Russian Jews.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me;
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus, is held snugly in the arms of The Mother of Exiles, or Lady Liberty as we call her now. But how many of us really think about the words that she carries or the feelings she inspired in some of our families when they spotted her for the first time on their way to Ellis Island?
Hope Alexander's father, Leon (left), and his brother, Simon, in the early 1900s before they immigrated to this country
“The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless
tempest-tost to me...” What must The Mother of Exiles think of our
‘golden door’ now?
Why Did Russian Jews Immigrate to Texas?
“How many years have the Jews been wandering? Who says we can’t wander to Texas and rest for a while?” -- Haskell in The Immigrant By the end of the 19th century, life was becoming unendurable for Jews in Russia. Their rights were being trampled, and the future showed no signs of life improving. To preserve their way of life, if not their very existence, many Russian Jews fled their country and found their way to Ellis Island. Eventually, massive crowd-ing of urban areas led to disease, hunger, and crime in the northeastern U.S. cities. Wealthy Jews in the north-east feared a potential wave of anti-Semitism, which could have lead to immigration restrictions. Jacob Schiff, a philanthropist and financier, worked with the Jewish Immigrants’ Information Bureau (JIIB) to route incoming Russian Jews to a port in the south, where the burgeoning popula-tion could then be dispersed to other parts of the country. Galveston, Texas, was selected as the port because its small size was likely to discourage immigrants from settling there. Galveston was also a passenger port for Lloyds Shipping Company, which served the German port of Bremen, the location that most Russian Jews used to flee the country. The Galveston Movement began when the first immigrants arrived in July 1907. Ultimately, 10,000 immigrants made their way into the United States through Galveston. The Immigrant is the true story of one of those families who came to this country in pursuit of a better life. Galveston, Texas
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