Anywhere But Here: a tale of plural identities and displacement

Explore the external representation of the inner turmoil of exile when Electric Company Theatre brings Anywhere But Here to the Vancouver Playhouse Feb. 4–8 and 11–15.

Raised in exile following her parents’ revolutionary efforts against the 1973 Chilean coup, writer Carmen Aguirre says Anywhere But Here was inspired by a series of dreams she had while attending theatre school in Vancouver.

“There’s not many things about this play that are your usual, you know, immigrant story… it’s not about people arriving,” says Aguirre, “it’s about people leaving Canada. We see people refuting, refusing their state of exile.”

Conflicting identities

Christine Quintana plays Laura in Anywhere But Here. | Photo by Matt Reznek

For Aguirre, reconciling her status as a Vancouver theatre hopeful returning to Canada from her own revolutionary efforts in South America was no easy task.

“Within my very early 20s, when I started theatre school right here at Studio 58 in Vancouver, I had just returned from having spent almost all of my youth in Bolivia, Argentina and Chile where I was involved in the underground resistance movement against the Pinochet dictatorship,” explains Aguirre. “So I was back here going to theatre school and my psyche was really confronting this culture clash and my own sense of identity.”

Anywhere But Here is set six years after being exiled from their home country due to revolutionary ties, and a Chilean father and his two daughters look to refute their exiled status.

Left behind is their mother, Laura, played by Christine Quintana, who hopes to follow her family there, all the while grappling with her conflicting identities.

Such is the central conflict of Anywhere But Here: reconciling and making sense of conflicting identities, of displacement and placelessness. For Quintana’s character, Laura, her fighting spirit carries her along as she follows her family to the U.S.-Mexico border, all while grappling with her own past and present self.

“She is prepared to take on this tremendous risk to herself, taking up arms on the day of the coup in Chile. But then, in Canada, she’s kind of fallen in with radical feminists, and she’s exploring the role of patriarchy as she sees it in her own life,” says Quintana. “There’s sort of this inherent conflict between those two views, that is the South versus the North, and she’s trying to hold all of that in her, while being a mother, a revolutionary, an academic, a poet, and a wife.”

A diversity of experience

Carmen Aguirre was raised in exile following her parents’ revolutionary efforts against the 1973 Chilean coup | Photo courtesy of Carmen Aguirre

These are the kinds of conflicts with which Aguirre is intimately familiar. While Laura and her family may reach answers of their own, for Aguirre her own revolutionary spirit plays out perhaps most prominently in her work as a bold, political, yet entertaining public storyteller.

“I remained on this path because I have tried to put my skills as a storyteller to the service of my community: the Latinx community in Canada, the refugee community, the Chilean community in exile,” she says. “Theatre takes place in public space, and the point of view that I bring to the theatre is not very common. So I’m using public space to tell stories from a point of view that’s rarely seen in public space in Canada, so that’s what has kept me involved in it.”

But beyond her own voice, Anywhere But Here uplifts the voices of its cast and crew as well, a creative decision which reflects the diversity to be found in the Latinx experience. Indeed, with the play drawing on a variety of Latinx, Chicano, and Mexican-American talent, the ‘magic realist’ nature of the story reflects the diversity of histories and experiences which went into making this story a reality.

“We form a collage of experiences that are all different versions of the same story. Anywhere But Here takes place in a space that is not limited by time or dimension when you have characters from 200 years away talk to each other about what’s going on right now,” says Quintana. “And then to take all our different experiences and world views in different countries, moving to Canada at different times and having all of those eyes on it makes for a rich collage of work”.

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