Helen Thorpe and DCPA John Moore at the Tattered Cover Bookstore, Lodo, September 2013.
I had the good fortune of being at the Tattered Cover bookstore in September for The John Moore Theater Talk. He had invited Helen Thorpe, author of the book, Just Like Us, and Karen Zacarias who turned the book into the play, Just Like Us, that is playing at the Stage Theatre at the DCPA as I write.
Thorpe is an accomplished writer (and still the wife of Governor John Hickenlooper). Her endearing journalistic journey took her down a long and interesting road. She spent years documenting the lives of four Denver Latina women who were best friends. She befriended them while they were in high school and continued knowing and observing them through the college years. That in itself was an amazing journalistic feat.
What grips the audience and gringos in the audience is the fact that there is a social status among people of Mexican heritage who live in America. The dividing line is who is legal and who is not. I may have known that, but in this context, no.
Of the four women chronicled, two had papers, two did not. Just Like Us is the story of how that particular status impacts a life, a future, education, career and ultimately the well-being of the off-spring.
Regardless of one’s stand on immigration, this is a story that should be told and heard. It is real. It is beyond many American’s radar or understanding. And while it publicizes the dire state of living as an illegal in the United States, it is also heartbreaking to know that children are the true victims of the immigration system. The story is an eye-opener about the perils of life without papers.
Just Like Us is potent entertainment. The four women are excellent actors who portray the Denver characters with youthful enthusiasm and skill. Karen Zacarias did a marvelous job of bringing the book to the stage. Mary Bacon, was Helen Thorpe. She portrayed her with the class and kindness that is emblematic of the First Lady of Colorado.
Helen Thorpe has brought to life a remarkable story that is both powerful and important. It is this season’s must see.