America has always stood as a land of freedom, liberty, and an escape from persecution for all. The Statue of Liberty welcomes immigrants with “Give us your tired, your hungry, and your poor…” Furthermore, America is seen as a melting pot yet not everyone mixes together completely and with unrest in the Middle East even less so. Sarah Jones solo performance in Waking the American Dream was inventive and comical. The central concept was a look at the discrimination of different ethnic groups especially immigrants. Her costumes portrayed the lives of different ethnicities that immigrated to America with high hopes.
Jones shows immigrant rights in present day America with the use of a New York poetry gathering as the story line. There are more than ten separate characters of different cultural backgrounds displayed. The one common thread in all of them is their citizenship in America however, for many it means more to them then anyone else. Jones costumes show the discrimination of ethnic groups because of their accents and dress. In a similar fashion to da da kamera, she makes an effective use of jackets as her one costume change. The separate jackets symbolize the different ethnic groups that are discriminated against. For example, the Pakistani host Mohammed Ali wears a tweed jacket and the young American girl Lydia wears a white jacket. Both jackets are symbolic of the owner’s skin color which supports the central concept of different ethnic backgrounds.
As a director Jones was trying to create a comical undertone to relay the more serious stories of the American immigrants. She effectively plays on the stereotypes of race to draw the audience in and then adds a comedic twist. In this way she adds lightheartedness to the concept of racial discrimination. It certainly was effective in making me and the rest of the audience laugh proving that she has a definite comedic talent for impersonations. Not to mention she was awarded with a standing ovation from the audience.
The choice of title for the play was also important to the overall production concept. The characters believed in a term of the early 1900’s called the American dream where the United States was the symbol of a more promising life. For example, the character of Jeffrey had high hopes as a refugee who came to work hard in America and yet he still doesn’t receive respect. For too many of the ethnic characters citizenship meant nothing to their American born counterparts for they were still seen as lower. Thus Waking the American Dream represents the reality of the dream which was they were never going to get ahead due to the concept of discrimination.
By placing the young American girl last, Jones brings her production full circle.
The girl reads a poem about her father who died in the terrorist attack on the world trade center. This ending is highly significant in showing America today as a country even more divided by unrest in the Middle East. She uses this American girl to symbolize the general audience and to say that we too are discriminated against. Other countries hate us enough to demolish buildings and kill thousands. American born citizens are now seeing themselves dealing with the same concept of discrimination that so many immigrants have faced.
All together Jones’s production was both entertaining and eye opening. As a solo performer she played over ten different roles significantly distinguishing between each with an accent and a jacket. She takes us through the immigrant’s stories of discrimination in a land they thought was about freedom and eventually leading us to the final state of our present day world. Jones shows us the discrimination of our own people which thus answers the question why we are about to go to war. For if we can’t win the favor of our own American citizens there is no way we could win the rest of the world’s favor.