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‘Alma’ Humanizes the Immigration Story
Alma, played by Marlene Montes, is distressed to learn that Angel, played by Isabella Orrega M., has spent the evening drinking with a friend rather than studying for her SATs.
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Thursday, September 28, 2023


On the surface, “Alma” is a story about mother and daughter chasing the American dream in the face of the constant threat of deportation that hangs over mother Alma’s head.

But Marlene Montes, who plays Alma in The Spot’s production, hopes that all of those who see it will leave with a deeper appreciation for their loved ones and for those who have paved a way for them.

“I know I’ll hold my mom even closer than ever,” she said.

Alma is plagued by a nightmare in which she’s being pursued by stomping elephants—a nightmare compounded by the screaming of the talking heads on TV.

Montes plays the mother and Isabella Orrego M. plays her daughter Angel in The Spot’s production of Benjamin Benne’s play. The 80-minute play opens Friday, Sept. 29, at The Spot in Ketchum and runs through Oct. 8.

Set against the backdrop of increasing anti-Latino rhetoric in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election, the play addresses the fears of 11 million unauthorized individuals in the United States.

Alma was 17 and pregnant when she made a dangerous border crossing, giving birth to Angel  following her arrival in the United States. Now, 17 years later, she and her daughter have forged a 20-step agreement that Angel will get a perfect score on her SAT test and go to U.C. Davis, perhaps to follow her passion of becoming a veterinarian.

There is justice in American, she contends and she wants to see her daughter achieve the American dream in ways she never has. Plus, she hopes Angel will be able to sponsor her green card with a college degree in hand.

Angel tells her mother that she has no intention of taking the SAT.

But Angel deflates her mother’s hopes for her when she refuses to take the SAT test. She would rather study at the local community college rather than attend college 400 miles from their apartment in La Puente, Calif. She fears losing her mother, and she wants to be close in case there are unexpected knocks on the door at night.

Plus, she knows that the playing field is not equal for women like herself, even though she is an American citizen having been born in the States. After all, she got a B for the mission she and her mother built from scratch while the wealthier white students got A’s for building missions from kits.

Orrego can relate to what her character is thinking, having made the hard decision to come to the United States four years ago to attend college.

“Growing up I was always surrounded by family-- grandparents, aunts, cousins and siblings,” she said. “We all lived in the same city just a couple minutes away. So, when I decided to come to the United States four years ago, I felt very scared. To this day I think it was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. But I had no choice--I had to leave them all behind.”

Their fears and aspirations make for an evening of raging arguments topped by tender expression of love.

Orrego notes that Angel’s fears and desire to protect her mother could impede the future she envisions or herself: “I understand the deep love she has for her mother and the fear of leaving her behind because I felt the same. I don’t think I could live a day without my mom, nor does Angel.”

Montes said her grandfather immigrated with his family from Mexico to the United States when her mother was a girl.

“Hearing stories like Alma’s, I have a deeper appreciation for the hard work, determination and sacrifices that my family has made in order for me to have a better quality of life,” she said. “I am grateful that I was encouraged and privileged to be able to wholeheartedly pursue my dreams because of their support.”

The play beautifully humanizes the journey of those who are trying to provide the best life for their loved ones in pursuit of the American dream, Montes added.

Both women are motivated by their love for one another.

“I think what’s interesting about ‘Alma’ is that it both honors the pride and love for this country, as well as addressing the complicated challenges concerning the immigration issues in this country,” she said. “In my opinion, Alma is a love story that anyone can connect with on many levels. There is so much beauty in the struggles this mother and daughter face navigating the ups and downs of life. "


“Alma” will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29 and 30, as well as Wednesday through Saturday, Oct. 4-7. There will be three 4 p.m. matinees—on Saturday, Sept. 30, Sunday, Oct. 1, and Sunday, Oct. 8.

There will be free post show talkbacks with the actors and director after both Sunday performances on Oct. 1 and 8.

Tickets are $15 through $40, available at The Spot is offering reserved seats for the first time.


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