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Alma Raises Questions About the American Dream
Isabella Orrego M. plays Angel and Marlene Montes, Alma. PHOTO: Brett Moellenberg
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Tuesday, September 19, 2023



What is the best way to achieve the so-called American dream? And how much should one risk for the American dream?

Those are two of the key questions being raised by “Alma,” a play by Benjamin Benne being staged Sept. 29-Oct. 8 at The Spot.

“At its core we have a mother and daughter in a period of transition,” said Director Brett Moellenberg.   “Alma, the mother is an undocumented immigrant studying for her citizenship test. And Angel, her first-generation daughter, is studying for her SAT while helping her mother with her English. Alma wants her daughter to find her American dream but her daughter, age 17, doesn’t know what she wants—she’s consumed with things that teenagers busy themselves with.”

Benne wrote the play against the backdrop of the anti-Mexican rhetoric emanating during the 2016 presidential race. It premiered a couple years ago during the COVID pandemic.

Both Alma and Angel watch the news with fear, wondering how the new presidency will affect Alma’s  status.

The 90-minute play underscores some of the struggles that undocumented immigrants have, living in constant fear that they will be deported. Their children, born in the United States, are U.S. citizens who do not fear deportation for themselves. But they live in fear that their parents will be deported.

“They fear not being able to be with the people they love—something most of us take for granted,” said Moellenberg.

Alma, who came to the United States at 17, lives in fear of being evicted because her menial wages cannot cover rent. And, so, she strives to protect her daughter from that by pushing her to attend college. Her daughter, meanwhile fears that she will not be there for her mother if she goes to college—that she might lose her, as a result.

Things come to a head when Alma realizes her daughter isn’t at home studying on the eve of the all-important SAT—after all there’s more at stake than a test score.

“The story is always the most important thing for us. And we haven’t had the compact mother-daughter relationship before. This is relatable on a family level,” said Moellenberg.

Mother and daughter speak both English and Spanish in the play, just as one might hear in a bilingual household.

“Offering a play with a mix of English and Spanish is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, particularly since we have such a large Spanish speaking population in the valley,” said Moellenberg. “The first word I learned was a Spanish one—‘agua,’ which I learned from my nanny. And I know a lot of other non-Hispanics in the valley know some Spanish. We’re hoping that everyone will be able to make sense about what’s happening without understanding every word—and I think it will.”

The Spot is intentionally presenting the play during the middle of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Staff have been reaching out to the Hispanic community to make sure that those who want to see the play can do so. That included selling discounted tickets at the Hispanic Heritage Festival this past weekend.


“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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