Looking For The Light In Vanessa Garcia’s ‘1000 Miles’

Though it’s not uncommon to hear a work of art be described as one that “sheds light” on a particular subject, playwright Vanessa Garcia is taking the metaphor to a new level with the upcoming world premiere of 1000 Miles, a unique piece that will see its world premiere this weekend as a pioneering co-production by New City Players and Abre Camino Collective.

And though Garcia couldn’t be more excited that the play will finally see the light of day after almost ten years of development, she initially began work on the piece harboring hopes that by the time she finished it, it would be obsolete. This was back in 2015, as approached an election year Garcia describes as one that we “all know.” 

Instead, as time has gone on and we have ended up in a remarkably similar circumstance this election year, the play has instead become even more relevant. In the meantime, it has also grown to incorporate some “very big ideas”- in fact, so big that it seemed to “scare everybody” who might hypothetically produce it. 

However, about a year ago, Elizabeth Price of New City Players approached Garcia to express interest in just such a potential—which, ultimately, inspired Garcia to bring her own company, Abre Camino Collective, on board to help finance the ambitious project. 

“That’s been one of the greatest things about this, is this beautiful collaboration that has allowed for this to happen and for me to get to know a theatre like New City Players, which I feel like more people need to know about because they’re doing extraordinary work with very little,” Garcia commented. 

Vanessa Garcia, Photo Credit Abre Camino Collective

Specifically, Abre Camino has helped finance prominent interactive elements of the production, allowing audience members to periodically choose to “shine a light” if they would like to hear more of a character’s story. The result is something she now describes as being in an “in between space” that she hopes will pave the way for future fully immersive productions of the work. 

In the meantime, this “training ground,” does the important work of introducing a critical element of choice-making, something Garcia views as a natural extension of the “anti-tyranny” philosophy that has shaped much of her work. By encouraging audience members to take an active role in her work rather than to be passive viewers, she hopes to foster in them an attitude of agency that will shape their responses to real-world situations that evoke her fictional dilemmas.

This idea is verbalized in one of the play’s key motifs- in which one character encourages another to “never skim the story,” something that Garcia believes is essential to understanding the “messiness” of the democracy that she believes in deeply. 

“Because the roots are so intertwined with so many stories. And if we don’t stop and actually listen to what those stories are and allow the messiness to play out, then we’re not gonna really understand what it means to defend the democracy that we have,” she says. 

And while much of Garcia’s other work has directly reflected her viewpoint as a descendant of Cuban immigrants, 1000 Miles has allowed her to explore similar themes in a more universal story.  Instead of any real place, the play takes place in an imaginary country called the City, where main character Solis has just arrived from a place called only “1000 miles across the sea.” 

While other characters have been in The City longer and some hail from a different made up land, four are immigrants and one is the child of immigrants, which allows the play to showcase a diverse array of perspectives within the immigrant experience. It also allows audience members to project their own associations onto the play and real-world subtext to shift depending on where and when the play is performed.

Other preliminary immersive twists heighten these associations and help audience members to see themselves in the story, such as lobby “guards” who assign audience members on their arrival to be a citizen of the city or an immigrant from somewhere else. And another of Garcia’s dreams for the play is that it will travel to many different parts of the world, taking on different meanings as it does. 

Production Team

“The first place I thought this would be amazing is on the Gaza Strip, and then everything that’s happening now just makes that desire even bigger,” Garcia commented. 

For now, though, South Floridians are lucky enough to catch 1000 Miles in their backyard here in Fort Lauderdale until only this March 24th. After being lucky enough to catch an invited dress rehearsal of the production earlier this week, I can also attest to the fact that this play is a thought-provoking and profoundly moving meditation on the difficulty and necessity of holding close to those we love even in a war-torn world. Feel free to check out New City Players’ website and social media pages to learn more about 1000 Miles, and I wouldn’t hesitate to grab a ticket!

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