Monika Browne’s self-penned, one-person show, “EnTRANSed: The Making of a Transnational Woman,” will debut at Valley City State University’s Theater 320 on Saturday, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m. The show is based on Browne’s transplantation from her home in Warsaw, Poland, to the U.S. and her experiences navigating a new life here in the Midwest.
“EnTRANSed” is a play on words, says Browne, an homage to the semi-autobiographical novel “Trans-Atlantyk,” written in 1953 by Witold Gombrowicz, her favorite Polish author. The novel explores Gombrowicz’s immigration to Argentina during World War II, and much like Gombrowicz, Browne grew up in Poland but has spent much of her adult life on the opposite side of the Atlantic. “EnTRANSed” tells that story.
“’EnTRANSed’ is about the ever-present existence of America in my life, from language to culture to relationships, and how that has influenced how and why I moved here,” says Browne. “It’s also a peek into the immigration process.
Browne says that the show wasn’t initially intended to be a commentary on current immigration issues, but the theme emerged once she began writing about her own experiences as a newcomer to the U.S.
“(The show) is also a story about being in the state of travel or becoming,” says Browne. “That is something immigrants experience when they feel like a part of their new community or at least feel like they are becoming a part of it, and yet they experience an acute sense of loneliness and yearning for the place they came from.
“Immigration and assimilation tend to affect people in a circular way. It is not a finite process, especially people who struggle with essentially being in two places at once in their hearts. I liken that to a trance, a continuum of feelings that I personally struggle with very often.”
Browne decided to make the play a one-person show with a spare set so that audiences would feel a closer emotional connection to the characters and their circumstances.
“I always wanted it to be a one person show and to play all the roles,” says Browne. “I thought that it would only be fair to do something like that in a show that deals so closely with my personal feelings.”
Browne officially began work on “EnTRANSed” just earlier this year, but the idea for the play has been over a decade in the making, with her own experiences of transnationalism coalescing into this show.
“In a way I have been working on the production ever since I moved to the U.S. in 2004. Those years are the source material … The writing of the play itself took only a few weeks because the material and dramaturgy were already ripe for the taking.”
Browne’s journey began in Warsaw, where she grew up. After a period of travel throughout Europe and the Middle East, Browne was drawn to the U.S. because of her marriage and also for the opportunities of a strong education and a good career here. She notes that despite the considerable distance both physically and culturally, the Midwest has its fair share of similarities to Poland.
“It’s been interesting to live in the Midwest,” says Browne. “Many things are so similar between it and Poland. I certainly feel at home here. But before I moved to the U.S. I travelled extensively … so there is a big difference between my pre-USA life and now.”
Now Browne is a student at Valley City State. This year she was presented with a SOAR (Student Opportunities for Academic Research) Grant, which supports student-driven, faculty-mentored interdisciplinary projects. The grant gave Browne the opportunity to write and work on “EnTRANSed,” alongside project mentors, professors Jenni Lou Russi and Dina Zavala-Petherbridge, and VCSU alumnus Burke Tagney, who will be directing the show.
For now, “EnTRANSed” is set to be a one-night-only performance, and people who are interested in seeing Browne’s unique story would do well to get in line early on the night of the show, as tickets will only be available for purchase at the door.
However, Browne is interested in taking the show, rather fittingly, on the road.
“We have one performance planned for VCSU for now, but I would like to perform this show in other places,” says Browne. “I am definitely thinking about showing ‘EnTRANSed’ to the world!”
IF YOU GO:
EnTRANSed: The Making of a Transnational Woman
Sat, Jan. 30, 7:30-9 p.m.
Theatre 320, McFarland Hall – VCSU Campus, Valley City
Tickets: Pay what you wish, available at door on first come, first serve basis
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