Refugees take centre stage at Langara College

Langara alumnus Carmen Aguirre is bringing The Refugee Hotel to Studio 58 to tell from first-hand experience what it means to be a refugee.

The dark comedy takes place in a run-down hotel in Vancouver’s West End, and follows a group of Chilean refugees, who escaped Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, as they restart their new lives in Canada.

Aguirre, who stayed at one such refugee hotel on Denman Street with her family in 1974, said two events from her life inspired her to write the play.

“One [inspiration] is my uncle, who was one of the first Chilean refugees to arrive in Vancouver, and he drank himself to death in 1995,” said Aguirre. “And then in 1998, Pinochet was arrested in London, England, and was charged with crimes against humanity.”

A history lesson for students and staff

Kathryn Shaw, artistic director of Studio 58, approached Aguirre to direct The Refugee Hotel at Langara after she read the play again and noticed similarities in current domestic politics.

“I have had the play in my sights for many years,” said Shaw in an emailed statement. “And it came to mind again when the Syrian refugee crisis and Canada’s acceptance of 25,000 Syrian refugees was front and centre in the news.”

04-Lakic-Refugee Hotel (3)
Elizabeth Barrett (right) plays Flaca, a former prisoner of the Pinochet regime, in Carmen Aguirre’s The Refugee Hotel. Photo by Emily Cooper

Elizabeth Barrett, who plays the lead role of mother and former government prisoner, Flaca, said the play has been very eye-opening for the cast, none of whom is from Latin America.

“I think it’s a wonderful history lesson and an important story to tell,” said Barrett of the play’s themes. “The more education we have, the more we can avoid situations like this in the future.”

The play runs from March 23 to April 9.

“None of the characters fit the Latino stereotype that we are fed in the media, so if [people] walk away with more empathy towards refugees, that would be a huge thing,” Aguirre said.

Published in the March 16, 2017, edition of The Langara Voice

Feature image by Emily Cooper


One thought on “Refugees take centre stage at Langara College

  1. My parents were refugees. They were so grateful to the country and the people in it for taking them in. Dad got himself a job as soon as he could. Mum would practice her English at the local shops. Dad bought two newspapers every day and my parents sat at the kitchen table each evening practising their reading and talking about the issues of the day. They raised their children to love their country and be the best they could be. It reminds me that refugees are flawed individuals like the rest of us. I would judge them not for who they are, or where they come from and not for what we can do for them. We’ve already done it. I would judge them by how they raise their children and what each individual refugee can add to the country that has adopted them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s