‘Anon(ymous)’ play debuts a story of diversity this fall

Calista, played by Madeline Nelson, is annoyed with her adopted brother Anon, played by Cha Yang, who won't pay attention to her. (Miguel A. Gastelum/University Theatre)

The doors opened and click, click went the machine of the ticket person as visitors purchased their last-minute tickets.

The audience took their seats, conversations settled, room lights cut off and spotlights shone on the actors as they made their way to the center of the hall while repeating, “Where I come from …”

“Anon(ymous)” by Naomi Iizuka tells the story of a young refugee named Anon who navigates through the U.S. in this entrancing adaptation of Homer’s “Odyssey.” In search of his home, Anon encounters a variety of people, some of whom are kind, dangerous or cruel. 

“The main idea that this play is trying to convey is: it is not easy to be from another place, it is not easy to live in a country you are not familiar with,” said Gina Sandi-Diaz, an assistant professor of theatre and director of “Anon(ymous).”

“The play is also [about] coming of age. Anon has to grow up because he is put in this very dangerous situation, and he has to find the strength inside of him to fight those obstacles, and it is a metaphor of life,” Sandi-Diaz said. 

As the actors transformed from new characters to new costumes to different voices and sound effects in the background, it is representative of the diversity of the Fresno community, with included Armenian music and costume designs that contained Hmong and Mexican-American elements. 

“Our Fresno is so diverse, and we have a lot of diverse actors with diverse backgrounds,” Sandi-Diaz said. “This is a great story to highlight them. They come from immigrant families or are immigrants themselves. So they see themselves reflected in the story of those characters.”

Cha Yang, a theater arts major with an emphasis in acting, portrayed the lead character, Anon and, said he believes he would not have played Anon if he did not relate to the character’s search for his mother and goals. 

“You will face many difficulties in life but so long as you are persistent and have your goals in front of you, you’ll succeed,” Yang said.

Cecilia Cantu, a theater arts major with an emphasis in acting plays three roles in “Anon(ymous)”: Mrs. Laius, Pet Bird and Ensemble. She said the message that she gets from the play is that no matter what obstacles come your way, you always have a home to go to.

The audience shared laughs and silent moments as the changing scenes affected each individual differently. 

“The play was well done,” said Jean Linder, a member of the audience. “The director and actors did a wonderful job performing such a challenging play. I would encourage everyone to come and watch it. This is an important topic and we should understand that people should be seen as a person, not an anonymous being.”

Once the show came to an end, the actors returned to the stage with linked arms and bowed down as they rotated in a circle. 

“We do not learn just by reading. We learn by imitation. We learn by watching others do, and that is the beauty of theater. It teaches us how to be better human beings because it puts conflicted human beings on stage and we see them struggle with their life,” Sandi-Diaz said. “We see them finding solutions to their problems, and we see them fighting their problems so we are empowered to do that with our life.”

Catch the last three showings of “Anon(ymous)” from Oct. 10 through 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Dennis & Cheryl Woods Theatre in the Speech Arts Building. Doors will open for attendees at 7 p.m. 

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