PHOTOS: Local Author’s Book Brought to Life for AAPI Month at Columbia HS

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Luna Stage and SOMA Cross Cultural Works sponsored a professional performance of adapted scenes from We Are All We Have, the most recent novel of hometown author Marina Budhos, at Columbia High School on May 23.

For the event, highlighting AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Heritage Month, AAPI Montclair partnered with Luna Stage and Budhos to bring her new novel to life in several middle schools and high schools throughout New Jersey from May 23-25.

“Thanks to our community partner, SOMA Cross Cultural Works, and their generous financial donation, we were able to bring the Luna Stage to Columbia High School for two performances of the theatrical adaptation of [the book],” said CHS Principal Frank Sanchez.

“Our students were attentive throughout the entire reading,” said CHS teacher Tracie Morrison. “They asked great questions and enjoyed engaging in dialogue with Ms. Budhos, [Artistic Director of Luna Stage Ari Laura Kreith] and the Luna Stage actors during the Q&A segment.”

“SOMA Cross Cultural Works fundraised in the community for the event and multiple local SOMA families donated to financially support the event,” said Mona Karim. “Luna Stage also took the production to several other high schools during AAPI month, but it was particularly special to have it here because the author Marina Budhos is a longtime Maplewood resident and winner of the 2018 Maplewood Literary Award! It was a wonderful collaboration between SOMA Cross Cultural Works, Luna Stage and Columbia High School and we could not have done it without all the support and encouragement we received from the high school administration.”

Background about the event:

Mona Karim of SOMA Cross Cultural Works reached out to Dr. Taylor to see if they could support productions at CHS and SOMS to commemorate AAPI month. Maplewood resident and well-known Young Adult (YA) author Marina Budhos has collaborated with Luna Stage in West Orange to create a one-hour stage adaptation of her recent novel, entitled “We Are All We Have” about a Pakistani immigrant family in the U.S.

Scenes from the novel have been adapted for live performance by Luna Stage as a way to use theater to share and discuss serious topics with young people, according to a press release. Budhos and Luna Stage are visiting schools throughout the area “to stage thought-provoking performances and host discussions and dynamic workshops on immigration, cultural identity, and diversity in America today.”

“Performance is a gateway to literature for students,” said Budhos. “Particularly after the pandemic, young people are looking for live ways to connect with the world, with ideas, and with each other.”

We Are All We Have is the story of seventeen-year-old Rania whose life is turned upside down when her mother is taken by ICE. The story, which has been called “a triumphant tale of finding home” by Kirkus Reviews, deals with the realities of immigration from the point of view of a teenager navigating those challenges. The third book of Budhos’ which confronts post-9/11 America, following Ask Me No Questions and Watched, seeks to make the issues teens are seeing in the news easier to understand and discuss.

“We are honored to partner with Luna Stage, Marina Budhos, and local schools to bring this program to students during AAPI Heritage Month as part of our mission to fight ignorance by creating opportunities for our wider community to engage with diverse facets of the AAPI experience. We trust students will respond to Rania’s story with sharpened curiosity about the ways government and immigration policies intersect with individual histories, along with the imaginative empathy that is our greatest hope for a future where all children are seen, valued, and know they belong,” said Amber Reed, President, AAPI Montclair.

The Artistic Director of Luna Stage, Ari Laura Kreith, and Budhos have previously worked together on a staging of Budhos’ novel Watched and have connected again to stage We Are All We Have. “At Luna, we are committed to creating and performing work that uplifts challenging, complex, and often underrepresented stories, so that we can experience them in a three-dimensional, theatrical, empathic way. It is such an honor to bring this piece to life, and to partner with AAPI on sharing it with students in our local schools,” said Kreith.

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