I just got word that my play 500 Words is now available from Playscripts, Inc. Want to by your very own copy? Follow this link: play.php3?playid=1470
500 Words was my second year play at the University of California, San Diego. It’s a play that I wrote while I was in the middle of my national-identity crisis, trying to decide if, after eight years in the country and no real plans to leave, I should give in and become an American citizen. I’d gotten my green card when I was nineteen, and was quite content to live in the United States as a Resident Alien indefinitely. I loved getting to pull out the weird little card (it was actually pink) for immigration officials and new employers and anyone else who asked, really, to show them that I actually wasn’t American like they thought. And as the years went by and I felt less and less connected to the world back in Canada, I held onto my status almost as a novelty item, something to show that I was different, maybe a little bit exotic.
I started writing 500 Words with plans to write a great big treatise on the immigrant experience in New York City. But I quickly found the story I was interested in telling was about young people, the immigrant teens that I’d gotten to know teaching and working for Young Playwrights in the early oughts. In the play, three teens take up the challenge to write honest essays about what it means to be an American. It’s kind of a vague topic for an essay contest, I admit, but it’s the question that I was grappling with myself at the time, the question that I needed to ask.
A couple of things happened while I was writing 500 Words, that shook things up a little:
1) I got married to an American. Contrary to popular belief, this had no effect on my citizenship status. Become a citizen by marriage is a long process which starts, as I already had, with an application for a green card. But it did have a big effect on the way that I started to imagine my future.
2) Bush got elected to a second term.
I realized it was time to get off that fence. My decision to be come an American was made not out of a sense of patriotism or excitement to get to be a part of this country – we were at war with Iraq after all – but simply because I could no longer come up with a compelling reason not to. And so, the summer following the production of 500 Words at UCSD, I sent in my N-400 form, getting the naturalization process rolling.