Border People is a journalistic one-man theater piece by Dan Hoyle that dwells on the broad theme of “borders.” It’s now being performed at A.R.T. / New York Theatres in New York City. Based on in-depth conversations and interviews at places in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, Hoyle enacts first one person, then another person, in a string of edited interview snippets from people whose live have been shaped by one kind of a border or another–from those who have literally tried to cross the border, to those who lives are more metaphorically on a border.
The lines are poignant, ricocheting from comedic to dramatic in a beat, and the stories are compelling, heart-breaking, and human. From a high school kid talking about prom in Buffalo and his life growing up in Afghanistan, to a pagan farmer living in southern Arizona who talks to his goats. A black guy from the Bronx on why he wears sweater vests and Jordans to convey so much history and baggage that goes unsaid. A Saudi-born Palestinian, who having fled Saudi Arabia for the U.S., is now leaving for Canada. There’s a lot of heart in how Hoyle brings the emotions of the experience to the fore.
That being said, it’s hard to get over the fact that Hoyle is white. That he’s a white guy acting as mostly non-white people for a predominantly white audience. It’s something overtly acknowledged throughout the work, with Hoyle incorporating self-referential snippets from his interviewees. And it certainly feels like Hoyle’s process of “the journalism of hanging out” is sincere and thorough. He’s invested, as the conversation reprinted in the program says, “in trying to see the world through the eyes of folks there, of listening deeply.” He goes on, “I always get permission from the people I meet. I ask questions but I try to let go of any agenda I might have and let the people I’m hanging out with be in charge.”
As a result, there are real truths at the heart of Border People. But still. And yet.
Border People is written and performed by Dan Hoyle and directed by Nicole A. Watson. It is playing at A.R.T. / New York Theatres until February 22. Tickets are $30 for general admission and $40 for reserved seating. Discounts are available for students, seniors, union members and groups. Visit https://theworkingtheater.org/ to learn more or purchase tickets.