A play about a girl from Postville Iowa, her father, an immigrant from Guatemala, a Rabbi from Brooklyn, his daughter, and an interpreter. There is a British filmmaker now living in Mexico City who is making a BBC documentary, through which we examine immigration, Kosher slaughter, and the ethics of interpretation. It will be presented in English and Spanish, and maybe some Yiddish and Hebrew, along with a little live music, and will end with the song Clandestino by Manu Chao.
Text by Cory Hinkle and Victoria Stewart | Directed by Jeremy Wilhelm | Music by David Wilhelm
Clandestino may as well be titled The Iowa Waltz, the Greg Brown song that starts us off tonight.This project started as a design idea borrowed from a NEST magazine spread about train cars that had been converted into bunkhouses for migrant workers in Iowa. I wanted to make a show about West Liberty where my uncle had worked for a turkey processing plant, and while in grad school learned about the situation in Postville. David and I grew up in a town similar in size and the idea that Hasidic Jews running a kosher slaughterhouse in a small farm town seemed like an interesting start for a show.Victoria Stewart and I were in grad school together at the University of Iowa, and after we had both moved to the Twin Cities we started talking about Kafka in Postville: some kind of Kafkaesque parable about the ethics of eating meat amidst a clash of cultures. But not until the May 12, 2008 ICE raid of Agriprocessors did I feel like there was any frame around the idea. I received a Jerome Emerging Artist Residency at the Tofte Lake Center for Wilhelm Bros. & Co., and then a MAP Fund grant to realize the first draft of an idea for the show, which you are seeing tonight. My not-quite sister-in- law Andrea taught in a school for the Chabad Lubavitch community in St. Paul, and her father is from Mexico. She inspired the idea for Steph in our show.As an ESL specialist in the public school system, she becomes an advocate in all ways for immigrants, not just their children. After all the dust has settled from our investigations into the ethics of interpretation, immigration reform, meatpacking, and diversity, I think this show is about wanting all of us to become more humane.
Notes on Source Material
In 1987, Abraham Aaron Rubashkin, a Hasidic Jewish businessman from Brooklyn bought a slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa and made Agriprocessors the largest kosher slaughterhouse and meat-processing plant in the United States.
In May 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided Agriprocessors and 389 illegal immigrants, including 31 children, were arrested. Aaron and Sholom Rubashkin, the slaughterhouse’s manager, denied knowing that their workers were illegal but Agriprocessors as a corporation pled guilty to 83 child labor charges. In November,Agriprocessors filed for bankruptcy and was bought at auction in 2009. Sholom Rubashkin, Aaron’s son, was convicted of 28 counts of financial fraud and sentenced to 27 years in prison. 297 of the immigrants were convicted of document fraud and served jail time and were deported. In 2009,The Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors had used aggravated identity theft laws inappropriately and threw out many of the felonies.
The slaughterhouse is now running under new management.