In connection with its season theme, “Flight and Refuge,” the Moss Arts Center presents a free stream of “Cartography,” a multimedia theater production exploring the inspiring stories of young refugees as they set out into the unsure waters of their futures.

The performers and creators of the work will also participate in a virtual residency of engagement activities with the community, including families who have resettled in Virginia with assistance from refugee service providers.

Part of the center’s “HomeStage” series, the free virtual showing of “Cartography” includes a post-show discussion with the performers and creators of the work moderated by Virginia Tech doctoral student Zuleka Woods on Thursday, April 15, at 7 p.m. “Cartography” is recommended for ages 10 and up, and lasts 90 minutes, including the discussion.

Inflatable rafts on the Mediterranean. Family photos hidden carefully in a backpack. “Cartography” brings a world alive with movement and migration as the effects of climate change, war, and poverty give shape to where people come from and where they are going.

The New York Times reports there are more displaced people scattered throughout the globe now than at any time in recorded history. For each person, the journey to find a place to lay one’s head is just the beginning of a longer journey to discover oneself and define one’s place in a world of ever shifting borders and ceaseless conflicts. In their work with children who migrated to Munich on their own, artists Kaneza Schaal and Christopher Myers found that map-making and storytelling provided the young people a framework from which to unpack the complexities of their maps, both internal and geographic.

A performance rooted in the commonalities of migration and the concrete and metaphorical mapping at the center of all of these worlds in motion, "Cartography" invites audiences to consider the maps that have yet to be drawn.

Teachers and family members with youth who want to supplement their students’ experience of “Cartography” can explore a free digital study guide offered with the performance. The guide includes historical context for migration, information about the artists, and reflective learning activities.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Register online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.

Community engagement activities

The Moss Arts Center, in collaboration with Virginia Tech’s newly established Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies, will host the “Cartography” artists in a statewide virtual meeting of refugee service providers, state officials, and community members. During the session, the artists will lead an arts-based dialogue on the barriers individuals face when they make a home in Virginia. Perspectives shared during this session will inform the Commonwealth of Virginia’s new Office for New Americans and Virginia General Assembly.

“It’s an honor to collaborate once again with leaders of the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies, as well as refugee service providers in the region who are working diligently to understand the assets and serve the needs of resettling families in the commonwealth,” said Jon Catherwood-Ginn, Moss Arts Center associate director of programming. “We’re hopeful that the unique power of art to spark connection and expression will yield insights from the participating families and service providers that are illuminating to the Office of New Americans and state legislature, the results of which could be meaningful policy change to benefit resettling families for years to come.”

During their virtual residency, “Cartography” artists will also lead hands-on map-making and storytelling workshops with local families resettled by the Floyd Friends of Asylum Seekers, Blacksburg Refugee Partnership, and Commonwealth Catholic Charities’ Resettlement Services. Additionally, the artists will teach a virtual acting workshop with Blacksburg High School students and visit a Virginia Tech class in international studies.

In addition to the evening performance, the center will offer a free school-day viewing of the play on Thursday, April 15, from 10-11:30 a.m. for children, teachers, and families online. This event is recommended for students in grades eight through 12. Learn more and register online.

Written by Susan Bland