tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

‘Found’ is a play that deserves a world stage

Twin Cities musician Victor Zupanc has written an important play called “Found,” which is being presented by the Mixed Blood Theatre at the Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis through May 21. This is a work that deserves more exposure than it will get during its premier, three-week run.

This story of an 18-year-old woman who returns to her native Colombia to find her birth parents has an obvious appeal to people involved with adoption, but it is a story for anyone who is looking for their roots. Anyone who has ever contemplated their origins will draw meaning from this lively 90-minute show.

Zupanc is the resident music director at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis; he has worked with big-name theatre and film producers all over the world. Although Zupanc has written or arranged music for more than 200 productions, Found is the first play he has written. I am acquainted with Zupanc as a fellow adoptive father of Colombian children. After seeing the play May 14th, I asked him how he came to write the story. He said he worked from two bits of information.

The first is a letter written by the birth mother of one of his children. He received the letter with an instruction to present it to the child on her 18th birthday. That is exactly how the play opens. The adoptive parents give their daughter, Patricia, the letter they got 18 years earlier. Upon reading it, Patricia immediately decides she needs to return to Colombia to meet the woman who wrote the letter. “Why did she give me up?” “Why didn’t she keep me?” “Does she think of me?” and “Does she love me?” Patricia asks all these questions -– which she likely has been asking for years -- and this letter opens a pathway to possible answers.

The second was a conversation Zupanc had with another adoptive parent who said he knew his adopted daughter had a birth father who was involved in Colombia’s civil war. So in Found, Patricia discovers that her father is a leader in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC as it is know by its Colombian acronym. Patricia, raised comfortably in the Midwest, wrestles with the notion that her father is a soldier. Some would call him a murderer or a terrorist. She isn’t sure what to make of him.

Zupanc has obviously written this play directly from his heart and he pulled me into the story right from the opening. Those of us with adopted children wonder all the time how our children will cope with the gray cloud of uncertain lineage. This is an anxiety only known to those of us who have adopted internationally. Most domestic adoptions include some level of on-going relationship with the birth parents. But for those of us who flew to another continent to adopt our children, we wonder: Does my child think about his homeland? What will it be like if he chooses to go back? Will he like what he finds? Will the locals treat him any differently than he is treated in the United States?

Found takes direct aim at those questions and sitting in my seat I could feel the angst of those adoptive parents on stage. I could feel Patricia’s excitement upon her arrival in Bogota. I could feel her sorrow upon learning her mother had died, and I could feel her apprehension as she tried to sort out her feelings for her father. This play is designed to push all kinds of emotional buttons in adoptive parents and adopted children.

But I am convinced the play is for everyone, not just those touched by adoption. Who doesn’t wonder where they came from? Who doesn’t wonder about their heritage? This is a play about self-discovery. This is a coming-of-age story applicable to any adult or anyone coming into adulthood. We all have to figure out who is important to us. Relationships come by choice and by blood, regardless of our family situation. This play is about figuring out which relationships are the most meaningful. Patricia has romantic expectations about defining family along bloodlines, but ultimately discovers that family is more about the people who are with you during the growing up years and other crucial times.

With some minor changes to the script, Zupanc will have a story that should be presented on stages all over the world. The music is already there. He directs a small ensemble that provides a first-class soundtrack to the play. I hope he succeeds in taking this play to the next level. The world deserves to enjoy this important story.

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