Play about immigration recreates a real deportation case

Arian Moayed is the co-founder of Waterwell. His latest production is "The Courtroom," starring Ruthie Ann Miles, Kathleen Chalfant, Kristin Villanueva, and Hannah Cheek.

'The Courtroom' tells the story of the immigration court system and then takes it to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals with verbatim transcripts that I have arranged and has been directed by our artistic director Lee Sunday Evens," Moayed said. "You can expect some real suspense, it's a very tense room, an unbelievable quite experience."

The play is a reenactment of the real-life story of Elizabeth Keathley, a Filipino immigrant who came to the United States with a K-3 visa. Six months after being here, she went to the Illinois DMV to get a state ID. When she was there, she was asked if she wanted to register to vote. She said yes.

"And that proceeded into a huge mess because she didn't know the difference," Moayed said.

She was not an American citizen, but proceeded to vote in a congressional election in 2006. She violated the law by voting, which  initiated deportation proceedings.

"The Courtroom" takes you back to 2007, the year Keathley faced an immigration judge. For 80 minutes, you will hear the actual transcripts of what took place in the courts.

"The reason why we picked this particular case for our production of 'The Courtroom' was because it was complicated," Moayed said. "And I feel that is what it feels like to be an immigrant in this country."

The show puts the audience in a realistic setting. Moayed said the first week of performances were done in a courthouse and in Fordham Law School.

The idea of doing this play came to him last summer when families were being separated from their children at the southern border. He said that was the impetus for him to tell people what it is like to be an immigrant in America.

The last performance in New York is Tuesday, Feb. 19, at The Greene Space at WNYC.