by Sam Storey, ’13
Imagine for a moment that one day you are forced out of your home, either out of economic necessity or actual coercion. You are ripped from your children, some of them still infants, and taken to a country that speaks a foreign language and engages in mysterious cultural practices, where you are hired to take care of someone else’s child. Missing your own babies every day, you are forced to provide someone else’s child with the love and affection that you know they are not receiving from his or her own mother. You are effectively denied the ability to raise your own children as you are forced to raise someone else’s for little pay or respect.
This is a lived reality for countless immigrants who are hired as nannies by American mothers. These brave women have voices, stories to tell that tend to be ignored or pushed aside particularly at Stanford, where we often live jaded, myopic lives, blind to all those who sacrifice for our happiness. But tonight, that all changes. This evening, at 8:00 P.M., actress and playwright Lisa Ramirez will be performing her critically-acclaimed play Exit Cuckoo at The Nitery, opening up a dialogue about these women’s lives.
The story, based off of Ramirez’s own experiences as a part-time nanny in New York, takes a witty and at-times bittersweet look at motherhood in New York City and those who are hired to raise our children. In poignant, revealing, and frequently shocking monologues – each delivered by Ramirez herself – the characters provide a seldom-articulated critique of how mothers tend to hand off rearing their responsibilities to immigrant women and thus contribute to a system in which everyone – including the nanny, the child, and the mother – is harmed as a result.
In one particularly revealing scene, from which the play receives its name, Esther, a Bronx-raised, New York-candid grandmother, articulates her misgivings with modern child-rearing customs while waiting for a play date with her grandson and his nanny. “The only animal that does that is the cuckoo bird,” she rants. “It lays its eggs in other birds’ nests, says, ‘So long suckers!’ And the other birds raise little baby cuckoo as if it’s one of their own!” She points out the mechanical, laborious connotation that child-rearing now has, as something that is a chore rather than a pleasure as it was when she was young. It is in this way, with sharp wit and acuminate social insight, that Ramirez creates a commentary that points out flaws with the current system without sounding abrassive, that criticizes common mothering practices without alienating those women who resort to that lifestyle.
I strongly encourage anyone even remotely interested in social justice to come see this play. It uniquely draws attention to the commonalities that members from a diverse range of backgrounds share. From a woman struggling with the decision to have an abortion, to immigrants unable to see their children back home, all the way to a gay couple dealing with the problems associated with rearing their adopted child, all parents must deal with similar dilemmas and heartbreaks, a point that Ramirez relays with panache. I assure you that you will leave this play with a new outlook on what it means to raise a child and to participate in a national dialogue around immigrant rights.
EXIT CUCKOO(nanny in motherland)
Written and performed by LISA RAMIREZ
Directed by Colman Domingo
Friday, March 16 @8pm
Old Union, Stanford University
$5-$10 sliding scale (free w/ SUID)
Sam is a junior in Kathleen Coll‘s “New Citizenship: Grassroots Movements for Social Justice in the U.S.,” a service-learning course at Stanford University that engages in community-based learning with the local domestic workers’ rights movement. To learn more about the movement, please visit The National Domestic Workers Alliance website.