Yamel Cucuy is a devised bilingual production featuring puppetry and human actors, and rooted in magical realism and Latin American horror folktales. It features legendary spirit creatures, infamous for stealing children away from their families. They are La Lechuza, a curandera (witch) who appears in owl form, El Viejo del Costal, an old man who steals children away in sack, Las Lloronas, the weeping woman who drowns children; and El Cucuy, a demon without clear description because no one who has seen it has lived to tell.
Yamel is a 12 year old immigrant from Guatemala. Separated from her family, she hides inside an apartment near the Texas/ Mexico border. Just outside the paper thin walls, immigration agents are moving door to door, searching for her. Inside the apartment, legendary spirit characters circle ever closer, seeking to steal her childhood essence. El Viejo carries a sack full of children he has stolen, and wants Yamel for his collection. His hands are everywhere, reaching for her from inside couches and cupboards. Las Lloronas’ many faces seek to claim Yamel’s for their own. La Lechuza is drawn to Yamel’s dwindling childhood, and harnesses the budding power of Yamel’s dawning womanhood to fight back against the agents who seek to control and expel la gente from this land.
The Performance: Yamel Cucuy will premiere at Ground Floor Theatre in Austin, Texas, October 20th – November 5th, 2022. We originally workshopped 20 minutes of the piece in 2018 at the Dougherty Arts Center
Peeling wallpaper on the walls of the apartment revealing shadow screens where events outside the walls are portrayed in shadow puppet sequences. The puppets are lit with hand-held, single source lights to create a cinematic sense of movement. The constant presence of ICE in the hallways intermingle with Yamel’s memories of her hometown and journey north, in stark contrast to the corporeal presence of the puppet spirit creatures within the apartment.