The Copper Children

The Copper Children

by Karen Zacarías

Originally produced at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR

February 29 – October 31, 2020


About the Premiere Production:


Synopsis: Inspired by true events involving an Irish “orphan train” that arrives in a mixed-race Arizona mining community in 1904, this compelling story explores the profound impact and provocative intersections of difference across race, religion and family. One of the most produced playwrights in the nation and a core founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons, Zacarías also penned the much-buzzed-about subversive homage to the telenovela, Destiny of Desire—a runaway hit in OSF’s 2018 season..

Artistic Statement: The Copper Children is astounding for several reasons. First is the virtuosity of Karen Zacarías’ writing—she writes great plays, and this is one of them. But just as important is the shockingly timely and relevant story she tells. Skillfully interweaving themes of race, the drive of motherhood, environmental disaster, and the weight of religion, The Copper Children tells the story of possibly one of the largest single kidnapping cases in U.S. history; in which Irish immigrant children were removed from New York City and transported via orphan trains to Arizona to be adopted by Mexican American mining families who had suffered infertility and stillbirths as a result of air and water pollution from copper mining.  While the Mexican American families were initially selected because they were Catholic, they were deemed unsuitable and the Irish children were instead placed with white, Protestant families. The Copper Children takes a sharp look at the collision of good intentions and bad behavior, blending humor, tragedy, joy and unsentimental social commentary. – Nataki Garrett, Artistic Director

Grant Statement: The rehearsal time supported by an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award is invaluable to the script and character development and historical and cultural framework of The Copper Children.  Most importantly, the extra time assembles the full creative team for the first time to dive into the complex material as a group. It allows Ms. Zacarías, Ms. Ali, the cast and designers to examine the story’s multiple cultural and historical references and address how to incorporate puppets and other theatrical imagery; and the ensemble of nine actors to begin preparing early for roles that combine spoken and choral work.  Parts of the story are sung in Spanish and English and the dialogue often moves between English and Spanish.  The designers’ input at the very earliest rehearsals is critical to informing what will ultimately be the action on stage, given the scenic and cultural shifts from a New York City orphanage to an Arizona mining town to a courtroom, and the use of a puppet to represent a child.  The expanded rehearsal for The Copper Children assures critical time and space to fully excavate the possibilities that ensure this play its full potential and a vibrant life beyond our stages. – Nataki Garrett, Artistic Director

Director:  Shariffa Ali

Set designer: Mariana Sanchez

Lighting designer: Stacey Derosier

Costume designer: Helen Q. Huang

Sound designer: Avi Amon 

Movement Director: Stephen Buescher

Production Dramaturg: Jocelyn Clarke 

Puppetry Consultant: Andy Gauekel 

Cast: Armando Durán, Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey, Kate Hurster, Eddie Lopez, Sarita Ocón, Carla Pantoja, Cesar J. Rosado, Rex Young, Caro Zeller

Additional funders: Helen and Peter Bing, Yogen and Peggy Dalal, Ed McCurtain and Jane Dryden, The Birrell Family, Lawrence “Hy” Doyle and LuAnn Wilkerson, Julian E. and Willie Sue Orr, George and Leslie Hume