‘Are We Home Yet?’ combines comedy, theater and music to explore immigrant experiences


Photo courtesy of Marina Gkika

Gkikas wrote all of the songs by himself for “Are We Home Yet?”

Kara Peeler, Development and Recruitment Editor

Fanis Gkikas said he experienced a “cultural shock” after moving from Greece to the United States. 

The third-year acting MFA student then took to the Wirtz Theatre in Abbott Hall on May 27 and 28 to explore his experiences as an immigrant in a fusion of standup comedy and theatre with the production “Are We Home Yet?” 

“When seeing many people wanting to put me into a specific box … I felt the need of wanting to break from that stereotype, typical box, and create more of who I really am and talk about more of my authentic experience in this country,” he said. 

Gkikas knew he wanted to create a solo show since last year. When he saw an email about the Wirtz Student Performance Project, a program offering support and grants to original student works, he decided to apply.

“Are We Home Yet?” combines theatrical, joke-packed skits with original song outbursts poking loving fun at Gkikas’ family members. He sings “Greek Mom,” a song that compares his mother to the Greek king Leonidas. The piece also jokes about Gkikas’ father’s golden rule that “nothing expires” — even moldy yogurt. 

Onstage, it’s just Gkikas and his guitar, decorated with themed stickers of icons like a Vicks VapoRub tub and the Statue of Liberty. He said he considers his guitar to be another actor in the show. 

Second-year writing for the screen and stage MFA student Salwa Meghjee worked on the show’s creative development team in the early stages of production. She said the play is “really smart” in its approach to covering what it means to be an immigrant in America. The combination of theater, comedy and music strengthens the play overall, Meghjee added. 

Though its set is minimalistic, “Are We Home Yet” projected slides featuring his face edited onto a gyro behind Gkikas and props, like a curly gray wig to play his fiancee’s grandmother. 

Gkikas’ fiancee, Theodora Dagkli Andonopoulos, illustrated the cover art and advertising material for the show with a cross-hatching comic style. She said she incorporated elements of Greek culture into the artwork.

In the show, Gkikas talks about missing the other country he calls home whether he is in the U.S. or Greece. Stage manager and Communication freshman Zoe Davis said the story is one they relate to closely as an expat with homes in the U.S. and Spain, with the feeling of being “always home and never home.” 

Davis said he hopes the way Gkikas tackles topics of immigration and home gives the audience some “ahhs and oohs and cries and smiles.” 

“I also hope that Americans can take away and have a better understanding of international students at Northwestern,” Davis said of the show. 

“Are We Home Yet?” culminates with a song that Meghjee refers to as a “moment of sincerity.” 

At the show, Gkikas looks to his fiancee in the front row seats while singing about finding home in people rather than in a location. For Dagkli Andonopoulos, the final song made her feel immensely proud of Gkikas: “the song really, really got me good.” 

“That last song where he lays out like, ‘yes, there’s all this funny stuff about being an immigrant,’” Meghjee said, “But it is really hard to find home and we do have to find home in our people.” 

The show comprises a series of 10 to 12 comedic stories that cover the differences between Greek and American cultures. 

But Gkikas said he also wanted to point out similarities, where the cultures connect and eventually ask “where is home?” 

“I hope that (audience members) actually ask themselves what is home for them,” he said. “I hope that they will see more similarities in people in general … because I think to the core we are.” 

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Twitter: @karapeeler

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