MediaRites’ Theatre Diaspora – “The—Ism Project”
“The—Ism Project” is an original hour-long new work by MediaRites’ Theatre Diaspora project composed of 6-7 short monologues exploring the intersections of race, gender, orientation and nationality, including stories with specifically Pacific Northwest perspectives. Monologues will be developed in local workshops also curated from a national submission process. The project will culminate in six performances including one staged reading, and will include post-show community dialogues with audience members in an effort to bridge divides and create much-needed empathy, understanding and compassion. The long-term goal of this project is to tour small towns and rural communities across Oregon. “The—Ism Project” production will be directed by Catherine Ming Tien Duffly. Actors will be comprised of Theatre Diaspora ensemble members and other actors of color who participate in a six-month series of workshops for development and training.
Why this project now? Three years ago MediaRites created Theatre Diaspora at a time when there was little Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) theatre being done. When it was being produced, often companies would either hire non-AAPI actors to portray Asians, several times in “yellowface” makeup. There was a great need for awareness about AAPI representation and stereotyping, as well as opportunities to create excellent work featuring AAPI artists for AAPI and PoC audiences. Based on data from our studious survey system for the last three years, the Theatre Diaspora audience we’ve been developing in Portland is majority PoC (average 55%) and younger (under 45) than most theatre audiences. Most of our target audiences do not generally attend theatre primarily because of a lack of representation on Portland stages. We soon began to realize that in order to grow and strengthen our theatre projects we needed to partner with community organizations and other PoC companies and artists.
One program that arose from our strong partnerships is our New Opportunities PoC theatre workshops, designed to cultivate new PoC talent, and also to retain professional PoC theatre artists to stay in Portland. Our workshops were so successful that we envisioned a project idea that would address the divides we are currently experiencing, but also to build collaborations with more PoC artists. “The—Ism Project” snot only represents a new milestone for MediaRites’ Theatre Diaspora to produce a full production, it also creates a performing vehicle for PoC artists and a way to grow our diverse audiences.
To register for our next free PoC workshop visit: https://mediarites.wufoo.com/forms/q1wbvnve191xpd7/
MediaRites has a long history of creating original stage plays that feature artists of color and address relevant social issues. Some have been AAPI original plays written by Dmae Roberts such as Lady Buddha, about Kuan Yin, the Asian goddess of compassion and mercy, and Tell Me, Janie Bigo, featuring a mixed-race protagonist. The Grief Project, in which the creative team of director and playwrights interviewed grief survivors in support groups, resulted in The Time Between, a play produced at the IFCC. For The Breast Cancer Monologues, breast cancer survivors took writing and art workshops to create monologues that were performed at the Hollywood Theatre and then later made into a docu-play for radio. These projects were the precursors for the “The—Ism Project.”
MediaRites has five goals: 1) To produce an original theatrical work that will eventually travel throughout the state. 2) To address the divide and the backlash against People of Color (PoC), women, LGBTQI people, immigrants and refugees that have become more visible and frequent since the 2016 presidential election. 3) To address the intersections of race with sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. 4) To create community dialogues which we value as well as the professional work we hope to create. 5) To provide continued opportunities for theatre artists of color with workshop and training as well as to perform in this new work.
The project timeline began in the summer of 2018 with call for PoC playwrights’ submissions, community outreach, discussion with community leaders, and project development workshops. In the fall, production planning will begin and MediaRites will produce a work-in-progress show. In the winter, rehearsal will begin for the full production, with “The —Ism Project ” premiering in early 2019. After the premiere of “The—Ism Project” we will launch the touring phase of the project, another big milestone for the company.