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 T’ien 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.