Thursday, August 11, 2016

Preview: A Language of Their Own—MediaRites’ Theatre Diaspora—NW Portland

PREVIEW: An Invisible World


This staged reading is written by Chay Yew and directed by Andrew Klaus-Vineyard (co-Artistic Director of defunct theatre).  It is playing at Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th Ave., on Saturday, September 10th at 7:30 pm and at Portland Actors Conservatory, 1436 SW Montgomery St., on Sunday, September 18th at 2 pm.  For information and tickets, go to their site at www.theatrediaspora.org

The above-mentioned “world” is the behind-the-scenes glimpse at the activities that are necessary to put on a production, mainly producing a show.  I have founded and been a Producing-Director of two theatre companies and Artistic Director of another one, so am familiar with the myriad of duties associated with staging a play.  It should be mentioned that putting on a Staged Reading is not as time-consuming as a full-scale production, as it is usually a minimal set with little or no costuming or prop considerations.  Also it is a limited rehearsal period and run of the show.

But, as the lead Producer of this show, Wynee Hu points out, she “…recruits actors, sets deadlines, recruits guest panelists for post-show talkbacks, coordinates and conducts outreach visits to local events, coordinates interviews with the press, manages show-related cooperation between Theatre Diaspora and other organizations, ensures distribution/collection of contracts, liaises with performance facilities’ site contacts, and either does or delegates any other show-related work that arises.”  Whew!  And, believe me, that is only the tip of the iceberg.

But she does have two co-producers, Samson Syharath (also an actor in the show and with PAC), who coordinates liaisons with necessary parties, designs fliers and programs, recruits actors/director, etc.  And another crucial piece of the puzzle that falls within his boundaries is to “… try to expand our audiences so outreach and community development is one of our top priorities.”  I’m sure also, being an actor in the play, compounds the pressure, too.  Note, many larger theatres have specific people that deal with marketing, graphics, media, etc., but I can attest that if you don’t have the personnel for that, then it, by default, falls on the Producer.

The other co-producer is Alex Haslett.  His job is to deal with the social media, videos and still photos associated with the production.  And, of course, there is the Executive Director (and co-founder) of the company, Dmae Roberts who, I’m sure, will tie up any loose ends.  But, when choosing a show to produce, being personally vested in it is important for its success.  Doing a play for fun or because it will be popular is okay, but when you do a production that you put your heart and soul into and believe in, it makes all the difference and it shows, I believe.

This play is about two gay men and their issues navigating the complicated world of relationships, AIDS, and a society that doesn’t fully accept them.  So, why choose this play?  Hu explains, “It portrays the variety of human responses to mortality, and courage and fear in the pursuit of connection and love. The most inspiring and rewarding motivation for me as a producer has been the response of AAPI LGBTQ community members, AIDS survivors, and AIDS community advocates when we talk about the production. They are tremendously enthusiastic and invested in the story. I feel blessed to be working on a project that is meaningful to people who understand it at an intimate, personal level.”  Syharath adds, “It is important to understand that there are different kinds of love and that it is not just black and white. He's (the writer) shown a light on the grey area of what's right and wrong in a relationship…I wish more of these stories were told.”

For myself, I have family members and friends that are gay and I am appalled and somewhat frightened at some of their stories of “mistreatment” by the rest of society.  People can really be very cruel sometimes, can’t they?  And, if you look at the news nowadays, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.  My own, perhaps naïve, take on it is, why is it anybody’s business who you choose to love?!  That is a very personal and private matter and is, in my opinion, nobody’s damn business!

And what should be the take-away for an audience after attending this play?  Syharath and Hu put it very well.  Samson professes, “Relationships have many layers. People have many layers. It is important not to make judgments when every person has different reasons for doing what they do. We should keep our minds open.”  Wynee concludes, “I want the audience to become hungrier for the multitude of narratives that do not get broadcast by mainstream outlets.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.

I have witnessed and reviewed many of their productions in the past and can assure you they do quality work!  I would recommend experiencing this play and then sit down with friends and discuss it afterwards.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.