Pasadena Playhouse Launches Theatre Initiative for Latino Community MI HISTORIA, MI MANERA

Pasadena Playhouse Launches Theatre Initiative for Latino Community MI HISTORIA, MI MANERA

The Pasadena Playhouse (Artistic Director Sheldon Epps, and Executive Director Elizabeth Doran) embarks on a new initiative titled Mi Historia, Mi Manera, which aims to build a model of artistic co-creation between its institution and Latina/o adults, artists, and communities in the San Gabriel Valley. Mi Historia, Mi Manera is supported by a generous grant from the James Irvine Foundation, and is an extension of The Playhouse's long standing Wells Fargo Theatrical Diversity Project, founded in 2005 by Artistic Director, Sheldon Epps. The Diversity Project is dedicated to promoting culturally diverse programming at The Pasadena Playhouse through the active engagement of artists, staff, volunteers and audiences of all ages, genders, orientations and ethnicities in exploring and celebrating the wealth of creativity in our world today.

The cornerstone of this initiative involves partnerships with organizations and individuals in the San Gabriel Valley to increase adult Latina/o participation in theatre, expand The Playhouse's reach into non-traditional venues in the region, and to increase the impact of the arts by building community-focused performing arts programming that creates long-term relationships with the Latina/o community. The first four partners include Pasadena City College, La Puente Artwalk, ImaginAction and multi-genre, multi-cultural Grammy winning band Ozomatli.

Through a robust partnership with Pasadena City College and its upcoming exhibition Jaime Escalante: A Life Con Ganas!, The Pasadena Playhouse is set to co-create a staged reading of Ramon Melendez and Tom Musca's Stand and Deliver (adapted for the stage by Robert Bella) at PCC on March 19, 2015. The exhibition is curated by Reina Prado and is a result of Dr. Cynthia Olivo's effort to re-establish the school's commitment to the Escalante family. This past Fall 2014, The Pasadena Playhouse welcomed 200 PCC students from the Jackie Robinson Arts and Humanities Lecture Series for the stage production of Kiss Me, Kate, directed by Sheldon Epps, and 200 students from the nursing program and the LGBTQ student organization also attended performances of Stop Kiss, directed by Associate Artistic Director, Seema Sueko.

The Pasadena Playhouse has also found a partner in the small San Gabriel Valley city of La Puente, where a community of emerging and established Latina/o artists and arts advocates are working to responsibly revitalize the Old Town La Puente neighborhood, introduce local residents to the quarterly Artwalk event and engage local businesses and residents with artists. The Playhouse is set to collaborate with the La Puente Artwalk Committee on a staged reading of Kita y Fernanda by Tanya Saracho within their community during Women's Awareness Month on March 28, 2015. The play reading will be followed by a discussion where residents are encouraged to discuss topics and themes pertinent to the play and how they connect to the city of La Puente. A local artist will also curate a public art installation that asks residents to engage the summer after the reading by answering a question specific to La Puente residents. Additionally, The Pasadena Playhouse and the La Puente Artwork Committee have partnered with the organization Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN), which will consult, help build and promote a sustainable arts community in La Puente. The committee is thrilled to introduce theatre to the community and utilize theatre as a way to create events that lead to dialogue and engagement through this partnership.

With partner organization ImaginAction, The Playhouse will co-create a community-devised play through workshops with the Latino/a community using Theatre of the Oppressed and Forum Theatre, a practice of using theatre techniques to promote social and political change. The play will culminate with public performances in March, 2015. Flintridge Center's Director of Community Organizing Brian Biery surfaced this partnership with The Pasadena Playhouse. Through a previous working relationship with international artist, Hector Aristizabál, Brian Biery introduced The Playhouse to Hector's organization, ImaginAction. This play will tour to different areas in Pasadena, and will include community members as performers.

Lastly, The Pasadena Playhouse along with multi-genre, multi-cultural Grammy winning band Ozomatli reunite to explore a creative collaboration that involves new work development and community engagement. The outcome will be an original, full-length English-language dramatico-musical stage play about the formation of a seven-man band in 1995 after the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. The play will feature Latin, hip hop and rock music written by Ozomatli, which will be performed by them during the production as the orchestra.

Elizabeth Doran, Executive Director of The Pasadena Playhouse, envisioned the Mi Historia, Mi Manera initiative soon after her arrival in 2012 and placed critical funding beneath the newly imagined program. Says Doran, "As the State Theater of California, The Pasadena Playhouse has a long history of reaching out to the many diverse communities that make up this great state. Since 2012, The Playhouse has raised over $1 million toward these efforts. This has placed strong financial support beneath a vision of inclusion that has allowed The Playhouse to build out a team devoted to engagement and audience development. We are so grateful for partners like the James Irvine Foundation, who see the value of arts organizations' need to sustain richly diverse audiences." Doran added, "We are also happy to be working again with Ozomatli. The band reflects the look, feel, sound and hope of our Los Angeles region. Their story, which will now be told on the stage in their own style, is at the heart of our Mi Historia project, and is reflective of us all."

"We're a 20-year old band -- a kind of L.A. institution -- and we're still looking to grow. We had the opportunity to play at The Pasadena Playhouse in 2013. After our experience there, we approached The Playhouse about our idea of our play, because we enjoyed performing there and felt such a good rapport. Doing something new, that we've never done, I think it's exciting for our existing fans and it helps to create an opportunity to make new fans. And, I think that goal goes hand-in-hand with The Pasadena Playhouse -- creating something new for existing patrons, which will also reach out to new patrons," said Raul Pacheco, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter of Ozomatli. "If The Playhouse's goal is to increase the Latino awareness and bring the community in from the San Gabriel Valley, I think this play, this musical, and us as a band can help the theatre do that. We are very happy to be a part of The Pasadena Playhouse's initiative."

The Mi Historia, Mi Manera team includes The Pasadena Playhouse's new Associate Artistic Director, Seema Sueko, who brings with her a new methodology of community engagement in the arts called Consensus Organizing (CO) for Theater and Mi Historia, Mi Manera project leader, Victor Vazquez. CO is a streamlined method of engaging in dialogue with the community about its needs well in advance of creating new programming.

The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101. PasadenaPlayhouse.org.


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