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BWW Blog: FOUND IN TRANSLATION - Et Alia Theater

The New York-based theatre company, founded and led by immigrant women, is slowly making its mark on the New York arts scene by telling its own stories.

BWW Blog: FOUND IN TRANSLATION - Et Alia Theater

As a playwright I constantly find myself searching for theatre companies that may possibly be interested in producing one of my shows or working together to develop something completely new. In May 2020 I happened to fall upon a company called Et Alia Theater. I had never heard of them, but one look on their website and I saw that my ignorance of their existence was a huge mistake. I quickly filled out the contact form on the site in order to possibly form a collaborative relationship and, to my luck and surprise, they responded, and we have been working together on an original project for almost a year now. But that is not the story I want to tell today. Today I would like to tell the story of the company itself; I would like to tell the story of how a group of women from different countries and cultures came together for the sake of art, for the sake of paving their own way in this world in order to do what they love. This is the story of Et Alia Theater.

Founded in 2019, Et Alia Theater (the 'Et Alia' meaning 'And Other') markets itself as a company that creates art for the other, by the other, and about the other by striving to foster an accepting community that provides a safe space where people can take risks, push themselves outside of their comfort zones and collide with an array of international voices which may be culturally unfamiliar. The founders of the company, who also run it and produce, direct and star in its productions are: Maria Müller (co-founding artistic director), Ana Moioli (co-founding artistic director), Giorgia Valenti (co-founding artistic director and marketing director), Luisa Galatti (associate artist and producer), and Deniz Bulat (associate artist/producer). Though each of the artists hail from different countries - - with Valenti being born in Trento to a father from Trento and a mother from Milan; Müller coming from Romania; Galatti and Moioli from Brazil; and Bulat from Turkey - - they found common ground in New York City, where they began working on a multitude of projects together, such as the plays On How To Be A Monster and Running in Place in 2019.

BWW Blog: FOUND IN TRANSLATION - Et Alia TheaterWith the company aiming to tell two types of stories (the ones that deal with themes of immigration/being an international artist/home vs. foreignness etc. and the ones that have nothing to do with any of these themes, but they just so happen to have non-Americans as the main characters), they have hardly run out of subjects to focus on. Most recently they have taken to the screen, as many theatre companies have during the pandemic, to portray their unique art and sensibilities. Their project This is Me Eating, described as an online movement series, began as an examination from Valenti based on her own experience with an eating disorder. It then grew into a project not only focusing on that, but on every member's uncomfortable and/or unhealthy relationships with food, leading to them further opening up the conversation to their audience, receiving not only positive feedback and reception, but also videos and thank you's from other women who felt a new comfort in telling their own stories. Et Alia pieced together the videos, both from themselves and submissions, into a documentary, which to date has been accepted into The Essence of Embodiment Film Festival and to Irondale Center's On Women Festival 2021 - The New Media Storytelling Section.

Along with that project, more recent ones include Stella, Come Home, a movement exploration series which is intended to rediscover a classic American play - A Streetcar Named Desire - through the bodies of the international women from the company; and the upcoming White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, a co-production with Aurora Nova, as part of Let There Be Theater - A Call to Action on March 13th. The play by Nassim Soleimanpour is a potent reminder of the transgressive and transformative power of theatre, something that perfectly aligns with Et Alia's mission.

BWW Blog: FOUND IN TRANSLATION - Et Alia TheaterAt the end of the day, the story of Et Alia Theater is not just a story about a theatre company. It is a story about a group of women, none born in America, who desired to find their place on the stage. In the current climate we live in they feel it to be their responsibility to use the only tool they have - art - to call attention to diverse themes and questions such as: What does it mean to engage with an American play when you have a Romanian/Italian /Brazilian /Turkish body, look, accent? It a story of women who all fell in love with the arts when they were children, who dreamed of and worked for a life in it, who all have a diverse set of dream roles, from parts in King Lear to The Joker. It is a story of immigrants who are acutely aware of the time and place they are living in, where they may not receive the same opportunities as someone who is American-born and white. On this Valenti had to say, "Although I am European, I could definitely pass as a white American girl...It also depends, because I think that my European features do make me stand out in the American acting industry, but at the same time my accent is always going to be with me when I enter the casting rooms along with my VISA situation and the limits of my work authorizations," while Galatti feels that "no, I have different chances and opportunities. No, I am not like American girls nor do I have the same opportunities as them. But I believe that what makes me different from them is my uniqueness and that is my strongest power. I probably won't be cast on the same roles, but I'll create something unfamiliar, I'll introduce the unknown."

And that is what interests me the most about Et Alia Theater and why I believe they will continue making important art and continue growing an audience to witness that art being produced. They have already broken down walls and proved ancient stereotypes wrong. As co founding artistic director Maria Müller stated, "When Et Alia was born, I started seeing things differently. I realized that the traditional route is probably not going to work for me and that creating my own work is the way to go. I'll create so much work, they won't be able to ignore me anymore, because I'll be everywhere." Let's hope we see more faces and voices like those coming out of Et Alia Theater more often when the doors open back and the lights shine again.

You can find Et Alia Theater on Instagram @etaliatheater and on Facebook.


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