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August Wilson in St. Paul: A MN Original Special

Excerpts: Tish Jones

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Loved our segment on spoken word artist Tish Jones? Read on for more details not featured in the episode about how she became interested in poetry and building the community!

“I went to Maxfield Elementary School, and there was an afterschool theater project that was led by our science teacher, actually. She presented us with this play, and, you know, all of my family listens to hip-hop. My friends listen to hip-hop. I listen to hip-hop. So the play options: one was Rap Punzel— Rapunzel’s story written as this epic rap, and I was like, “I wanna get down with Rap-Punzel. This is amazing—I’ve never even seen anything like this.”

“The honest truth is that my relationship with school–it wasn’t always the best.  I think it was because it wasn’t always fun and challenging to me, so I got bored easy. I think that’s the importance of the Rap-Punzel thing, right? It really drew me in to be able to read that classic story in this contemporary art form that was really relevant to me and my lived experience, but I didn’t have that often. And you know, not a lot of young people have that often. It’s not often that we’re taught in that language that we really speak.

“So what ended up happening for me is some of my teachers—I’m really thankful for this—some of my teachers kinda picked up on that. People gave me space to really explore my creative side, and I think a trusting relationship happens. If someone extends a gesture or a kindness to you, you want to give it back. So I showed up for those teachers because they showed up for me.

“In 2005—that was my graduating year of high school, and that’s when I linked up with Intermedia Arts for the first installment of B-Girl Be. B-Girl Be was an international celebration of women in hip-hop. That year was a life-changing year for me. That’s the year that I moved out of this solo kind of performance or writing space into: here’s what performance is like on a local level.

“Every year after that I still did some poetry and hip-hop sets, but also it became about helping organize it. It then shifted from being onstage to really thinkin’ about how you create platforms for other people. I think that’s what so good about this community, the Twin Cities arts community, to me. It’s not a selfish community. People here give back, and they teach.

“I feel like my involvement with B-Girl Be really felt like a mentorship. These are powerful, dynamic, intelligent women who I get to learn from, and recognize that’s it’s not just about creating art but it’s also about creating the spaces so that other people can create art. Like, you know, showing up for folks in the same way that my teachers showed up for me when I was a kid.”

WATCH: Tish Jones featured in the full episode here

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Tish Jones – Spoken Word Poet

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Laura Zabel – Actor and Executive Director of Springboard for the Arts

Excerpts: Peter Brosius

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Couldn’t get enough of our segment on the Resident Acting Company at Children’s Theatre Company? Read on for more insight from Artist Director Peter Brosius on what makes the Children’s Theatre Company so unique.

 

“There are many things that are extraordinary about this theater.

It’s the only theater to have won a Tony award for sustained excellence. It’s the only children’s theater to have taken a show to Broadway. And the Children’s Theater’s been here for almost 50 years which is such a great testament to this state.

The reason that “company” is in the title is that company is core to the entire idea of this theater. There are very few acting companies left in the United States. But if you look at the history of world theater—Shakespeare, Molière, Peter Brook, on and on—the history of great theater is the history of companies, and they’re there for a reason. You have a group of people who have earned a kind of trust with each other, who are willing to take risks, who are willing to collaborate and who share some profound common values and principles.

And so it has been a gift to have an acting company of people who invest so deeply in the work, who care so passionately about the audience, who are willing to work tirelessly to make a piece of work that transforms kids’ lives, that inspires them, that excites them. So part of my job is certainly the nurturing and supporting and listening to that wonderful group of actors.

Another incredible gift is that we’re also a school—I love that I came to a place where theater and education mattered so much. We have a theater arts training program where we work with a lot of young actors. And our resident acting company is committed to making sure that those young people are honored, respected, challenged, prodded, supported, nurtured and treated like professionals.

Additionally, each year, I travel around the country and audition actors—BA, BFA, MFA grads—for their first professional jobs, and this group becomes our performing apprentices. Sometimes they’ve worked a bit and sometimes they’re just getting out of school. We bring them here, we give them a real salary, we give them healthcare and we give them real roles in our shows. And the company is just so gorgeously welcoming; inviting them in, making them feel good, helping them understand every theater has its own unique culture.

We’re a place that celebrates young talent but also says ‘Rise up, meet the standard.’ Because we’re making theater for the most important audience in the world—for young people and families. And if we inspire that family, if we inspire those young people with the power of theater, its beauty, you’ve created a lifelong curiosity and hunger for the arts.”

Excerpts: Sun Mee Chomet

Chomet Screenshot 1Interested in learning more about actress and playwright Sun Mee Chomet after watching her recent segment? Read on for her perspective on diversity in the arts, the Twin Cities theater community, adoption and more!

(And click here for more information on her one-night-only August 17 performance of How to Be a Korean Woman.)

I originally wanted to be either a gymnast or a pianist, but I realized acting was a lot more fun, and now as I get older I think I’m an actor just because there are so many stories that need to be told, and that’s kinda why I’ve ventured into playwriting as well.  As an Asian American actor, you tend towards writing in order to create parts that are not written yet. And I feel passionate about that—about telling stories from the diversity of what it means to be “American.”

What’s special about the Twin Cities is not only the diversity of wonderful, incredible theater makers and artistic directors, but that these are people who become your friends. I felt like in New York, if I disappeared, no one would notice. In the Twin Cities, your fellow artists and colleagues not only want to see you, want to work with you; they want to see you thrive.

I would walk around the streets of Manhattan and dream about coming back to the Twin Cities. I knew I wanted to create my own work. And I knew I wanted to have the time and support and energy to be able to write, and especially create work for Asian American women. In NY, it’s just pounding the pavement, auditioning for Rape Victim Number 3 on Law and Order. It was not very satisfying. The Twin Cities was always a place that I felt supported artists, so I wanted to come back.

The most recent play I’ve written is How to Be A Korean Woman. I felt a need to write this play to process my search and reunion with my birth family in 2010. So often in plays about adoption, it’s this happy coming home story; how life in the States is great. I really wanted to give life to my birth family and the emotional turmoil on that end. As an adoptee, you end up kind of internalizing all of that emotional turmoil. And as much as I am grateful, I’m also really confused and upset. It really challenges every idea I have about what family means, even as an adult!

I do draw comparisons between my search for my birth family and my search for my identity as an artist. It’s about finding your authentic voice and figuring out who you are. The more you know your own biography, the better you’re going to be as an artist.

I feel like I am constantly aware of how little time there is. There’s so much I want to do, and there’s so much I want to say, and there’s so much I want to create with other artists. I don’t want to waste any time. Not because I want to get to a certain place, but because there are so many stories I want to tell.

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Raymond Luczak: Birthright

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Chan Poling – Musician

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Chan Poling

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Minnesota Dance Theatre

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Minnesota Dance Theatre

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Minnesota Dance Theatre