In November 2018, I was on a panel of sixteen diverse artists. The panelists represented various underrepresented backgrounds, namely LGBTQIA+, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), women artists, in mainstream theatre. It included Mei Ann Teo, Shakina Nayfack, Jessica Huang, Kate McGee, Natasha Sinha, Molly Marinik, Jeremy Stroller, Robin Sokoloff, Madeline Sayet, Marie Cisco, Alexis Williams, Tonya Pinkins, and myself. In a room in the Playwrights Horizon Downtown rehearsal studios, we decided to write collaboratively a list of things we admire in people we consider as artists. I've adapted the list for purposes of my artist's manifesto.
NOTE: I use the pronoun they/he/siya to refer to myself. Please feel free to change pronouns to better fit your own needs and wants.
The artist who I am actively working to be...
can improve themselves after reflecting upon their artistic processes
is a leader, "artist as citizen"
is forever committed to being anti-racist and pro-Black
is accountable for their actions and choices, and is able to hold other artistic collaborators accountable
is able to give critical feedback to support other artists in order to help them find their truth in their work
is able to make space for others' voices, particularly those whose voices haven't always been heard
has the potential to wield the "force" in their work, conscious of a spiritual dramaturgy
is present and curious in and outside of the rehearsal room, theater, and performance spaces
is patient and humble
comes from a diversity of artistic interests, experiences, strengths, styles to therefore provide collaborators with new perspectives and offer unique and varied skill sets and thoughts
is always open to learning from collaborators, and seeks for people who can challenge them to be a better person
knows for whom they're writing, consciously engaging with a community
experiences a collaborative team that is wholly symbiotic
is actively willing to open themselves up
desires and gives voice to the voiceless
holds themselves to a certain rigor that they themselves set to reach their own artistic goals
believes in their own ability to make impactful contributions to their artistic fields
is uncompromising to bring the margins of society to the center
thrives within the friction of building creative fire
What I believe in*
earliest version created in April 2017 + last updated Tuesday, 12.06.2021 The document is alive and will be frequently edited. This artist manifesto started as an assignment in a graduate course instructed by Dr. Megan Lewis and then was revisited with a similar assignment by Dr. Harley Erdman. If I've said something here that inspires you, please credit me if ever you decide to share with the world my thoughts.
*a list in no particular order
I believe my art and my artistic processes must evolve with the constantly changing language around the concepts of gender, sexuality, politics, cultures, and global citizenship.
I commit to continuously educating myself and my white and non-black POC collaborators to create work that is actively anti-racist and pro-black.
I commit myself to radically imagine my role as an artist beyond what I know it now in order to advocate for myself and my fellow BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) siblings on and off stage meaningfully and effectively.
I believe the performing arts is a collaborative art form that shapes communities, politics, and the world.
I believe dramaturgy goes beyond the text and requires a full embodied immersion in all intersecting disciplines in the arts, politics, and sciences.
I believe that when we put ourselves on the line in the rehearsal room and in performance, we help others affirm their own identities and see their potential to better serve their communities.
I believe that the performing arts is a transformative and restorative tool for underrepresented communities to radically imagine new inclusive worlds and build bridges of understanding.
I believe artists should label themselves whatever kind of artists they believe they are. They should have the ability and the autonomy to shape themselves into whatever artist they want.
I believe contemporary performing arts must always imagine a life beyond the stage. When I collaborate with fellow artists, I always make sure that we are always conscious of how art lives and impacts communities. Audiences are actively in discourse with the artists and the art itself, and they continue the discourse beyond the lives of the productions and the lives of the artists.
I believe the performing arts is necessary in all educational experiences of students of all ages. It is important that people learn that art is made by the people and should be accessible by all people. All art has the potential to be the impetus for community-building.
I believe we need more women, trans artists, people with disabilities, artists of color, and other underrepresented identities - not just on stage, but also behind the scenes - in arts administrations, creative teams, etc.
I believe audiences are smart. Let's not make a piece of art less intellectually or emotionally challenging in fear that audience will "not get it."
I believe that art is an open dialogue and that artists must help each other to become the best artists that they can be.
I believe that as a queer feminist POC theatremaker I've made a promise to the world to always show love, compassion, and understanding to anyone who actively seeks for it. I ask the same from my collaborators towards me.