Why Diversity? Why Artists at Play?

It’s that time of year again, when we look back and reflect on what and who we’re thankful for. And each year, I find myself grateful to have Artists at Play, my co-producers and co-founders in my life. We’ve been through a lot together, personally and professionally, including starting a theatre collective, career changes, grad school, searching for love, a surprise wedding, pregnancy and birth ... much has happened in five years!

What brought us together is what keeps us here: Love of live theatre, a drive to create opportunities for artists who may not always get the space in Los Angeles theatre. As a collective, our self-assigned role is to provide these opportunities. But how did we get there? Let’s consider the first questions we asked ourselves ...

Marie-Reine Velez, playwrights Sanaz Toossi and Carla Ching, with fellow Artists at Play
producers Stefanie Lau, Julia Cho, Nicholas Pilapil at 2015 AAP Readings

What is the void in L.A. theatre? And what can we do to change that? 
On one hand, we saw there was a missing voice at a specific intersection of culture, generation, and sensibility. On the other hand, we were aware that we would be just another company in L.A.’s densely populated theatre community, AND that there were already other companies/entities producing diverse theatre. So why add Artists at Play to the mix? Couldn’t we just enter the systems of existing theatre producers already doing work in diverse theatre? Wouldn’t that be enough?

My simple answer: It’s not enough. Not nearly. And there is great value in adding to that volume, and we’re honored to work alongside these companies. Artists at Play has become our opportunity to further increase diversity in LA theatre, and to share what excites us about theatre.

In the end, we agreed that it all came down to diversity, the need for stories by Asian American writers that we saw as valuable voices in the theatre community, and the desire for these perspectives to have a larger place in our regional community, especially considering LA’s population. We saw this as potentially making a considerable impact on LA’s audiences and talented diverse artists alike.

Okay, so why diversity? Shouldn’t it be about the art? For me, the value of diversity lies in the multiplicity of perspectives and expressions, leading to a better understanding of other people. That in this understanding we may show more compassion, and start to eliminate prejudice, discrimination, hate, violence and inequality. Diversity to me has become equivalent to valuing humanity.

What excites me about theatre is discovery, whether it be a moment, a feeling, a new exploration on a tired topic, and I hope that’s what Artists at Play provides for our audiences and artists. It certainly has encouraged me to grow and discover as a creator and administrator these last few years.

Would you like to see more? We have some fun plans ahead. Please consider making a year-end, tax deductible donation to Artists at Play. Your support will go toward 2016 programming, including our spring reading series, fall mainstage production, and special events like our 2nd annual Artists at Play ... at Play!

Thank you for a wonderful first five years of Artists at Play.

Marie-Reine Velez
Producing Artistic Leader
Artists at Play

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