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Creating New Mediums and Hustle Culture

With Parmida Ziaei of Seda Iranian Ensemble

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Yura Sapi: Imanalla mashikuna. Imanallatak kanki. Hello, friends. How are you? Welcome back to season two of the Building Our Own Tables podcast. I’m your host, Yura Sapi, recording from Embera native lands on the Afro-Indigenous Pacific coast of Colombia in Nuqui Choco in the Gulf of Tribuga. The Building Our Own Tables podcast is produced for HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide, and by Advancing Arts Forward, a movement to advance equity, inclusion and justice through the arts by creating liberated spaces that uplift, heal and encourage us to change the world.

I’m interviewing Black, Native, Asian, and other founders of color to find transformative solutions and ways of working together that are not replicating the same white supremacy culture we wanted to get away from in predominantly white institutions. With the blessing that we all have a role in the revolution, this podcast checks in and learns from Black, Native, Asian, and other people of the global majority who have created arts organizations, movements, initiatives, practices, and beyond that are changing the game, making new things happen within, and building their own tables instead of focusing on getting a seat at existing white and Eurocentric ones. We’re learning from incredible arts organizing visionaries on their processes, pathways to success, and challenges they’ve overcome.

In today’s episode, I’m interviewing Parmida Ziaei, founder of Seda Iranian Theatre Ensemble. Seda Iranian Theatre Ensemble was founded in 2019 as the first Iranian theatre company in Seattle. “Seda” means “a voice” in Persian, to amplify the loss and forgotten voices of refugees, immigrants, and humans who often don’t have the chance to be heard in the chaos of news and other dominating voices. Seda believes that awareness and understanding changes our perspective, brings our hearts closer, and eventually leads to peace. You can learn more at www.sedatheatre.com.

Parmida Ziaei is an Iranian performer, designer, and choreographer based in Seattle. She has been merging her love of performing arts and her skillset in architecture by working in the themed entertainment design industry creating branding experiences, themed attractions, and other immersive spaces. Parmida has also been a scenic and production designer with many local Seattle theatres, including Macha Works, Theatre22, and Sound Theatre. Parmida is the co-founder and managing director of Seda Iranian Theatre Ensemble and the resident set designer with Macha Theatre Works. When not designing, Parmida performs, teaches, and choreographs contemporary and Persian dances. Learn more at parmidaziaei.com.

Great, thank you so much Parmida Ziaei for being on the Building Our Own Tables podcast, season two, we’re so grateful to have you on to talk more about Seda Iranian Theatre Ensemble and would love to just hear more about who you are, just a moment to let listeners, and those reading the transcript, know more about who you are.

Parmida Ziaei: Yes, thank you so much for having me, and pleasure to be here. So my name is Parmida, and I am an Iranian designer and performer, choreographer, in Seattle currently. I grew up in Iran and then I moved to California and studied architecture and theatre there. I’ve always had a love for theatre, and when I moved to Seattle started wanting to combine my interest in design and theatre and ended up doing more set design in the recent couple of years.

But on the side, I always have also been very interested in dance, so kind of continued doing that here, and so I’ve been doing performances and choreography on the side. And then about a year and a half ago, as kind of the lone Iranian theatre artist in Seattle, I started looking for community, and that’s when me and Naghmeh Samini, who’s the co-founder of Seda, sat down and started a new theatre company called Seda Iranian Theatre Ensemble, and it’s been active for about a year and a half. So I’ve been doing that, but also continued with design and dance on the side.

Yura Sapi: Thank you so much, yeah. I would love to ask more about Seda, the origin story. How did the idea kind of develop in maybe the first steps you were taking, maybe also a bit more about what you envisioned for the organization, for your community that you serve?

Parmida: Yes, of course. And so I, when I was doing… I’ve been doing set design for theatres in Seattle for about two, three years now, and I had been kind of, you know… The Seattle theatre community is very tight-knit and small, and everybody knows each other. And so I felt really connected to everybody here, but I was really looking for an Iranian community who does theatre, which I was missing.

And at the same time, kind of in a parallel path, Naghmeh, who’s the artistic director currently at the company, and co-founder— She is an amazing, very well-known playwright and educator in Iran. And she had been traveling kind of the US, and she’s done many, many plays and scripts, and done a lot of performances, but she’s also an amazing educator, who has been teaching for about twenty years Iran and at the University of Tehran.

So she was also here and kind of looking to start something here, but didn’t quite have the resources or didn’t really know anybody. And so kind of on parallel paths, a mutual friend connected us, and I went to Naghmeh’s place one day, and I was kind of a little bit of a fan of hers, so I was very happy to talk to her, but also in her living room... We started just talking about what can we do and how can we start something. And naturally, because she was an amazing educator, she was like, “Well, I would love to start workshops and classes.”

And that’s how we kind of started Seda, was with a general theatre workshop for Farsi speakers in Seattle, and basically wanted to open it up to anybody who has ever wanted to do theatre who hasn’t had a chance before or they don’t feel comfortable doing it in English or just has had maybe a little bit of experience but didn’t really get a chance to do it. So that’s how it started. And because the community knew Naghmeh a little bit, and myself, it quickly grew into a great class, and we started there, and then it continued from there, and now we have a great community around this from that class.

And that’s how it started. It was just through a mutual friend that connected two of us, and we had a lot of passion for creating that community.

Yura Sapi: I love it, yeah. And to hear more about, going back to that second part of the question, thinking about what you’re envisioning, and hoping to kind of manifest with the group, and for the future. Would love to hear more about how that kind of fits into your work.

Parmida: Yes! When we were first talking about this theatre community, or company, really the idea that we wanted to grow was that—and this is also refers to the name of the company, “Seda” in Farsi means “voice”… We knew that we really wanted to give voice to the Iranian, and just in general immigrant, community and refugee community around us. Because we felt a lack of that, especially through language, and through specific stories that were missing, especially in Seattle. I think there are definitely great Iranian theatres and artists around US and outside of the US who are doing amazing work, but we felt like there was a need here. And there were a lot of people who were interested, and through education also… That was also another— Not just through performances and plays, but also through education, giving voice to people was really important, which is why we named the company Seda eventually.

And the other reason, or I guess a goal that we had in the beginning, was to introduce the Iranian theatre and playwrights and artists to the non-Iranian community here, because there’s such great theatre happening in Iran right now, but it doesn’t quite reach this other side of the world.

And Naghmeh always tells me that, every night there’s hundred theatres, or plays, happening in Tehran only, the capital. So there’s really great work happening, and this way, during the past year and a half, we’ve done play readings of Iranian playwrights but also have been able to connect with Iranian theatre artists inside Iran and outside of Iran. So kind of growing that outside of our communities— Also another vision that we continue to have, and I think we want to do more of it in the future.

Yura Sapi: I’d love to hear more about the work you’ve been producing this past year during the global pandemic, especially thinking about how if you’re connecting more with international Iranian artists, were you able to do that better?—

Parmida: Yes.

Yura Sapi: —Because now we have more of an online presence, and energy, and understanding internationally?

Parmida: Oh my goodness, yes. I think considering all of the downsides of this pandemic, I think one of the great outcomes of it was connecting with people online, and now these classes that we’ve been holding, in terms of the education side of Seda, and because also Naghmeh has had students in Iran who were interested in taking more classes with her, or with other teachers.

And since now we have this online platform, we were able to have people from all over the world, inside Iran, outside Iran, in Europe, in Canada, in the US and different cities, to take the classes, and that way really grow the community. And we have made most of our classes available mostly free of charge or some scholarship with people inside Iran, because there are challenges to classes, and paying for classes, and also people who couldn’t afford it necessarily outside of Iran, so we truly try to grow this community.

And then the first production I would say that we did—which was online, but it was really beginning of pandemic, and I would say was kind of before all the online theatre started happening—was this performance called Kaveh’s Birthday Party. And it came out of that very first general theatre workshop that I was telling you about, and that general theatre workshop continued online after the pandemic started, because we started it in person and then the pandemic happened.

And then we wanted to do something, create an original work, out of that class, and so we created this performance that was originally written by all the students who then performed in it as actors and also wrote their own scripts. And we used it, and we actually created it for Zoom, so it made sense in that space. And then Naghmeh herself directed it and kind of helped them with the writing, and then I helped them with kind of imagining their homes as they’re set in their background.

And then we had a brief choreography in it, so we rehearsed the whole thing online, and then performed it online. And it was in Farsi, and the first time we performed it on YouTube— and it was done live, so we wanted to kind of keep that live experience. And about, I think four hundred to five hundred people watched it, and all Iranians because it was in Farsi the first time. And then we decided to do it again, and this time with an English subtitle, and another, I think, hundred to two hundred people saw it.

And so it was quite a very thrilling experience for the people who were performing in it, because most of them had never done theatre before, and this was their first very unusual experience, but also for us, it was a great, great, challenging, but really a kind of moment of, “Oh wow, we can do something, and I think we can create something.”

But also it wasn’t as intense as being in a theatre, or having to rent a space, or having to deal with all of the logistics of being in a theatre space. And so I think having that online platform made a performance also more plausible for a new theatre company like us, with all of this challenges.

So that was a really cool, cool experience as a first production, and we made the recording available recently again for a week, and people really responded to it.

Yura Sapi: Yeah, that’s so real about the physical space I found… So I closed the physical space of my organization around a few months into the pandemic officially, but right away we kind of stopped being in this space for safety. But also I did find that it was a blessing to be able to be released of this very capitalistic model.

I’m running off of—in Columbia, it’s different ways to incorporate slightly, but basically not a nonprofit, like a for-profit organization. And so it was meant to be that way for what we were doing, and selling tickets, and selling drinks and things, so it had to be that way. But also being able to kind of be liberated of this, like, rent and other costs that were things that I wasn’t really interested in paying for and valuing with this specific project, it’s not in line with the mission to also pay for a bunch of other things, that I couldn’t really control where it’s coming from as well. Because I do think being able to spend… Who receives that is a really important way to affect change.

So I wanted to ask more about the challenges that you face in this project, and also if there’s anything else you’re facing as a founder and something that you’re working through?

Parmida: Yes. I mean, in general I would say, aside from the pandemic, which is its own piece that happened... In general, because both me and Naghmeh really wanted to do this, and just started doing it—and it’s hard when you have no information or resources, but at the same time, we started really reaching out to the community around us, because we realized that we really needed help. And also we were so eager to do things right away, and create art and performances, and people were eager to come to classes and stuff, that we really realized that we needed to read a lot and rely on some other people around us for help, before we really go off and become a nonprofit on our own, which is where our mentorship, partnership, with Macha Theatre Works in Seattle came from.

And they have been super supportive and helpful in helping us find our way, in all the challenges of running a theatre company, and the admin side of things, which as an artist nobody likes to do, but it’s part of running a company, and you got to have to learn your way through it. So it’s been really challenging, personally, for me as a managing director to figure out, okay, how do we budget for things, managing all the classes that we run and all the performance logistics. Even though we didn’t have a space, it was coordinating a lot of people and making things happen. And also a lot of technical things, which necessarily if you’re in a theatre space you don’t have to deal with, but when you’re doing something online, you want to make sure it’s a very smooth experience for the audience technically.

So all of that has been challenging, but at the same time I think we’ve had great resources around us, and people who have been really willing to share their knowledge about how to become a nonprofit, or how to run your organization, or how do you do a fundraiser? Which we recently did, and really had to figure out all of that.

So that’s kind of, in terms of the running of the company, which we still are figuring it out— And it’s hard when you are going forward blindly, but it’s heartwarming to have support. Above the performance, like I said, I think the technical side of things obviously was a big challenge, because it was the first time doing something like this. But also it was the first time we were doing something as a group with this community, and we wanted to make sure that it’s enjoyable for them, first of all, because a lot of them hadn’t done something like this before, and we wanted to make sure it’s an enjoyable experience. And a lot of them really were just putting their time, and we didn’t obviously have a lot of resources or funding to make this a big production, but really people were passionate about it and really wanted to put their time and energy into it.

And so we wanted to make sure that that continues through the end, and it doesn’t feel like something that… Because it was a pandemic also, we didn’t want to have people feel they have to be a part of something just because they took the class. So we really wanted to make sure that it’s something that comes from them, which is why they wrote their own scripts.

And eventually they all were very excited to share something, but we learned a lot, in terms of when we’re going to rehearsals and how to make theatre online, which afterwards, when you start seeing other people doing it, you learn so much from other people too. And you’re like, “Oh, well, I think we could have done this, make it better, or maybe we should have done this too, make it typically more accessible” or all of that. So I think it was all a very great learning experience to do a production like that and prepared us for doing something in-person, I would say. So all in all, I think it was good.

Yura Sapi: So what’s next for Seda, are you going to be continuing online work or will they be moving to in-person?

Parmida: I’m really hoping that we would continue both in-person and online. I think as theatre artists, it’s natural for us to want to be in-person again, and together again, and do things in a space. And it’s just inevitable, as theatre artists to not do that. And I think we’re all very excited for that, to do hopefully two productions, one potentially... Both are scripts that are going to be potentially original work, and that we would want to do bilingual work, so that we have both the Iranian and non-Iranian audience seeing our work and hopefully getting different experiences, watching our work in Farsi and English.

And then we would want to continue the education side of Seda for sure, because I think that’s how we’ve been able to grow our community so quickly, bringing people from all around the world, which I think that side hopefully partly will stay online, and maybe partly would be in-person depending on the class. Because, as you may know, acting classes are harder to do online, but playwriting classes, or design classes, you could do online, and it would still be accessible to way more people than if you were to do it in person. And that way we can keep it accessible for Iranian artists, and students inside Iran, who obviously won’t be able to make it here.

So we want to kind of continue both of those paths. And then on the third kind of path, we want to continue doing play readings, which could also happen online, and that way audience from all over could also hear more about Iran’s theatre, aside from people in Seattle for sure. So I’m hoping really that both will continue, because I think the online work has made art more accessible to people, and I think that’s really important.

A headshot of Parmida Ziaei against a galaxy background with the Building Our Own Tables logo to her left.

Parmida Ziaei.

Yura Sapi: Is there anything you’ve learned on your journey as a co-founder that you’d like to share, maybe with other folks who might be going through similar things?

Parmida: Yes, yes, I think I’ve been very, very lucky that my co-founder Naghmeh and I, we have a very clear, and I would say very similar, vision, and from the get-go we have been really on the same page, and I felt really lucky for that. And I think that’s quite rare that you find somebody who’s very much in tune with you, and you are with them, and I’m learning so much from her, and she’s getting support from me. So we really complement each other and I feel very privileged and lucky about that.

But at the same time... And the one thing that we both have learned in the past year and a half is that, because we’ve been so excited to just do work, and start this thing, we’ve done a lot. We feel really burned out, which sometimes you have to step back and say, “Okay, what is really in line with our vision, and our original goal?” and “How do we move forward gracefully, and be kinder to ourselves and to each other, and to other people around us.” In terms of just the energy and the time that we all put into something like this, because we’re all so excited and we want to not fall behind. We feel like, well, we have to do so much more because we’re new, nobody knows about us, so we have to really do more.

And people are so excited, so we don’t want to lose that excitement and passion, and want to kind of keep up with it. But at the same time, just knowing who we are, and staying true to ourselves and our community, and slowing down I think is something that people are going to start to do more of and have learned from last year. And also knowing the people around us, and starting to ask for more help, and more resources, and really trusting the community that we’re building to help us grow this company, and relying on them.

So I think we want to start training people, and also have funding to pay more people, to help us, and become our staff, and hopefully when we become a nonprofit that becomes a little bit easier. But yeah, just knowing your limits, knowing your goals, being aligned to them a little bit.

Yura Sapi: Yeah. I’ve been seeing this idea of moving towards alignment, over hustle. So hustle coming from this, like, entrepreneur— I would say very “New York” energy coming from New York.

Parmida: Yes, yes.

Yura Sapi: Hustling, you know, entrepreneur energy, oftentimes that you have to be working really hard all the time, versus aligning, and then many different examples there in terms of how you can change your hustle mentality to aligning. So knowing that we don’t have to be working all the time to be effective, and actually it’s part of self-care too to rest, and to—

Parmida: Yes, yes. And it doesn’t take away from the work that you’re trying to do, recognizing that just because this is unusual or new, or what we’ve been trying to obviously prove ourselves that, “Oh, we are here, we belong, we want to show that we are doing work.” But at the same time, recognizing that that takes time, and it’s okay to kind of sit back sometimes, and rest, and re-energize ourselves.

Yura Sapi: Yeah. And that we can be offline for some time, and that’s okay. We can take breaks, and we can move as seasons change. And as different parts of nature become available or, you know, resting as well.

“Hustle Culture versus Aligned Culture” from @WithHonors on Instagram:

When Hustle says, “I need to try all of these strategies and platforms in order for my business to be successful,” Aligned says, “I don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. I should figure out what works best for me.”

When Hustle says, “As an entrepreneur, I need to be working around the clock or else I’m not doing enough,” Aligned responds, “My energy comes and goes in waves. I’m going to listen to my body, and whatever I do will be enough.”

When Hustle Culture says, “I have to invest in every program and coach, because they know something I don’t,” Aligned Culture responds, “I have everything within me that I need to be successful. I’ll only invest in coaches and programs that feel aligned.”

Yeah, how else can we be working to align, what are your strategies, especially thinking about working with other people?

Parmida: Yes. So we were in the last round of our classes right now for this season, and Natalie is finishing up “A Thousand and One Nights” class. And after that, we are going to have a little bit of time each on our own, just rethinking everything we’ve done, and kind of how we want to move forward individually. But also recognizing all the people around us and how they can best support Seda, and then rejoining, and really talking through all the opportunities and all the things that we’ve done and what we’ve learned, but also how we want to move forward in the next year.

And we’ve kind of thought through that a little bit, because we recently had a fundraiser, and we wanted to obviously tell people what we’re excited about and what we want to do. But I think we want to step back and see, okay, what people really resonated with, what really helped community and our vision, and how can we do more of that.

I think we tried a lot of things, and just sitting back and looking at it, and kind of looking through it and understanding what really worked, what really didn’t work. And then asking feedback from people, to understand what people want to have more of, because it’s eventually… The education side of things is for the people and for the community. And so they told us kind of what they want to see more of and what they want to learn more of, because now we have this great community, and we have group chats that people now make connections with each other, which is really cool.

And so, yeah, we want to see how that goes, but also just personally we both have a lot of personal projects and other things that we do outside of Seda—some of them support our work in Seda, and some of them are very different—and we both have to set aside time for all of that individual growth that we want to continue to do, and all the other work that we continue to do.

Yura Sapi: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of groups that I follow in other non-arts-related, necessarily, organizing community groups—one who has decided to go back to what it used to be, in terms of being more of a one-person kind of accounts and space for learning, so it’s called “Fearless Femme Queer Healing Space.”

Parmida: Mhm.

Yura Sapi: And then another, “Decolonize Un-Conference,” which is this gathering space for people of the global majority, unpacking whiteness and white supremacy within ourselves and our community. And so that one actually is off Instagram now, and so just seeing organizations and people behind them also making these decisions to actually step back and to do “less” maybe, actually can in the end be more.

Parmida: And also understanding— Because we want to obviously grow our internal team, and understanding how we can ask for help from other people, and how they best support us, and also grow inside Seda, and what does that organizational structure look like.

There’s a lot of different ways we could move forward, with two of us and other people, and we really have to sit down and talk to different nonprofit organizations around us in arts and culture, and other Iranian organizations, and non-Iranian organizations, trying to learn from how each of them run their companies, and what works and what doesn’t. And then that way we can come up with a way that works for us, and then go out and ask people for help and support, and also hopefully hire more staff, really rethinking kind of all of that based on the time that we had last year.

Yura Sapi: Absolutely. And again, thinking to this community that you’re talking about, in terms of reaching out and finding out what it is that people want, and need, and thinking in the different spheres as well.

So the people you directly teach with, but I imagine also the difference between people who are in Seattle, versus maybe other parts of the US, versus international, and then other organizations.

Parmida: Yes.

Yura Sapi: So all kinds of community, but different parts, perhaps, and have different interests and values even.

Parmida: Yes, and that’s the more reason to partly continue doing things online, and that way we can keep that community outside of Seattle engaged, especially, again, the community inside Iran, which are really excited to have this connection outside of Iran and have that kind of collaboration back and forth.

And one of the ways that we want to continue doing that, hopefully, which I’m really hoping that we’ll continue to do, is through this thing that we started called Seda Visual Journal, and the idea of this visual journal, which is available through our website—and we just released Issue Zero of it—the idea is that we would take world news and read theatrical video work based on that. And this time the Issue Zero came out of a class that, now, I actually taught last year based on the same subject.

And then the students created work based on different news that they picked and adapted, and then create an art piece out of it. And then all of those works are from people from all over—a couple of them are from people in Iran, and a couple of them from outside, and in Seattle. And so I think that’s one of the great ways that we continue in keeping that community engaged, and hopefully continuing with this journal also, it’s very aligned with that idea of giving voice that we always wanted to do.

And this way you’re giving voice to multiple people, and also through the lens of multiple social issues and news that we always hear around the world and we don’t really know how to absorb. So hopefully that will be one of the things that we do.

Yura Sapi: Sure. So I wanted to know if you feel some sort of accountability to international community, coming from producing in the United States, a country that has so much power and so much influence internationally—

Parmida: Yes.

Yura Sapi: —To say the least.

Parmida: Yeah. That’s a great question, because as somebody who grows up in, I guess, a “third world country” and then moves to the US, you feel this sense of responsibility to the community here, but also the community back home, to have to give back something, or you have to be the best in your community, but also still be connected. So yes, there’s definitely a sense of that. I think individually with myself, but also I think as a company, I feel like... And especially because of the connection that Naghmeh has to her students back in Iran, and her connection to the world of theatre is still in Iran, I think we really want to keep that connection.

And we definitely want to use that privilege that we have right now here to create art so easily... I mean, easily convert to Iran in a lot of ways, and the fact that we can really speak our mind and, you know, create work, based on whatever we want really, and there’s nobody saying, “Oh, no, you can’t say that.” Or, “No, you can’t create that.” Or, “No, that’s not allowed.” Or, “That’s censored.” And I think that’s definitely a sense of responsibility for us as we use our platforms now, and share knowledge also. So definitely we feel that accountability and responsibility, and we feel that need also from people outside of US to want to keep that connection.

Yura Sapi: Absolutely. And what I do love about this, I don’t even want to say, like, I love the United States, but I do appreciate the community that I have found, in a place that has so many folks who have migrated, folks who have been on the land for many, many generations.

And people of color, people of the global majority, and exchanging stories that also reflect what’s happening globally, and thinking about a global decolonization. So yeah, love connecting through artists and folks who are working through these mediums.

Parmida: Art is powerful. It can connect us through really unique ways, and so why not use it now?

Yura Sapi: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much.

Parmida: Of course.

Yura Sapi: I think one last question I can ask would be: Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners, in terms of resources or a final tip/advice going into creating an organization, especially in these first years? Yeah, and maybe thinking about also the international aspect, if other folks thinking about that too?

Parmida: Yeah. I mean, in terms of tips, I feel like I still need tips, but if I could give I guess one tip based on the experience we’ve had in the past year and a half, it’s really staying true to who you are.

And I know that sounds cliché, because everybody says that, but I feel like it’s the truth, and knowing what your goal is, and what you’re trying to really do with the art that you’re making, and staying true to that, because there a lot of opportunities that come up, a lot of challenges, obviously, that comes up. But I think for us, the thing that really kept us going was our passion to tell these stories and give voice to people around us, so I think that really kept us going through all the challenges, and it still continues to push us.

But also really asking for resources and help, and not being afraid to say “I don’t know something,” you know, and I still do that with people around me. And I’m really thankful to have had people who have said, “Oh yeah, that’s okay, I know the answer to that.” Or, “You know what? I also don’t know the answer to that, let’s find out.” And so asking for help and not feeling like you should know all the answers. And I feel like, personally, I always have that issue that I feel like, okay, now I have to be strong, I have to do this on my own. But just knowing that there are people who are very willing to help and share resources… Hopefully those people exist everywhere.

And then on the international level, really creating accessibility, because not everyone has the same level of access to everything that we have access to here in the US so easily, and understanding where people come from. Not from only an access level, but also the experienced side of things, and just understanding that people who are participating in your art, or your classes, or whatever that you’re doing from outside of US might have had a different experience than you.

And just being understanding of that, and being accommodating, I guess, of that. And I think that way that should stay, and you know, the collaborations continues.

Yura Sapi: This has been another episode of the Building Our Own Tables podcast. I’m your host and producer, Yura Sapi. Our editor is Daniel Umali. Original music by Blackos the Producer and Julian Var. This podcast is produced as a contribution to HowlRound Theatre Commons. You can find more episodes of the series and other HowlRound podcasts in our feed on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you find podcasts. Be sure to search “HowlRound Theatre Commons podcasts” and subscribe to receive new episodes.

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Thoughts from the curator

I hear talk about wanting for racially diverse populations to “get a seat at the table” or “bringing chairs to the table for POC,” meaning that we want our people to have a position at existing organizations and institutions with decision making power. For me, a few years ago, I decided to not focus on infiltrating existing organizations, but rather start my own. I know I’m not alone. With the blessing that we all have a role in the revolution, this podcast checks in and learns from BIPOC founders of various organizations in and related to the theatre industry changing the game, making new things happen within, and expanding beyond white and euro-centric experiences. We will learn from these incredible visionaries who have created their own tables of arts institutions, movements, collectives, initiatives, and more. We learn about their processes, pathways to success, and challenges they've overcome. This is an outside-the-classroom leadership learning from folks who are doing the things.

Building Our Own Tables

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