Celebrating BIPOC voices: The new theater program

permission to print photos: HR Imagining

Born from the protests in May 2020 and the desire for more diversity in the theater program, came the Out-Loud BIPOC Theatre Collective. It is an extension of Orangelight Productions, and it is designed to showcase the voices of those that are black, indigenous and people of color.

The program gives minorities a chance to share their personal stories in a way that didn’t happen before.

“I decided that we needed to have a space on our stage specifically carved out for people of color, and I wanted it to be an annual event, not just a one-and-done thing. I wanted this to be something that students could rely on,” theater director Cathy Swain-Abrams.

Discussion about the program began in summer 2020 with talking to alumni of color about the things they would have liked to see. Then, the meetings started at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year with a focus on more than just who’s on the stage.

“We needed not only to have plays that had people of color in them but plays that were written and directed by people of color,” Swain-Abrams said. “It’s not enough to have a white person’s story that has people of color in it.”

From there, Swain-Abrams hired director Alexis Wilson to come in and work on the program’s first production that premiered in February 2020, called “Trilogy”.

“‘Trilogy’ was in response to all that the students were being affected by: the killing of George Floyd, racism in this country, climate change and more,” Wilson said.

However, for the fall play this year, Wilson took a different approach. “Summer House” was a story that focused on love and community rather than struggle and strife.

“I’ve always been frustrated by the lack of representation regarding BIPOC stories that are about the more everyday aspects of living in the world. Where are the stories about trying to get into college, having a baby and the dreams that we have?” Wilson said. “We are often put into a box of crime, entertainment, trauma or historical narratives, and while these topics are real and important, I believe we have a lot more to offer as people and as artists.”

“Summer House” premiered at the high school on Saturday, Oct. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 31.

“The play follows a group of friends through four decades as they all experience life, love and relationships,” assistant to the director and senior Imari Duncan said. “The play was written beautifully, and the show came out even better. I know from feedback it even brought a couple people to tears. It was a fantastic show to be a part of.” 

After the production, the Out-Loud BIPOC Theatre Collective immediately began looking towards shows that they could do in the future, both harrowing and light-hearted.

“I want to keep pushing boundaries and put us in places that cause us to be a little uncomfortable because that’s where the growth lies,” Wilson said. “We [BIPOC] can’t say now that there is no place for us. It’s here. The door is open. All we have to do is walk through and show up!”