Out loud on the stage: Theater features BIPOC students

design: Nathan Chow
permission to print: Teresa Christian

“That’s all anyone wants you know… to be seen and loved. It’s so simple really.” And with sigh just as she’d entered, Caira exits the stage trailed by a beaming spotlight as the crowd roars. The 2022 B.I.P.O.C. production had sadly come to an end, leaving the crowd reminiscing on the hour-long emotion filled ride they’d just taken.

This past month the high school’s Out Loud Theater successfully held its annual performance of “the Out Loud Cafe”. The performance featured the stories of a group of people of color all of whom were emotionally tied to the fictional “Out Loud Cafe”. Among the cast of this production was junior Caira Fischer-Rogers who played Cleo, a widowed children’s book illustrator, who’d lost her wife to cancer.

“At first, I felt very uncomfortable playing the role of Cleo because I didn’t want to offend anyone, but it helped me to gain new perspectives and to grow as an actress,” Fisher-Rogers said.

BIPOC is an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. And at the high school, the theater department uses this acronym to represent the Out Loud Theater Collective.

The BIPOC performance ensemble specializes in the storytelling of people of color by students of color.

“Our goal was to create a safe space on the theatre stage that would allow the voices of our students of color to be heard,” Theater Teacher Cathy Swain-Abrams said. “We want to be able to perform the stories of people of color written by people of color, performed by people of color and directed by people of color.”

Although the ensemble has only been at the high school for three years and is currently at a much lower capacity than the other Orange Theater ensembles, it’s beginning to grow as more and more students of color are welcomed to the school. With more new students of color joining, Swain-Abrams hopes to put on larger shows that are predominantly POC roles.

“What we are hoping to become is a place where we can choose both known plays and known musicals that meet the criteria of being written by POC performed by POC and directed by POC, and also just be able to choose whatever predominantly POC production we want,” Swain-Abrams said.

The Out Loud collective is lead and directed by community performer and all-around artist, Alexis Wilson. Wilson has written all three of the annual Out Loud Theater Productions in order to cater specifically to the unique groups who were casted each year.

“It definitely introduces the stories of BIPOC people to people around the school. It also gives people of color a place to go express themselves through the arts, which I think is really great,” Fisher-Rogers said.

The first production of the Out Loud collective took place in 2020 and was written to suit specifically the pandemic and all other obstacles that would have normally gotten into the way of the production. The 2021 Out Loud production was “Summer House”, which was also written by Wilson was also a success though there were many differences between the previous year.

As the group begins to grow, more opportunities for larger predominantly POC casted and created productions will be possible. But, for now the group is continually growing and represents lots of the hidden talent at the high school.