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May 24, 2009

I Will Never Play a Von Trapp

Growing up as a young Asian-American actor, I didn't notice until I was in eighth grade and my Catholic junior high produced the musical Oklahoma that race mattered in casting.  Up until then, I didn't think much of race at all and naively assumed that only talent mattered.  Then when I didn't get called back for Laurie, it suddenly dawned on me that directors and audiences might think watching an Asian actress play the Oklahoman ingenue would be downright weird.  Ever since then, when discussing the dearth of Asian roles, I've often joked with my fellow actors, "Look at me.  I will never play a Von Trapp."

The same type of thinking apparently came to Olivia Rosaldo-Pratt, recipient of the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize at UC Berkeley.  As an undergraduate she taught drama classes to at-risk youth and students learning English as a second language.  After using drama to address their anger, frustration and language learning, she realized that drama offered benefits that youth of color were not able to access.  Drama programs, even in the most diverse schools, involve few students of color.  

Pratt then used her prize to present Saturday's day-long conference, THEATER MATTERS: Reinventing Drama Education for the Next Generation.  Bay Area artists, teachers, and community activists, including playwright Philip Kan Gotanda, Rhodessa Jones & The Medea Project, and national slam poetry champion Marc David Pinate, joined students in workshops and group discussions to try to create a new vision of theater for the next generation. "We want to make sure that young people of color in Bay Area schools feel they have a place in drama programs and are empowered by the work they do there.  No one should ever feel alienated the way previous generations have," says Olivia Rosaldo-Pratt.  "We want this conference to cause an explosion of collaboration and new projects."  

Stay tuned to this blog to find out what new projects are in the works. 
May 24, 2009 3:14 AM | | Comments (0)

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