SEA Echoes Through Rivers held a free 2-day live street theatre mini-fest performance the weekend of June 12 and 13 at Plaza Park. 14 stories were written and performed by local Southeast Asian artists. Artist collaborators hoped to create unique street theater performances made up of stories of the Southeast Asian diasporas from Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, and other surrounding northwest suburbs in Minnesota.
Minnesota is home to the fourth largest SEA American communities in the United States, with a population of over 114,000. More, the cities of Brooklyn Park (#2) and Brooklyn Center (#4) are home to one of the largest Asian communities in Minnesota.
We spoke with Kaysone; One of the group members after the event to learn more:
We have found that the voices and representation of Southeast Asians were missing in theatre and many areas, in general. The underrepresentation of our communities to speak our own truth and voice, led us to SEA Echoes Through Rivers.
We wanted to create a safe space to tell and listen to each other stories, and in turn, represent those voices and bodies onstage, which isn’t often seen or heard even in the Twin Cities where theatre is one of the largest communities in our country. What is even more crazy is Minnesota is home to one of the largest Southeast Asian (SEA) communities and the Cities of Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center is also home to one of the largest SEA communities and yet we are so underrepresented!
This production and overall project, gave us the opportunity to engage SEA communities in telling and writing their stories and having a platform to perform in a street theatre style, which takes to heart the art of telling stories than the bells and whistles of a full blown production you might see elsewhere. This intentional strategy of using street theatre made it more accessible for the SEA communities without the pressure of having to be theatre trained. More, street theatre was traditionally a form of entertainment and sharing information in many SEA cultures. The heart of storytelling and accessibility are the essence of SEA Echoes Through Rivers.
Since accessibility is one of our key intentions, we wanted people to have access to theatre…not just any theatre but theatre that reflects their own stories and cultures. A lot of the audience who attended said they have never seen anything like this before! And many commented on how wonderful and beautiful the production was…to be able to experience something different than the traditional theatre most don’t have access to. Most importantly, the street theatre production also took place in their community where the stories were connected to. It was an opportunity for SEA communities who have never seen theatre to see it for the first time…and there were plenty of audience members where this was their first theatre production! That was our biggest hope, to have SEA communities come out and experience theatre storytelling they normally wouldn’t, and what makes it even more special is that they get to be a part of the first SEA street theatre mini-fest ever in Minnesota!
We are so grateful for CURA (Center for Urban and Regional Affairs) and the City of Brooklyn Park for believing in SEA Echoes Through Rivers with us. When trying something new, no matter how needed, it’s so important to have key partnerships to help make this vision possible. We couldn’t have done it without their support, and it’s hopeful and exciting to know that these partnerships can happen and hopefully continue. We hope this vision can grow and that more SEA communities will come out to experience more of what’s to come. So stay tuned for another street theatre mini-fest next year!
The project provided an opportunity to engage the Southeast Asian communities in having a voice and artistic platform to let people know that they exist and deserve the same access to opportunities and resources that SEA communities have in other Twin Cities metro areas.