The first Somerville Theatre Festival, hosted by Performing Fusion Theatre, will be taking place this Friday and Saturday at the Center for Arts at the Armory.
Each night will feature live performances of 10 selected short plays as well as performances by other local artists.
Ayshia Stephenson, the executive direct of Performing Fusion Theatre, said the goal of the festival is to connect with and invite the community to participate in the company’s vision of collaboration and integrating art forms. The company, which began in June 2013, aims to promote multiculturalism by producing and showcasing multicultural talent.
“We really felt like we could’ve started with a full length piece, but we thought ‘What is the best way to introduce ourselves to the community and really get the community involved in the theatre?’” Stephenson said. “The festival seemed like the perfect way to do so.”
The festival invited playwrights and performers to submit original works that address the theme of equality. Stephenson said that this provided a great opportunity to give playwrights some direction while still giving them freedom to explore and individually interpret the theme. Of the over 50 submissions that were received, ten have been produced by local casts and will be performed at the festival. Each piece is ten minutes or less.
Brian Moore-Ward, the artistic director of Performing Fusion Theatre and a Dorchester native, said the theme of equality fits in well to the company’s overall mission of promoting diversity on the stage. He said that within the plays selected, audience members will see a range of topics addressed, such as gender, racial, religious, cultural, sexual, interpersonal, and socioeconomic equality.
“We wanted to capture a theme because it’s easier to have a basis to go by. Right now in society, equality is such a broad interpretation of a loaded concept,” Moore-Ward said. “We wanted something to grab us, to capture our attention.”
Moore-Ward said that he feels this festival brings the unique focus of multiculturalism to the theatre stage. He said that having been in the theatre world for over 20 years, he is amazed by the lack of diversity that is often seen on stage. He feels like this festival will provide a great platform for all members of the community to explore ideas of multiculturalism.
“We always want to see more of the community. Boston, Somerville, Cambridge—it’s not all one face. There are so many different faces in Boston and we wanted to capture that. We wanted to give the community their voice and their chance to be heard as well,” Moore-Ward said.
Stephenson echoed Moore-Ward’s sentiment that as a community, Boston and the surrounding areas would benefit from having a festival that challenges people to continue to question equality. She said that theatre and arts provides a safe place to look at how we as a society have evolved in our understanding of what it means to be equal.
“I think in many ways we’ve made a lot of progress in Boston’s history, but I think we could integrate our communities more. That’s not about living in the same neighborhood, but about really understanding that we have more in common than we think we do, that we’re all human beings.” Stephenson said. “[It’s about] how this festival can open the door and help us to open up more as a culture.”
Moore-Ward said that everyone in the community should take the opportunity to come and experience the original pieces at the festival. He said that the majority of pieces are written and performed by local artists, giving the audience an excellent opportunity to explore ideas of multiculturalism and equality in a powerful way.
“The stories are really incredible. The plays are really powerful, and they’re short, so they have to grab you, and they definitely will and make you think,” Moore-Ward said. “We’re using multicultural theatre to generate those conversations. I think we’re really bringing something new to the theatre community.”
The first Somerville Theatre Festival will take place on Friday, January 24 and Saturday, January 25 from 7 to 10:30 p.m. at the Center for Arts at the Armory. Each night will include ten short plays as well as live music from Graham Peck and surprise guest dance performers. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 (cash) at the door. There is a cash and credit bar for food and drink. For more information, visit the event’s website.