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Artists in Revolt

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RIGHT DIRECTION Brendan Simon, TheatreFIRST’s new artistic director, is dedicated to youth, public service and fighting for equity.

North Shattuck’s TheatreFIRST lays down the foundations of a revolutionary legacy

“We hold black life sacred, denounce white supremacy,” begins the proclamation on TheatreFIRST’s website, “and stand in solidarity + camaraderie with the revolution.” Some may “talk the talk,” but North Shattuck’s TheatreFIRST theater company walks the walk with innovative programming and revolutionary intent reflected in every aspect of its works.

Five years ago, TheatreFIRST—a nationally acclaimed social and economic equity organization that uses the medium of theater to challenge our world’s traditional constructs—was reinvented into a theater lab of community artists dedicated to pioneering new forms of progressive activism. Beginning with mandates of a minimum of two-thirds people of color, half female-identified and one-third LGBTQIA2+ in all aspects of infrastructure and production, TheatreFIRST stands by their unwavering promise of representation for all.

This year, TheatreFIRST announced the hiring of their new artistic director, Brendan Simon. “For too long American Theatre has been centered on white-led hierarchy and storytelling inherent to racist capitalism, but at T1 we strive to make the world we want to see on and off our stages,” the company says in a statement. Simon co-created RISE UP, a national program for educators to foster resilience in school environments despite the adverse childhood experiences and traumas affecting students, and recently began working to transform educational theater’s middle school programming to address racism and include messages of equality and social justice.

TheatreFirst especially stands by their credo in their programming, and this season promises to cement the company’s revolutionary resolve. Premiering on May 7th, Magic Fruit—written by Alejandra Maria Rivas and Kimiya Shokri, and directed by Susannah Martin—is a timely tale of a chef and a food critic whose livelihoods, and relationship, are threatened by quarantine. On May 28th, Affinity—by Cleavon Smith—places the audience with group of activists whose leader mysteriously disappeared at a crucial moment, and Delano—written by Carlos Auguirre, Jeffrey Lo and Lisa Ramirez, and directed by Sean San Jose—explores the lead-up to the Delano Grape Strike, through the perspectives of Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Larry Itliong, three humans who clashed, broke and dismayed each other, but ultimately changed the world.

TheatreFIRST manifests the change in the world we all want to see.