Diverse Voices in Theatre
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Diverse Voices in Theater
 
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The personal is political.

The first person who taught me about activism was an avenging angel of justice named Sister Ann Raymond. She worked as the disciplinarian at Archbishop Wood Catholic High School for Girls, where I was a high school senior. She had occasion to know me well, as I had failed conduct in both my sophomore and junior year. But in senior year, I had promoted myself to the college track classes, had made honors every quarter, and my conduct demerit accumulation was nearly nonexistent. I don’t think I knew how proud she was of me.

Then, in early January, my father threw me out of the house. I went to school—determined not to make anything cause me to start skipping again—and told her why I’d come without my uniform. She decided to do something about it. All that day, she had me rest in the nurse's office while she arranged to have me come live at the convent. When school ended, we drove to my parents house to pick up my clothes.

I don’t remember the drive in her big nun’s Buick. I do remember the way her face flushed to the roots of her hair when we went to my room and found the dresser drawers empty. She stomped to the basement, found my clothes in a pile in the corner far away from the neatly folded clothes near the washer and dryer. And then she packed them into bags and carried them, one by one to her car.

As a child, I had been obsessed with Harriet Tubman, with the Underground Railway, a path of human help to freedom. I had read To Kill a Mockingbird, I had studied the Holocaust, and collected anything I could find about King Arthur. You might say I had a thing about injustice. But no amount of reading can outweigh a single human action—I was primed with knowledge, but Sister Ann Raymond taught me what it means when one human being advocates for another. That day, a door inside me swung open to the possibility of another life. I knew that perhaps justice might belong to me. I knew, beyond any question of a doubt, that Sister Ann Raymond thought I was worth fighting for.

The personal is political. I grew up to teach ESL in Japan, to work in group homes with the disabled, to teach birth control and sexuality education, to counsel women, to testify before the NH State Judiciary committee to remove the statute of limitations that protected sex offenders. I joined the Southeastern Child Advocacy Team and was elected to their executive board, I arranged the protest at Jessie Murabito’s trial (she had committed the crime of taking her children underground to protect them from a wealthy and abusive father.) I began performing slam poetry about women’s issues and wrote a one-woman show about violence against women. Then, with the advent of AIDS, I attended ACT UP protests, marched on Washington for gay and women’s rights, and later became a speaker for the Freedom to Marry Coalition in Massachusetts. After graduate school, I ran a tutoring program in the inner city of Boston, working in Haitian, African-American and Latino communities.

Over the years, my activism became more and more community based—I wanted to affect my immediate world. So when my plays were produced in Boston’s short play festivals—when my straight plays, never my gay plays, were chosen—I, like Sister Anne Raymond, got angry. In graduate school I had already organized a group called PACT Diversity, which worked to bring more diverse voices into the school’s theater department. I decided that Boston also needed a push toward regular inclusion of minority artists and their work. As a Slam poet, I knew how the slam format had revolutionized poetry in America; I thought that format might provide the same kind of edgy, fun environment that would attract audiences to the multicultural event I wanted them to see. Our first slam in October of 2003 sold out. So did 8 of the following 10 slams.

But Another Country Productions is not only about slams. Education is so fundamental to activism, to the possibility of social change that it had to have a part in our mission. And I didn’t just want to create theater about social justice, I wanted an aesthetic of excellence. In the second year of business, I began to teach the Meisner Technique, which I had studied in New York. Meisner is an aesthetic that demands honesty—it is not about presentation, but about the life of the actors on stage, about creating a sense that the audience is watching life unfold before their eyes. As more and more Meisner students were cast in our productions, we found that the audience reception was extremely enthusiastic. We created a Multicultural Meisner Ensemble in year three. I began to offer scholarships to minorities; I now teach Meisner full-time.

Further,we have begun to offer a program called Slams for Schools, in which we bring slams to schools and hold educational sessions afterward. We are committed to creating more educational shows about multiculturalism and diversity in the coming years.

Our shows aspire to be great theater—we seek always to marry our message of social justice to the making of art, to the telling of deeply human stories. We reach beyond the polemic to the questions of our daily lives, how we treat each other, how we must each change to make the world better. And we laugh at ourselves as well.

The personal is political. Though I have told Sister Ann Raymond what she meant to me, I think she can have no idea how far reaching her action on my behalf has been. I like to think that Another Country is having the same effect; that people who come to our shows, take our classes, are changed…that they leave both more aware and also freer. The fact is, there can be no movement from tolerance to understanding unless we hear each other’s stories and come to know each other. And for those of us involved in the company, who have the opportunity to create together, there is no more potent experience of diversity.

We welcome you to our community!

 

LYRALEN KAYE, SAG-AFTRA, AEA
Actress, Playwright, Poet

Holding an MFA in Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College, Lyralen Kaye is a Meisner-trained actor, passionately committed to acting as a revelation of multi-dimensional humanity in all its absurdity and drama. Her performances have been described and “compelling” and “powerful,” giving her characters “a sense of mystery.” Whether in drama or comedy improv—her other love—she subtly, through the arc of a performance, reveals her character’s secrets.

Lyralen began her professional acting career as a slam poet in Boston in 1997. In her first competition, she placed in the semi-finals; 3 slams and 6 months later, she won the women’s finals. From there, she began to receive requests for solo performances in New England colleges, coffeehouses and theatres. After performing shows composed of monologues and poetry, she began to study the techniques of movement theatre, and from those techniques created the one-woman play, Hail Mary, which was produced in Kennebunk, Maine.

In 1999, Lyralen auditioned for and joined the Boston theatre troupe The Improbable Players, where she worked on shows and taught drama workshops in area high schools. At the same time she was offered a full scholarship in the theatre program at Brandeis University, where she studied playwriting and acting. In the summer of 2000, she landed the roll of Madeleine in Tomboy, which ran in both Boston and at the NY Fringe Festival.

Lyralen then transferred to Sarah Lawrence College, where she completed her MFA in Theatre. Following graduation, she landed the leading roles in three independent films between 11/2002 and 8/2003 before moving into the Boston theater scene. There she founded the theater and film company, Another Country Productions, which produces innovative and multicultural new works. In addition to acting in theater and film, she leads the company, teaches classes in the Meisner technique, is building a Meisner-based theater ensemble and has begun to consider projects in film. She is strongly committed to a life of acting in both theatre and film that expresses an integrity of vision—one committed to social justice and finding new forms to express all aspects of the human condition.

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