An Interview with MaArte Theatre Collective

Playwright’s Note: I feel like I was in the delivery room watching the birth of MaArte Theatre Collective. Well, maybe not that graphic, but it’s wonderful to see the growth and impact of this one year old theatre company. An excerpt from a play of mine was included in their The FLIP Side event, and I knew I wanted to work more with these energetic, ambitious, and talented artists. Christine Cervas Nathanson came on board to lead “The Fire in Me” crew as director, and Reanne Acasio, Patrick Mayuyu, and Claudette Santiago enrich the cast. Our project benefits greatly from our artistic collaboration with MaArte.

Tell us about MaArte Theatre Collective.

In 2018, six young Pilipinx-American theatre artists in San Diego felt a deep lack of Asian – but especially Filipino – representation in theatre, media, music, and other storytelling mediums. After forming a bond over the desire to see more of our own stories celebrated in the wider world, we realized that you can’t wait for someone else to invite you to tell your story– you just have to start telling it. So, in February of 2018, we founded the MaArte Theatre Collective to create space for the Filipino-American experience in our diverse and dynamic culture.

Ciarlene Coleman and Christine Nathanson are the current Co-Artistic Directors. Other producers include Reanne Acasio, Baby Bagos-Hood, Shaun Tuazon-Martin, Patrick Mayuyu, Claudette Santiago, and Michaela Subido.

Clockwise from Center: Patrick Mayuyu, Ciarlene Coleman,
Christine Cervas Nathanson, Shuan Tuazon-Martin,
Claudette Santiago, and Reanne Acasio

Why was it founded?

In February of 2018, Ciarlene Coleman posed the idea of producing a musical cabaret to a Facebook group of Filipino theatre artists in San Diego and was met with overwhelming enthusiasm. There was a deep hunger for opportunity in an underrepresented community of talented artists who deserved – and still deserve – recognition. At that point she reached out to Christine Nathanson and the other MaArte Founders, then just fellow theatre artists, with the proposition of producing the event. After their first planning meeting, they realized that the need was so much bigger than one cabaret could meet. They committed to forming a theatre collective with the intent to tell stories of the underrepresented Pilipinx-American experience, and to provide artistic opportunities that Pilipinx artists had so far been largely denied.

What have been some of your successes? What have been some of your challenges?

In just a short time, MaArte Theatre Collective has become a name on the lips of prominent theatre producers in San Diego. In 2018, we produced two musical cabarets, 7 short plays in our event The FLIP Side, we sent 3 of our founders to the CAATA conference in Chicago, developed a new play, Platinum Record, by an emerging Pilipinx playwright, and raised over $2k in generous donations from our supporters. Our greatest strength lies in our identity as a collective of freelance artists who are all masters in multiple disciplines of the theatre making process. Our process is truly a collaborative and passionate one. Our biggest challenges have been related to fundraising and finding spaces for us to produce our work in. The biggest cost to young companies like ours is renting out performance venues and the cost can really rack up, which limits our ability to compensate artists in the way that we would like.

The cast of Carol Cabrera’s “Colored”
in MaArte’s The FLIP Side

Why is it important to tell stories about domestic violence in our community?

Domestic violence is something that affects everyone. If you think you and your family are exempt – you’re wrong. Our society is built on an imbalance of power at women’s expense and that disparity affects every household, every marriage, every parent-child relationship. Yet few people discuss its far reach.

Art gives us the words to be able to discuss intimate and political topics such as this. It creates an opening for conversations to enter through and a space for them to begin within. Theatre in particular is one of the most powerful mediums for this because it is art, shared. Theatre necessitates the gathering of a community around a subject and encourages their participation in the storytelling process. This communion is essential to overcoming the barriers and hurdles that prevent people from confronting social problems together. That is the first step towards solving them.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

MaArte is ecstatic to partner with Asian Story Theater, one of the oldest Asian-focused theatre arts organizations in San Diego. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in the telling of The Fire in Me and honored to participate in such a poignant and timely conversation on domestic abuse.

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