As the social and economical climate of Philadelphia begins to shift in new directions, reticulated communities are being altered for the sake of urban renewal. Universities and corporations expand and infringe upon the delicate network of our beloved neighborhoods for the sake of student housing, strip malls and luxury condominiums. Despite the swelling within these gentrified areas, the concerns of the affected communities go unheard, collecting dust upon the shelves of urban well-being for the sake of higher property values.
MinorityLand, the inaugural production of Power Street Theatre Ensemble, focuses directly upon the impact of metropolitan reform and the people it affects. Gabriela Sanchez, founder and co-artistic director of Power Street Theatre Company, explains why “minority land” exists, and why it shouldn’t.
Describe the show in your own words.
MinorityLand is a world where a community of diverse people have struggles, passions and thoughts that become alive on stage. Power Street Theater’s debut production, MinorityLand, explores the existing conditions and the effects within the parameters of the “minority” terminology. What does it mean to be a minority, whether if that is through gender, sexuality or race? Within a “minority” paradigm, one’s identity is bound by the confines of ignorance and labeled as inferior when in fact, those hearts and minds possess first-rate potential and the capacity to become a positive change agent for themselves and the world at large. Also, MinorityLand tackles what it means to be a community. When gentrification strikes in a neighborhood similar to Temple University, residents are forced out, and everything they have ever known is gone.
What was your inspiration for this project?
My inspiration for MinorityLand was to give a voice to the unheard voices; those same exact people who are considered “minorities” are my family, friends, students, mentors, and the list could go on and on. As a young Latina girl, I grew up in University City, where there wasn’t much representation of Latinos at that time; however, a variety of cultures empowered the streets with loud music, block parties and food that would satisfy every taste bud. My second home was North Philly— “El Barrio”—where diversity continued to exist in the streets and always captured my eye. Each block became a family over the years and experienced ups and downs together. I must say, I miss those days when kids made something out of nothing, when everyone looked out for one another and when unconditional love overpowered dysfunction.
Diversity is my inspiration as an individual and an artist, which explains my need for creating a multicultural theatre company called Power Street. Power Street Theater Company’s mission is to provide each young voice with a venue to become a catalyst for positive change through artistic expression.
Describe your background as an artist.
For the last two years, I have organized a diverse theatre company with fellow artists, produced and directed script readings and plenary meetings, in addition to producing fundraisers and community outreach events, including open-mic nights for aspiring artists in Philadelphia. I graduated from Philadelphia’s Creative and Performing Arts High School and received a Bachelor of Arts in theater from Temple University. Upon graduating, I was hired at Taller Puertorriqueño for the position of cultural enrichment & facility manager.
I am extremely excited for Power Street’s first premiere of MinorityLand! I would like to thank my parents for always believing in my dreams; my grandmother, Obdulia Perez, for showing me unconditional love; my sister, Quiara Alegria Hudes, for exposing me to the theater world; my mentor, Judy Nelson, and each member of Power Street, who hold a very special place in my heart. Power Street‘s ambition, drive and passion goes beyond the ensemble members. It is a chain reaction through the encouragement of their mentors, families, friends and supporters!
What is one of your fondest memories within the community that the show focuses on?
MinorityLand focuses on a community of people who laugh, cry, dance and argue together while becoming a family of their own. Each character is so clearly different by their physical appearances, but most importantly, by their way of thinking. The characters are constantly challenging one another on spicy topics; however, we learn as the audience that the unconditional love that Mama Julia instills in each one of them overpowers any negative energy that tries to rip them apart. Mama Julia reminds me of my grandmother, who was the leader of the block, the wise lady who always told a story with a lesson to learn and would give her last plate of food to a homeless person. She was a woman who everyone loved and respected.
How do you think members of a minority community can resist the more detrimental affects of gentrification?
I think that members of a minority community can resist the more detrimental affect of gentrification by reaching out to various community organizations that can educate them on how to buy homes instead of renting for 20+ years. In theory, I believe that teaching people how to help themselves is extremely effective. People can eventually own their own homes, and the communities will be more stable by educating people on how to purchase homes, budget and, most importantly, maintain a mortgage. I constantly think about how we can move forward as a community and create equal opportunity. Something that comes to mind is to not consistently depend on the system, but instead depend on yourself. My dad would always tell me this saying: “You don’t give a man a fish. You teach a man how to fish.”
MinorityLand runs Sept. 13 – 15. Times vary. $10. Taller Puertorriqueño, 2557 North 5th Street. fringearts.ticketleap.com/minorityland