Productions of Color, the collaboration between three ethnic organizations on campus — the Indian Student Association (ISA), Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas, and Bayanihan — has taken to UC Santa Cruz Theater Arts’ Mainstage once again for their annual cultural productions.

“These [productions] are staples of our campus and continue to give a space in a community that is meaningful for a lot of people,” said Arlan Mendiola, Student Organization Advising and Resources (SOAR) program manager. 

Though these productions have become a part of an annual tradition, their continued presence on the Mainstage depends on grant officers and funding proposals in order to counteract fees imposed by the Theater Arts department.

In 2010, funding for various UCSC campus operations was cut between 5.5 and 11 percent. All three ethnic organizations suffered financially and were left to wonder where to get the adequate funding to perform on Mainstage. Members of the Productions of Color call it the “Mainstage issue.”

After the 2010 budget cuts, Bayanihan, ISA, and Los Mejicas had to start paying large fees to keep using Mainstage. This led to the creation of the Productions of Color in order to pool resources.

“The Arts Division decided that because the student orgs weren’t affiliated with the arts, they were considered an outside group,” Mendiola said. “Because of the longstanding relationship that they had prior to that, they were allowed to use Mainstage, but they had to pay an additional fee.” 

According to Mendiola, Bayanihan, ISA and Los Mejicas pay roughly $10,000 each in Mainstage fees. This total includes the cost of printing pamphlets, running the ticket booth, and paying for ushers and photographers.

Productions of Color must also pay an additional $13,000 to $14,000 for what Theatre Arts calls a Production Supervisor fee. This comes out to more than $4,000 per production.

“To our knowledge, Productions of Color is the only one that pays an additional percentage of the production supervisor,” said SOMeCA Associate Director Katherine Canales-Molina, who oversees Productions of Color. “We’ve never gotten a full understanding [of why that is].” 

The ethnic organizations within Productions of Color who foot the bill are particularly interested in greater transparency.

Los Mejicas co-chairs Daisy Brambila and Tania Gonzalez described receiving receipts for Mainstage expenses, charges and fees; however, there was no clarity from Theater Arts on where the Production Supervisor fee was going. Theater Arts has yet to provide answers to their questions.

Productions of Color has managed to gather the money needed to perform on Mainstage through funding proposals, grants, and asking different parts of the campus for support. 

Even before the cost for maintaining their space increased, the productions had to fight to get to Mainstage itself.  

In past productions, the ISA, Bayanihan, and Los Mejicas performed in decorated lounges and crowded dining halls.

“Back in 1991, the first [Pilipino Cultural Celebration] (PCC) took place at the Cowell Dining Hall,” said Bayanihan co-chair Ethan Domingo. “As the years went by, we fought for our space to actually perform on [Main]stage.”

Brambila and Gonzalez described a similar experience for Los Mejicas, who did not begin performing on Mainstage until the ’90s.

Fast forward to now, there have been talks between Theater Arts and groups within Productions of Color about classifying these ethnic groups as classes under the Theater Arts department. This change would mean that the extra fees from being a third party would be waived, but the groups are hesitant to make this decision.

“Theater Arts has talked to us about becoming a class. We’ve discussed the possibilities, however, ultimately for our organization, we don’t feel comfortable with that change,” Gonzalez said. 

Gonzalez referred to past tensions with Theater Arts back in 2019, when Productions of Colors’ supervisor made microaggressive comments. Los Mejicas, Bayanihan and ISA were able to support each other through the experience and speak out against what was said. Their relationship with Theater Arts has warmed over the years. 

Since its creation, Productions of Color has united the three organizations in their efforts to provide a safe space for students and share their cultures and traditions with the UCSC community.

From humble beginnings performing in dining halls to festive full-scale productions at Mainstage, each Productions of Color performance continues to awe and inspire audiences at UCSC. Yet, it is not clear that the support given to these productions by the Theater Arts department reflects their importance.

“I don’t know what being supported by the administration looks like, if that makes sense. I don’t know what the standard is,” said first-year Gautam Gupta, who served as a member of the ISA culture show finance board.

The annual productions are an important piece of campus memory, as is the struggle to stay on Mainstage. But as older students graduate, parts of this history have faded. 

Regardless of their difficulties at Mainstage, there is a lot of pride, dedication, and love that goes into each performance.

“I always want to highlight the work that it takes,” said Canales-Molina. “There’s a lot more joy in the work that they do.” 

Co-Editor and Bayanihan co-chair Ryan Loyola was not involved with this piece.

Read City on a Hill Press coverage on the Productions of Color: