It’s 5 p.m. on a Sunday, and most students at UC Santa Cruz are catching up on homework or fighting the Sunday scaries — except for the group of directors, tech crew, performers, and writers gathered at the Stevenson Event Center. These students are tirelessly rehearsing for Poet’s Corner, one of four upcoming Rainbow Theater productions slated to premiere this spring.
“It’s very comforting to be in Rainbow around different types of people who share your same experiences, and who are there supporting you as well,” said Poet’s Corner co- director Halin Moss.
This year is Rainbow’s 30th anniversary. Don Williams, theater lecturer and African American Theater Arts Troupe (AATAT) founder, established Rainbow Theater in 1993. Since then, Rainbow Theater has been putting on productions celebrating traditionally underrepresented cultures at UCSC.
This season, Rainbow Theater has four multicultural shows in store for audiences, divided into two programs.
All of Rainbow Theater’s productions are student-run.
“I really do love how much students are in charge and we make every call collaboratively,” said Poet’s Corner co-director Karinna Madrid. “And on top of that, we’re all people of color, most of us are queer. I feel like I can really exhale in a space like this.”
Rainbow Theater’s motive in these four different performances is to create unity and representation.
“I’m hoping the audiences will leave with a greater understanding of themselves, even if it’s not their culture being represented on stage,” said Rainbow Theater President Rebecca Hall. “[I hope] they’re able to see themselves as part of this global home that we’re trying to show on stage.”
The First Seed
The First Seed by Aman Gohal tells the story of a Punjabi immigrant family navigating the differences between U.S. and South Asian cultures in their home and community. Written by UCSC and Rainbow Theater alum Gohal, the play deals with themes of cultural stigma, domestic violence, and mental health.
“I want people to take away that representation is important and that there is a lot of work to be done around gender issues and domestic violence,” co-director Sreejita Ghose said. “There are still immigration issues to this very day in America, especially [for] non-white immigrants, and hopefully [the audience] gets a better understanding of South Asian culture.”
The First Seed follows a Punjabi- immigrant family through several tense moments that sprout from members’ different experiences as immigrants and connections to their culture. In this scene, an arranged marriage in the family sparks disagreement in the household. All photos by Abe Munoz.
A Song For Coretta
A Song for Coretta by Pearl Cleage displays the impact of Coretta Scott King’s life and her passing in Black communities across the United States. It is centered around five women paying their respects to King outside a small church in Atlanta, and the conversations they have with one another.
“When I first read the play, it became so obvious that you never really know what someone else is going through and what you have in common with someone else,” co- director Nazeerah Rashad said. “We can all watch the play and realize that we do share similarities with people that we think are starkly different from us.”
The women in A Song for Coretta deliver heart wrenching stories that speak to the experiences of Black women in this country. On stage, Gwen details their frightening incident as a soldier back from Iraq.
Fuchsia by Janis Astor del Valle focuses on the life of Nina, a queer Puerto Rican woman living in New York in the 90s whose uncle is dying from AIDS-related complications. The plot focuses on found families in Latine communities, emphasizing the strength queer people of color find in bonds that surpass their family circles.
“Being queer in the nineties was much different than being queer now,” co-director Pedro Rios said. “[There was] a lot more prejudice, a lot more outspoken violence, so it’s important that the people you choose to surround yourself with are the people you feel safe with and for a lot of the queer community [it was] each other.”
Poet’s Corner is Rainbow Theater’s only non-play performance this season. It features performances of original spoken word poetry from 13 poets, incorporating song, dance, or theater. The general theme of this season’s Poet’s Corner is the four elements; however, it has evolved to become something more complex than that, highlighting the importance of identity and names.
“Throughout the show, there are different pieces that talk about the power of a name, whether it’s to define yourself or step out of something,” co-director Diamond Moore said. “I want [people] to consider what their names mean to them, not just their names, but their identities. It’s deeper than just the letters that compose you.”
The First Seed by Aman Gohal
A Song for Coretta by Pearl Cleage May 26, June 1, and June 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Fuchsia by Janis Astor del Valle
May 27 and June 2 at 7:30 p.m. June 4 at 3 p.m.
All performances will be held at the Stevenson Event Center. Free entry with a valid student ID.