Archive | October, 2011

Katy Rubin, Theater of the Oppressed, and “El Circo De La Inmigracion”

23 Oct

Who: Katy Rubin (Theater Artist)

What: El Circo De La Inmigracion: The Immigration Circus

Where: 4157 Broadway, New York, NY 10032 (take the A train to 175th, or the 1 to 181st)

When: Friday, November 11th, 2011, at 7:30pm

Why: Art and activism meet in this groundbreaking use of theater to explore important social issues…Theater of the Oppressed NYC and The People’s Theatre Project take an in-depth look at immigration and deportation through theatrical story-telling.  Afterward, meet up with Theater of the Oppressed NYC director Katy Rubin for food and drink at Manolo tapas, a cool tapas bar in Washington Heights!

Other useful tidbits of info that do not begin with “w’: This show is “pay-what-you-can”…remember that the theme of this group is $10 or less, so use your judgment when supporting your fellow artists 🙂



Cultural Karma: Give us a little insight into the life of a theater artist in NYC…was it what you imagined it would be when you first began your professional career?

Katy Rubin: Definitely not! I went to acting school and started out to build the career of a professional, traditional actor in NYC, landing parts in a string of mediocre plays in the first couple of years out of school. But at the same time, I knew that just being an actor according to other people’s schedules and agendas wouldn’t be enough. So I got a grant to go to Brazil and train with the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal. That utterly changed my path–I saw that I could facilitate hundreds or thousands of other people in acting more effectively–in their lives and on the stage. Now I am a director and the founder of my own arts organization, Theatre of the Oppressed NYC ( That comes with all of its own challenges…the key benefit being that I can create art that asks questions and seeks answers, alongside scores of New Yorkers every day.

CK: How did the Immigration Circus come about?

KR: The collaboration with People’s Theatre Project was an obvious one. They are based in Washington Heights, offering free bilingual theatre programs to residents of all ages, with the goals of peace- and community-building. I met the directors at a workshop I led in NYC in fall 2009 and it turned out that one of the two founders graduated from my conservatory program at BU three years before I did! They knew about Theatre of the Oppressed and wanted to learn more. And PTP has an incredible base in their community, which helps us find actors, venues, audience and simply spread the word! I happen to live uptown as well, so I deeply believe in their vision. Immigration Circus is a chance for us to give back to our own neighborhood.

CK: How long did it take you to go from idea to complete performance?

KR: We started planning this project in the spring, did outreach to find actors in the summer, and didn’t have our first rehearsal till Sept 7. We will have rehearsed once weekly for ten weeks before our opening–and some of the performers have never performed before. Urgency is the name of the game!

CK: Was there a particular reason you move around to different locations on all three night? Going with the theme of the project?

KR: Yes, we are intentionally echoing the theme of an immigration circus by traveling with our suitcase of props from venue to venue and even boro to boro. But even more, we want to reach various audiences that have experiences with immigration and deportation issues–so that we can have the most lively and challenging interactive forums onstage after each show!

CK: What were some challenges in making this project come to life?

KR: Funding is always a challenge. Cliche but true. We get funding from small grants so that we can make the performances accessible by donation to all–but paying ourselves, the directors/producers, is always a struggle! Also, building bilingual plays with actors who sometimes don’t speak each other’s language is a very exciting challenge. We try to minimize the power of language, and focus on the images that speak to all of us.

CK: What kind of experience do you hope the audience will walk away from this performance with?

KR: We hope the audience will laugh and feel touched, be entertained and provoked– and most importantly, experience solidarity with the actors who have created and performed in these plays. We hope that audiences will leave with a belief in new possibilities, and a new understanding of the immigrant experience. Katy Rubin


(Re)Introducing Cultural Karma

23 Oct

What is Cultural Karma?  It’s how real people support real artists and have fun while doing it.

We start with this premise:  Most great art begins in obscurity, and new directions are usually advanced by artists far out of the spot light.  And it’s hard work, with years of effort or countless hours of rehearsal often resulting in a performance to an empty house, or producing a work that no one sees or hears.  As heartbreaking as a poor turnout can be, an unexpectedly great audience can turn around an artist’s career, give them more opportunities, make new connections, and convince them that the struggle is worthwhile.  That’s where we come in.

Once a [week/month/every 2 weeks/356.7 hours], we select one of these artists and bring them the audience they deserve.  25, 50, or even more of us will show up to the artist’s performance informed, enthusiastic, and ready to experience a new and exciting creation.  Before the show, the coordinator will post an interview with that artist on our blog so that members can have some context in advance.  And afterward, we’ll all go out to a local bar or restaurant to talk to that artist about the show (or anything else you want to talk about).

The group has a few simple “rules” to keep us on track.

1) Every show will be less than $10.  We are philanthropists on a collective, not individual, level.

2) Every member will coordinate at least one event.  That means choosing an art event or artist that you want to expose to the rest of the group.  It also means picking a place for us to meet after (we’ll help you with that, including finding groupons and the like ;-)), and interviewing the artist beforehand and posting that on our blog (we’ll help you with that as well!)

3) Events need to take place on a Friday or Saturday night.  Lesser-known artists are usually forced to hold their events on off-nights to make room for more commercial acts.  We want to help move them into prime-time…and if you’re not willing to give up a Friday or Saturday night to do so, you’re in the wrong group.  Bring your friends, dates, or significant others if you want…

4) Have fun.  Did we mention that already?  This is a chance to change people’s lives by banding together, meet new artists and fellow art lovers, see new venues and neighborhoods, and on a budget.  Can’t wait to meet you!

The Cultural Karma Team

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