TeAda Productions' Ova Saopeng on community, creativity, and belonging.
Ova Saopeng is a teaching artist and associate artistic director with TeAda Productions. He is the creator and an actor in Masters of the Currents, the first nationally touring play about Micronesians in the U.S
"My theater journey began in the 8th grade in Honolulu HI with T-shirt Theatre, a theatre company based in the neighborhood of Kailhi. Kalihi is the gateway of the Pacific for many refugees and immigrants to Hawaii. I grew up with Samoan, Filipino, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and many mixed-race friends and neighbors. I am a refugee from Laos and arrived in the early 80's. I never knew my story was important or valuable until I did theatre."
That feeling of finding your own importance and self worth through the arts isn't one that's unique to just Ova, but the way he took it and ran with it is inspiring to all.
"Through theatre I was empowered to make audiences laugh and cry and FEEL, that was exciting to me. I pursued it throughout high school and never looked back. My training further went to college at USC in Los Angeles, CA and I got a BA in theater. After that I connected with TeAda Productions and Leilani and we've been a dynamic duo ever since. We are a family of theater artists that explore the intersections of theater and social justice."
Together, Leilani and Ova of TeAda Productions have created lots of work. Most notably, their flagship show Refugee Nation about the Lao-American refugee experience and now Masters of the Currents, a Micronesian journey. Masters of the Currents, which will be coming to Minneapolis in just a few weeks, isn't just entertaining- it's very important in today's world, as Ova explained so well.
"The play offers people the opportunity to investigate themselves and their community to look at where you are at, where you came from and how do you navigate your life. It is specifically about the Micronesian community and their story in Hawaii, USA. It brings to light a global perspective and the fact that we all need to think about this "boat" also known as Earth, we all in the same boat! How do we care for it and each other. In today's world with so much anti-refugee, anti-immigrant and ugly hate so blatant, what do we do? How do we respond. This play educates, entertains and enlightens us all to reconsider our own story and find compassion in others. Masters of the Currents helps us to look in the mirror and realize that we have a lot of work to do. Climate change and the impact it has on Micronesia is something we should be aware of and to learn from, the decisions by governments of nations have long ripple impact that can be disastrous for it's people. We should work together."
Although creating such vital work isn't always easy, the folks over at TeAda Productions understand that it needs to be done, and seemingly never stop creating and working.
"What keeps me going and inspired is the reminder that I'm on this planet on a journey. This journey has many moments and will have many more moments of highs and lows. We are making waves in the theatre arts, in refugee communities, in immigrant communities, in indigenous communities and in ourselves to become better human beings. I have high hopes and can focus on my part. I love theater, the way it provides freedom to experience and explore. I love meeting people on this journey and hope that we exchange good vibes to each other so we know that we are not alone. We cannot be alone."
You can come see this incredible show on May 17th and 18th at Mixed Blood Theater! Tickets are available here- please join us!
To support programming like this and to help Pangea World Theater continue to uplift these stories, please consider supporting our fundraising campaign!