2020 started off full of excitement at Pangea World Theater. After a winter break where all of our ensemble members had the opportunity to travel near and far to see their families, we dove straight into the work of preparing for our big production of Jose Rivera’s Sueño. We were ecstatic to have Leslie Ishii, Artistic Director of Perseverance Theatre, directing the show for us and even figured out how to conduct auditions in Minnesota while she was in Alaska (we didn’t know how many more virtual performances we’d be doing soon…)
Soon, we had a beautiful cast and crew who were excited to bring this show to life. Sueño is all about second chances, transformations, and discovering yourself… and this felt like the beginning of a transformative time for Pangea World Theater! As Sueño was about to begin, our office was also buzzing with new interns and we were making big plans for our National Institute for Directing and Ensemble Creation and for a big benefit to kick off our 25th Anniversary!
Sueño began and it was off to a great start- but about halfway through all of the scheduled performances, we had to cut the run short due to COVID-19. We didn’t know much about the virus at that point, but we knew how important it was to keep our community safe and healthy. In mid-March, Pangea’s staff decided to work from home for two weeks as a precaution. Two weeks turned into a month, which turned into 6 months… and we are all still working from our homes around the cities today.
Just as we were getting used to not sharing a physical space with each other, our city (and the whole nation) was struck with tragedy. Mr. George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis Police Department, and an uprising followed. Many families and small businesses that we care deeply about were greatly affected, but our neighborhood became more united than ever. We supported our friends and community members who were standing for justice on our beloved Lake Street and responded the best way we knew how- with art. We knew we couldn’t just go back to business as usual after the trauma our community had endured. So Meena and Dipankar, the Co-Artistic Directors here at Pangea, tasked every artist on our team with creating something in response to what was going on around us.
Meena and Dipankar were right, that was just what we all needed. Everyone rose to the occasion with such passion and fervor. As an ensemble, we banded together (while socially distanced) and learned how to create art and support each other in these times. We learned how to put on a Zoom reading just in time for “Open Water” by Suzanne Victoria Cross. We created a safe backyard environment for Katia Cardenas’ “Burning Truth Project” jazz concert. We gathered poets from around the city and learned how to construct and distribute literature for Emily Meenan’s “Another World is Possible” zine. Jenny Zander and Adlyn Carreras united artists of all ages and disciplines for their projects, “Rising from Concrete” and “Mothers Respond.” Ismail Khalidi, our directing fellow in Chile, combined his poetry with music and film to share around the world. And, we celebrated Dia de los Muertos with a community altar for the third year during Keila Anali Saucedo’s “Sobre los Muertos las Coronas.” All of these projects were born from the flames that burned on Lake Street, and they helped our ensemble and the whole community heal and grow.
In the midst of all of this, we had to postpone our benefit for a second time- but our 25th season began! Our first “big” project of our 25th Season was the second installation of Lake Street Story Circles. We hosted two nights of virtual performances and talkbacks and all the work was created in, around, or for Lake Street. By this point, we were becoming pretty comfortable with doing performances on Zoom and Facebook live- so we decided to do even more! We started a series of conversations all around reimagining education after all that 2020 had brought to the table (catch the next one on January 28th!), installed a mural on Lake Street where Gandhi Mahal used to stand with Ifrah Mansour, and presented the “Tree of Peace” with Sharon Day at the Capitol Building in St. Paul.
By November, it was time for us to circle back around to the National Institute for Directing and Ensemble Creation that we had postponed in the Spring. For years, Pangea and Art2Action have been hosting these gatherings, but it still wasn’t safe for this group of amazing directors and theater-makers from around the world to meet in person. So- we took it digital! We gathered a team of artists who have also, conveniently, been becoming experts on hosting virtual gatherings this year, and got to work. We partnered with Howlround Theatre Commons to live stream most of the weekend and share this work with more people than ever before. The institute weekend was powerful and although we weren’t together in person it was exactly what we needed as we came to the end of such a difficult year. Folks still gathered for morning movement sessions, participated in panels and breakout groups, and even shared their work at an Open Mic.
As December came, we finished up our final staff projects and took a much-needed break to prepare for whatever 2021 may bring. Our final work of the year was in collaboration with Longfellow Rising, an organization that came from the uprisings and that Pangea is a part of. We curated a program for New Year’s Eve that showcased amazing multigenerational and multidisciplinary artists from right here in Minneapolis. Everyone who attended got a free meal from Curry in a Hurry and Geek Love Cafe. We can’t wait to collaborate with Longfellow Rising even more in 2021 and continue to rebuild and reimagine our neighborhood.
Thank you again to everyone in our circle who attended a show in person, tuned in to a virtual performance, shared our posts, told a friend about Pangea, or helped us sustain this work financially this past year. Without our community around us, 2020 would have felt even more harrowing... throughout the whole year, we never once felt alone with all of you "by our side"! Stay tuned to this space for more blog posts from our staff, board, and ensemble!