Artistic Director of Mu Theater, Randy Reyes. He is directing the upcoming play, FOB. (Photo by Samuel Harper)
A little over a year ago, it was announced that Randy Reyes would succeed the influential Rick Shiomi as the artistic director of Mu Performing Arts. Reyes’ deep involvement in the company’s past as a performer, director and teaching artist has greatly influenced his decision making in the position. Recently, Randy got together with Sarah Bellamy as well as three other artistic directors in town and began to lay the groundwork for a coalition of theaters of color.
"Whether we like it or not, we're looked at as leaders of our communities,” Reyes said about his participation in the alliance. “We have to find a way to deal with these issues, it's not so much that I'm looking for a place to put myself, but that my community has an opportunity to get empowered. It's almost like I don't have a choice.”
Reyes said that he feels particularly passionate about the coalition’s ability to show potential funders how important it is to help sustain community programming. He pointed out Mu Performing Arts’ Stories program as an example of work that benefits the community and could get overlooked and underfunded.
“We involve ESL students at middle schools and we play theater games with them and have them share their immigrant stories, stories of assimilation and talk about where they came from,” he said. “We write down their stories and they perform them in front of their peers. It's a program that's worked really well. There's a connection and a trust that we have with them because a lot of our artists are also immigrants, and it would be a shame if we lost that.”
Though the project will be a large undertaking, Reyes feels hopeful that the coalition will help give theaters of color a more resonant voice in the local scene. Reyes said there are times, of course, when he feels like opportunities are dwindling and stress overtakes him.
"Being an independent artist, you only have to worry about yourself. You can say what you want, you're worrying about the next gig and you aren't responsible for an organization,” he said. “Now I’m trying to find systems where the money comes from, and I've never had to think 5 years out. I'm planning for things 10 years away and that's really strange, and it's even stranger to figure out what it will take to grow in a responsible way. I have to make sure that I take time to be a human being.”
Actors Eric Sharp and Michael Sung-Ho practice at Mu Theater's studio space for their upcoming roles in the play FOB on Wednesday, May 28 (Photo by Samuel Harper)
The trials of being an artistic director are balanced by the triumphs, Reyes said, and local movements like the coalition are what keep him interested in supporting and perpetuating theater.
"I wouldn't be in this if I didn't have hope, and I believe in people and I think they're willing to listen," he said. “I'm dumb, but I'm not stupid."