Katie Beck will be among many artists to take part in “Until Name Becomes Prayer,” Monday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m. at Summit Artspace. The event, which will feature Samoan immigrant, poet and arts educator William Alfred Nu’utupu Giles, is free and open to the public and will pay homage to “every indigenous and immigrant mouth that had to become a history book.” The night is sponsored by Summit Artspace, local artists, local organizations, and community members from all over the country.
Your Organization: Gum-Dip Theatre
Your Medium: Community-based theatre
How do you describe yourself?
“I am an artist who is inspired by the communities in which I’m surrounded. I don’t necessarily like to portray my own stories, but I like to work with and empower others to create original work. It’s almost like creative non-fiction theatre. Growing up in a situation where my family was not together, I found creativity and making art to be therapeutic and to keep me out of trouble. It allowed me to express myself in healthy ways. I believe art allows me to be more open minded and understanding.”
What is an object that describes your art and your work?
“I have this mask that is from a very famous production in New York called ‘Sleep No More,’ created by Punchdrunk, a physically based theatre company, devised around MacBeth. It’s in a previously condemned hotel where there’s eight floors and they give all participants a mask as they walk in. You no longer have your identity when you’re exploring this hotel–you don’t know where your friends are, you don’t know where anyone is. There are dance pieces, scenes, an actor may come and whisper in your ear as you’re walking around the eight floors.
“I saw it in college, and it was so transforming for me because I saw the power of site-specific work and taking something old and activating it with something new. I also experienced a new form of theatre that I had never experienced. The mask also reminds me of how I approach my work as a director. Especially in community-based theatre, I have to be temperate in rehearsal so that the actors can focus on their characters, even when I’m feeling upset or overwhelmed. I believe that it’s crucial for a director to “wear a mask” during the process, to be the cornerstone for the emotional well-being of the production.”
What are some projects you’re working on?
“My North Hill, which is a project in collaboration with the International Institute of Akron–a series of four story circles that invites current and present North Hill residents to effectively manage racial tension. The stories are being archived and published in a storybook and we are also turning them into a theatrical production.
“Another project I’m working on is in collaboration @Play Akron, a Knight Cities Challenge grant winner, that is creating interactive art projects in every single neighborhood in Akron–all 24. We are interviewing three Akronites per neighborhood and writing a play inspired by those interviews with the goal of humanizing Akron. I’m also working on a puppet show with the youth program of D.A.W.N. (Developing Alternatives for Women in New communities) where they’re teaching young girls who are immigrants (ages 8 to 14) how to sew and sell their projects. The collaborative project is a traveling puppet show where the audience members can ask the girls questions about the play.”
Why did you choose to be a part of “Until Name Becomes Prayer?”
“I’m passionate about working with artists who have stories that are not regularly told. I believe that I have a talent for creating platforms for these artists — building spaces that are conducive to sharing and exchanging with audiences of all backgrounds. “Until Name Becomes Prayer” is exactly that: a platform for artists to be seen, heard, and valued.”
What excites you in your work?
“The unpredictability. Always being challenged. Learning new things. Talking to new people. Learning about new perspectives. The most exciting thing for me in the type of work is when an audience comes and they learn new things and they react in different ways and answer the
“why” we do this. Or when the audience sees themselves and their community onstage for the first time. To be honest, that happens more often than it should. People should see themselves onstage as much as possible in order to have space to reflect on their community and then engage in the issues that are important to them.”
What are you looking forward to?
“I am looking forward to all the artists that are coming in to work on this. I’m also looking forward to working with Will, meeting him, talking with him, interacting with him, welcoming him with the Akron that we can be.”