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Ellen Sebastian Chang collaborating with Brava! for Women in the Arts

Award: $35,000 Performing Arts grant awarded in 1998

Premiered:  August 22, 1999

Ellen Sebastian Chang collaborated with Teatro Armonia, a program of Brava! for Women in the Arts that served Mission District teenagers, to create a full-length theater piece.  Other participating artists included Michael Torres, Andrea Thome, Sean San Jose, and playwright Naomi Iizuka, who worked with 28 teenage participants to develop their writings and then weave them together into a script. Their play, Mariposa: The Journey Home, reached many of the teens’ friends and Brava’s neighbors, as it was presented as the centerpiece to Brava’s annual Youth Arts Festival—outdoors, on 24th Street, in front of Brava’s San Francisco theatre. Mariposa focused on the theme of home—defining home, leaving home, and finding home.

Brava! launched Teatro Armonia in early 1997 after a series of shootings in San Francisco’s Mission District.  In addition to two murders that occurred among rivaling Sureño and Norteño youth, a drive-by shooting took place in front of Brava’s then newly acquired facility at 24th and York Streets.  Newspaper coverage of these events stereotyped and misrepresented the local youth and neighborhood.  Brava! felt compelled to respond by engaging young artists to script and stage first-hand accounts of Mission life.

Ellen Sebastian Chang is a director, writer, and creative consultant.  Among many affiliations, she was the co-founder and artistic director (1986-1995) of Life on the Water, a nationally and internationally known presenting and producting organization.

At the time this grant was awarded, Brava! was the only theater in the United States that specialized in the creation of new work by women of color playwrights.  Brava’s productions have won Los Angeles Dramalogue Awards, the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle’s award for “Best Play,” and the Will Glickman Award.