Shared Space and Profound Connection

December 2019

“How many of you experienced internment?”

As two hands went up in response to the guest speaker’s question, I could feel the collective focus of the 60 or so people gathered for a pre-performance REP XTRA event before Hold These Truths grow. For the next 45 minutes, we shared space with undivided attention as Kay Ochi, our guest speaker and member of the board for the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego, shared personal stories and video testimonies of Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II. 

When Kay finished, she opened the floor for questions or comments. Some shared their own stories. Others shared their deep emotional response to learning more about this dark act in American history. Only two months into my role as San Diego REP’s Audience Engagement Curator, I found this particular event – one of many events we program surrounding each play on our season – to be profoundly moving.The stories and the shared empathy and acknowledgement that connected all of us in the room for that brief moment in time was powerful. As I moved from my seat to thank Kay and put away the microphone, I wiped my watering eyes. I will not soon forget this event or the production of Hold These Truths that ran at the REP this past November.

Not all our REP XTRA events, as we call them, evoke this depth of emotion. But, whether it’s a pre-show lobby performance, a post-show conversation, art on the gallery walls or free beer on a Friday night, our goal is to cultivate experiences that allow for deeper connection to the art onstage and a deeper sense of community and belonging (and sometimes just plain good fun) at the theatre.
For me, art at its most powerful reminds us of the depths of our humanity and creates safe spaces for conversation, learning, connection and emotion. I hope you’ll join us as we work to program events that allow the ripple of the stories told on our stages and the joy of coming to the theatre expand. Your joy makes us proud to promote an interconnected community, celebrate the voices of our region and feed the curious soul.

by Sherisa Oie, San Diego REP's Audience Engagement Curator

cover photo by Jim Carmody