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    Posted September 20, 2007

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South Asian American Theatre Confab Held

Over 30 producers, playwrights and artists met in Chicago on July 19, 2007 for Desi Drama: The First National South Asian American Theatre Conference. This event marked the first organized gathering of artists with citizenship or residency in the United States with heritage from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal or Sri Lanka.

Central Regional Director Kathryn Lamkey and Business Representative Laura Lamoureux attended a dinner to welcome the participants at Silk Road Theatre Project, the convention's host and a new Equity theatre operating under the CAT Agreement. The welcome dinner also included eight Equity members and representatives from The New York Theatre Workshop, Cornerstone Theatre Company and The Goodman Theatre.

"The conference was designed to facilitate in-depth conversations around the unique challenges associated with being a South Asian American working in the theatre arts, and to map strategies for building a national South Asian American theatre movement," said Silk Road Theatre Project Artistic Director, Jamil Khoury.

"Within South Asian communities in the U.S., there exists very little support for pursuing a career in the arts," Mr Khoury continued. "In fact, 'active discouragement' would be a more realistic characterization of the situation. This is due to traditional immigrant concerns about the economic viability of artistic vocations as well as the social conservatism within South Asian communities that may view the theatre as 'permissiveness' or 'lax in morals.' Simultaneously, there are the challenges of trying to integrate into the broader American theatre community, which has been slow to create opportunities for Asian American artists in general and perhaps even slower at making Asian American representation a priority. Thus the need for South Asian and other Asian American artists to essentially build our own institutions while simultaneously pursuing openings in the 'mainstream,'" Mr. Khoury concluded.

Discussion topics included confronting social stigmas, finding an audience, cultivating donors, professionalism and union agreements, and activism. Five committees convened during the final session, each of which has goals to work on over the next year in anticipation of a 2009 conference.

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