Awardee: Lane Savadove

Primary Artistic Medium: Performance

Idea

EgoPo Classic Theater is seeking grants funds to support the pre-planning of an outdoor arts festival that highlights the Indonesian and Southeast Asian community in South Philadelphia. In partnership with local social change organization, Philadelphia Folklore Project, our festival aims to support, sustain, and celebrate the local immigrant and Asian-American businesses, artists and artisans that contribute significantly to the Philadelphia economy and culture, but often go overlooked.

As an idea that was seeded pre-COVID, the relevance of an event that provides visibility to this community has only become more significant. The national and local Asian American population is experiencing exceedingly high levels of unemployment, significant increases in racial discrimination, and devastating impacts on mental health and well-being. Our festival supports and empowers this community in real economic ways, while also offering an opportunity for them to reconnect with their native community and culture.

At the center of this festival is the main event, a theatrical staging of the ancient Hindu-epic Ramayana, created in collaboration between Philadelphia’s EgoPo Classic Theater and internationally renowned Javanese company, Papermoon Puppet Theater, and Balinese company, Kalanari Theater Movement. This project is a multi-year, cross-cultural exchange that is already underway. The outdoor, tented performance in South Philadelphia’s Dickinson Square Park is currently scheduled to take place in summer 2022.

This project expands on this event, incorporating a weeklong marketplace and gathering of local Southeast Asian businesses called Rama’s Festival which includes Indonesian food, crafts, arts and culture. The entire event is a 5-day experience that mirrors Javanese performances in integrating art into family and community gathering.

The surrounding festival will make space for a dozen Indonesian restaurants and craft vendors to sell their wares and delicious food. It will also feature live dance and music as pre-show entertainment to highlight local Indonesian performers. Our audiences will then join us under the tent for Ramayana: an extraordinary performance which blends classical and contemporary forms and integrates puppetry, theater and dance from the US and Java. A multi-cultural cast will perform alongside huge puppets and a meandering river to bring this ancient tale about the power of selflessness and radical kindness to life in our contemporary world.

The festival will occur in Dickinson Park, in the heart of Philadelphia’s unique Indonesian immigrant community as well as the roughly 5,000 Southeast Asian immigrants that call South Philadelphia their home. In offering Rama’s Festival as a free event for all performances, we aim to reach a new audience in the Southeast Asian community, at the same time as we welcome our EgoPo audiences and subscribers to experience another culture rich in tradition and history.

Our partner, Philadelphia Folklore Project, is a crucial ingredient in supporting the outreach to the Southeast Asian community with authenticity and integrity. Their work has already created relationships with the Department of Commerce and the Office of Immigrant affairs in service of this event. The funds from the Art is Essential grant will help to support their contributions to this early stage in planning.

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