Rainbow Theater, the only multi-cultural theater group in the UC system, is entering the last two weekends of its 18th season with three more plays that expand the intellectual and emotional palette.
Rainbow Theater consists of approximately 110 students who put on five shows in the fall and comprise an outreach team that travels throughout the state, performing and workshopping with high school students.
At the center of Rainbow Theater is its founder Don Williams, UC Santa Cruz director of cultural arts and diversity.
“Rainbow has a spirit that really runs from heart to heart,” Williams said. “It’s an org, it’s a class, it’s a family. It works on teaching history, various cultures, and also being able to accept all walks of people.”
At UCSC, programs like Rainbow Theater serve as more than just an venue for the arts.
“There’s a lot of students that come here, especially students of color, who can really get lost in the fabric of UCSC,” Williams said. “Over the years, many participants say Rainbow Theater has become a pseudo-family community.”
In a time when support for the arts can be scarce, Rainbow Theater has stayed consistently strong. Last spring, students voted to pass Measure 49, allotting Rainbow Theater more funding from student fees. The group also receive attention from provosts, and even executive vice chancellor Alison Galloway.
“[Galloway] was very impressed with what the students had done,” Williams said. “She has truly demonstrated her interest of all students, and a movement of embracing culture in a real way, and that’s a good thing.”
Although this season of Rainbow Theater is well underway, there are still three more shows this weekend and next, all of which are being performed at the Stevenson Events Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the shows start at 7 p.m.
Tomorrow, audiences can see Program A, two plays titled “The First Seed” and “Captivated.”
“The First Seed” follows an Indian-American family’s experience with arranged marriage as they deal with issues of assimilation, gender roles and abuse. “First Seed” was written by UCSC alumni Aman Gohal. Gohal attended opening night with the majority of the original cast, highlighting Rainbow Theater’s deep sense of lifelong community.
“Captivated” by Darryl C. Davis shows what can happen when three female doctors take men captive for observation. “It’s a dicey play because it deals with women getting into the heads of men,” said student co-director Chela Simmons. “You see these men being challenged and questioned.”
Program B, showing Saturday, consists of the play “Blu” and Rainbow Theater’s “Poet’s Corner.”
“Blu,” by Virginia Grise, focuses on a group of Chicano/a youths in the barrio as they navigate a world fraught with the complexities of gang violence, criminalization of youth, military recruitment in minority neighborhoods and coming of age.
“Poet’s Corner” is a venue for student poets, musicians and storytellers to express their personal stories and experiences through original pieces.
“It takes you places you’ve been to, but not like they take you there,” Williams said. He points to one piece as an example.
“It’s these three women on stage dealing with body images,” Williams said. “It’s these thick women, and all they want to be is loved, too. So they tell their story, and the way they tell their story is captivating … It’s a shout-out to any woman who is oversized: You are beautiful.”
Closing out the Rainbow Theater season on Nov. 19 and 20 is “Black Men on the Edge” by William F. Mayfield. This deeply stirring study of eight black men is a raw and truthful journey into the psyche of a largely culturally stereotyped demographic.
“I want people to think twice before they try to use stereotypes to judge a black man, because in the media we’re perceived as really masculine, and degrading women as these sexual objects,” actor Jeovaughn Bautista said. “We want people to know we are just human. We’re not trying to make you feel bad about how you live your life — we just want you to be aware.”
Rainbow Theater is about so much more for Bautista than being an actor in a play. Like many in the organization, he feels it was an impactful experience.
“These plays changed my life,” Bautista said. “Literally, how I looked at my life would change every year with these plays. I would always look forward to them. I had to make it my goal to come here no matter what … we do change lives.”