Come to PAPA helps pave the way for Pan-Asian artists

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Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists or PAPA just kicked off one of their largest festivals, and Philadelphians have ample opportunity to check out what’s in store for the virtual extravaganza.

“Come to PAPA” is already in full swing and will feature 34 events, 105 artists, 21 cities and a unique experience over the course of its 10 day run. Those who wish to check out the stylings of the PAPA performers and beyond can do so until the festival ends on June 20.

“Being an artist is so much more than the finished product you see on stage,” says Creative Director Cat Ramriez (they/she) in a statement. “We wanted to create a festival that not only highlights those amazing performances but offers opportunities for artists to develop their skills and audiences to learn more about our community.”

The city’s association of Asian Performing Artists is known as is a member-based community and arts organization that provides holistic artist care for 100+ Asian and Asian American artists in the Philadelphia area. Through social events, residency and professional development programs, grassroots organizing, and performance opportunities, PAPA hopes to empower its members and “reflect the greater diversity of this city and its stories.”

That is also the hope for the festival but on a wider scale.

The festival’s programming features not only performances from PAPA’s long-standing Mini-Residency and Playwrights’ Project cohorts, but workshops, community meals, guided meditations, dance parties, and even signature cocktails all aimed at celebrating the ingenuity and necessity of Philadelphia’s Pan-Asian performing arts community.

This won’t be PAPA’s first foray into such a multi-faceted happening either.

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Over the past seven years, the membership-based community and arts organization has spent its time creating work by and for artists of Pan-Asian descent. That didn’t slow down in 2020 either. During the pandemic, PAPA shifted and pivoted this work entirely online and in doing so welcomed a new cohort of writers into the Playwright’s Project. Through this revitalization and despite the setbacks of COVID-19, PAPA was able to host monthly community events like pumpkin carving and craft nights, and present works-in-progress showcases.

“I’m looking forward to hearing the work of my fellow playwriting cohort be read aloud by local working actors,” says Associate Producer and Playwright’s Project member Crys Clemente (they/them) in a statement. “All the pieces are so different and unique to each playwright and I feel like the directors and actors that were brought in are going to make some awesome stuff out of it.”

Now until June 20, Philadelphians can check out a variety of events that span in what they offer. On Saturday, June 12, Anita Holland will be hosting a program to deprogram alienation. The workshop kicks off at noon and runs until 2 p.m. The next day, participants can also check out the Queer Asian Brunch with PAAFF and PAQ, which is also BYOF (bring your own food.) The events continue and expand as the week unfolds with options such as Half Magic, an autobiographical story of a biracial child raised on white heroes by Joseph Ahmed directed by Mieke D; a Medicine Meditation with Anita Holland; a Pitch Session with theater artists; a special screening of Rush Hour that plays into the idea that personal memories are specifically connected to specific scenes in various films through surprising ways in Memory Rush by Chantel Vorobei Thieves; a Matchmaker Extravaganza; the final Wrap and Roll for a toast and farewell to the festival and so much more. Philadelphians can check out the full list of events and their descriptions online.

Also found online are three different recipes for the festival’s cocktails: Those who are looking to make their night at home during the festival more spirited can learn how to make the Hot & Sour, Pomegranate Vinegar Soda and the Transubstantiation.

“In some ways, I feel like this is our thesis statement,” says Ramirez, “We want to create a world where local artists of Pan-Asian descent are thriving. This festival is one of the ways we’re getting there.”

According to the release, for the 10-day run of “Come to PAPA,” Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists is working with a variety of local and national arts organizations to make this festival a reality. Collaborators on one or more “Come to PAPA” events include Asian Arts Initiative, InterAct Theatre Company, Asian American Theatre Artists of Boston, Asian Pasifika Arts Collective, and Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival.

All tickets are pay-what-you-can. For Community Meal series, PAPA offers $20 Grubhub vouchers to up to 14 participants for each event. For more information, visit phillyasianartists.com

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