Philadelphia Theatre Company First Stop on World Premiere National Tour of Where We Belong April 15-May 8

-Courtesy of Aversa PR & Events
Photo by Jon Burklund (Zanni Productions)

Philadelphia Theatre Company closes out its 47th season with the world premiere of an insightful new work that begins a national tour in the City of Brotherly Love. PTC is excited to launch the National Tour of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s production of Where We Belong, in association with Folger Shakespeare Library.  Performed by Mohegan theatre-maker Madeline Sayet, Where We Belong  showcases an Indigenous theatre-maker’s journeys across geographic borders, personal history, and cultural legacies, in search of a place to belong. Mei Ann Teo directs this piece, which runs from April 15th to May 8th.

For the health and safety of patrons, cast, crew and staff, PTC will require that audience members present proof of vaccination (and wear a mask while in the venue), aligning with the safety protocols outlined by Theatre Philadelphia. PTC has paused the sale of concessions for this show to allow patrons to keep their masks on. For real-time updates and seating capacities, please visit www.philatheatreco.org/covid.

“One of the things we hope to do with and around this piece is offer audiences the opportunity to hear more stories about Philadelphia.  We know all about 1776 and the cradle of the American Revolution, but what stories aren’t being told?” said PTC Producing Artistic Director Paige Price. “There are stunning and fascinating stories that could bring about a richer understanding of Philadelphia’s full history. Not just the story of the Treaty of Shackamaxon, but also what happened to the native community after that? Many Lenape people were forced to move to Oklahoma, for example, but what about the Native people who are here now?  Really, we’re just trying to spark a genuine curiosity about history, and share the truth and fullness of that history.”

In 2015, Mohegan theatre-maker Madeline Sayet travels to England to pursue a PhD in Shakespeare. Madeline finds a country that refuses to acknowledge its ongoing role in colonialism, just as the Brexit vote threatens to further disengage the UK from the wider world. In this intimate and exhilarating solo piece, Madeline echoes a journey to England braved by Native ancestors in the 1700s following treatise betrayals – and forces us to consider what it means to belong in an increasingly globalized world. 

Where We Belong premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe in London in 2019 as part of Border Crossings’ ORIGINS Festival, the UK’s only large-scale multidisciplinary festival of Indigenous arts and culture. While at Woolly Mammoth last season, Madeline adapted the original piece for the digital realm with Director Mei Ann Teo. The piece was re-adapted for a live theatrical tour in October 2021 with Baltimore Center Stage. It will now tour across the country. Philadelphia Theatre Company will launch the tour followed by stops this summer at Goodman Theatre and Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, and in the fall at Seattle Rep and The Public Theater. The Where We Belong tour is expected to continue to additional cities through 2023, concluding in 2024 at Folger Shakespeare Library. .  

It was important to Sayet and the creative minds behind the tour that each theater’s commitment to the tour was led by a desire to engage in authentic, continuous, long-term relationships with both the Indigenous nations whose land each presenting theater occupies and the local Native community. These values are embodied in a Community Accountability Rider developed by playwright/performer Madeline Sayet with support from Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

“I didn’t want my story to be able to be used as a tokenistic way for theaters to check boxes, without actually changing their behavior,” explains playwright/performer Sayet. “So we created an accountability rider to go with the show in order to ensure all the presenting theaters would commit to what I feel is the bare minimum commitment toward engaging with the Native peoples whose lands they occupy, and the history of our erasure in the ‘American’ Theatre. Each presenting theater has agreed to never present redface again, develop an ongoing relationship with the Native peoples whose lands they occupy, offer free tickets to the show to all Native audiences, present work by local Native artists, and organize events supporting local language revitalization initiatives. It is my hope that these initiatives will lead to more Native stories being told, and, when done in tandem with the show, create awareness of some of the actual issues the piece is trying to address.”

“With the Community Accountability Rider, we are agreeing to acknowledge the erasure and lack of representation of native stories not only our institution, but the industry at large has perpetuated,” said Price. “The presentation of the show is a step toward bringing those stories to the stage, but also we are making concurrent efforts to develop authentic and ongoing relationships with the Indigenous community of artists in our area, and to celebrate and host them in our space.”

Along with free tickets to Indigenous peoples, PTC Is partnering with We Are The Seeds. With the leadership of We are the Seeds, the theatre will host a bread breaking event after the May 1st Sunday matinee. This event will include Sayet, We Are the Seeds, as well as their associated artists (both writers and visual artists) and Native community members. It will not be open to the public. On April 26, there will be a post-show reading by Native and Indigenous writers following the performance of Where We Belong. It will be open to anyone with a ticket to Where We Belong.  PTC will amplify We are the Seeds’ public events, as well as other local Indigenous artists and Lenape organizations. PTC invites Philadelphia-area individuals and organizations to submit events.  Please contact the PTC Marketing Department via the form at https://philadelphiatheatrecompany.org/contact-form to submit events. 

The piece is directed by Teo, a director/devisor/dramaturg, who is the Associate Artistic Director and Director of New Work at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The Where We Belong tour features production design by Hao Bai, costume design by Asa Benally, original composition and sound design by Erik Schilke, dramaturgy by Vera Starbard, dialect coaching by Liz Hayes, and casting by Judy Bowman. The tour is stage managed by Grace Chariya and the technical director is Megan J. Coffel. The standby for Madeline Sayet will be Emily Preis. Broadway & Beyond Theatricals serves as Executive Producer and Booking Agency.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $35. PTC continues its 10Tix program, supported by PNC Arts Alive, providing a select number of seats at $10 for every performance. Free tickets will also be available to Indigenous Peoples. Tickets are available at www.philatheatreco.org or by phone at 215-985-0420. All shows are performed at PTC’s home at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146.

Tickets, subscriptions and more information can be found online at www.philatheatreco.org or by phone at 215-985-0420. Connect on social with Philadelphia Theatre Company at @philatheatreco on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


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