Our partnership with OKC Rep shows the power of contemporary art
Though Oklahoma Contemporary was built to bring people, cultures, ideas and art forms together in a community-centered space, some "artistic goals are achievable only through collaboration.”
“We’ve worked with established institutions like the Oklahoma City Ballet, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and deadCenter Film, combining our respective skills to bring special projects to life,” Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis says. “But we’ve also focused on working with burgeoning organizations like the Ralph Ellison Foundation, Oklahoma Latino Cultural Center, and RACE Dance Collective to amplify their voices as we learn from their innovations.”
These partnerships breathe life into your arts center and into the OKC community as a whole. So when OKC Repertory Theater hired Artistic Director Kelly Kerwin to revitalize the company — and when Kerwin witnessed the magic of our Te Ata Theater — it made sense to form a union to push contemporary theater further into the city's arts scene.
“Our partnership with OKC Rep is important because we are supporting a company who is committed to new work,” says Marie Casimir, curator of public programs and performance. “New work in theater and performance is integral to the development of a thriving ecosystem of [the arts]. Supporting new works means supporting contemporary artists who are making work that challenges us, that is relevant to our times and that is able to connect with our larger community here in OKC — and also helps to provide a bridge outside of our city.”
Since its reboot in 2022, OKC Rep has produced seven breathtaking works. As the company nears the end of its second season, OKC Rep continues to introduce nuanced perspectives and stories into a place they may have yet to be told, to audiences who yearn to listen.
“Our mission is to support innovative artists, to change the cultural ecology of OKC and to promote new ways of doing theater,” Kerwin says. “New ways of doing theater to me can look like so many different things: It can look like theater that is different in form so it’s an experimental solo piece we bring in from Under the Radar, or it can differ in content like The Brothers Size.”
“They’re all very different, and the hope is they have this OKC Rep style — just like exuberance where you’re always in for an experience, you never know what you’re going to expect, the quality is always high, the actors are always amazing and you’re never going to be bored.”
And Kerwin’s right: You will never find boredom at OKC Rep performance — each work bubbles with passion and creativity that reminds viewers about the wonder of theater. An Evening with an Immigrant led the way with the moving, raw and poignant tales of Inua Ellams’ journey of belonging. Piano Tales saw storytelling, music and freedom of the unexpected. Bill’s 44th gave top-tier puppetry of laughter and life. The Great Leap fully incorporated OKC Rep's personal touch, making the show their own amid the thrilling energy of a real basketball game. Under the Radar: Otto Frank investigated a not-so-distant past, navigating loss and time. Superstitions’ absurd commentary washed Te Ata in a sea of pink, accompanied by unconventional comedic tales of personal and national terrors. And The Brothers Size merges a rhythmic script, stunning set and West African mythology.
“The work OKC Rep is trying pushes the boundaries, and it challenges us to look at our world differently and expand the canon of what we classify as theater,” Casmir says. “It’s multidisciplinary, and that’s really valuable here. I’ve noticed that our audiences are actually hungry for this type of work. Sometimes people come in skeptical and they’re not sure what they’re going to see, but after they’ve had this experience, there’s this feeling of discovery where they’re like, ‘Oh this is different! I’m so excited about this — we’ll be back!’ I think that’s what we try to do, not just in our partnership with OKC Rep, but at the center in general. Really, it’s just a part of our larger mission to introduce new and contemporary ideas to OKC and the greater area, for people to try something that is unexpected for them, contributing to that growth.”
By partnering with organizations like OKC Rep, Oklahoma Contemporary can access, support and showcase more people, more voices, more artists, more actors, more writers, more designers, more musicians and more creatives of all types. Through these collaborations, we give Oklahoma more space for contemporary art that challenges, questions and welcomes joy, love and laughter.
“I like to say we don’t put up plays, we make art,” Kerwin says. “We employ artists, everything’s different and everything’s bespoke. And I’m really proud of that. Sometimes the work I program might not be household names, but I feel like there haven’t been a lot of spaces for contemporary work in OKC. Just because you might not recognize something, I assure you it belongs in OKC; I am thinking about this city for every show I program.”
The final performance of OKC Rep’s second season kicks off its last weekend tonight, May 4. Yet to experience OKC’s brand of theater and our brand of partnerships? Grab your pay-what-you-can tickets for The Brother’s Size here, and thank us later.
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