By Lauren J. Mapp
When Alyssa Salter launched her theater company in 2015, she was hoping to build a space where traditionally underrepresented actors could perform.
“I had really felt called to start a company to produce work that focused on womxn and non-binary performers,” Salter said. “I am really passionate about giving artists the opportunity to be heard and seen, and I’ve found time again that the voices of non-male people is consistently unheard.”
She envisioned diverse casts that inspired audiences to rethink race and gender dynamics. And she hoped to inspire a new generation of performers to follow their dreams.
“I hope audiences take away the story — the idea that stories can apply to so many more people than they traditionally cater to,” Salter said. “And that those underrepresented people can see themselves and identify themselves in stories they’ve been told they can’t see.”
New Match Collective may have lofty goals, but its performances make the work of William Shakespeare seem more accessible to audiences and performers alike.
The company’s late July run of Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” featured actors of color in the main roles. And the entire cast identified as either female or non-binary — an identity that is outside of maleness or femaleness.
Now, the 27-year-old writer, actor, director, singer and native San Diegan hopes to continue her company’s success with a series of staged readings this fall.
Actors will read plays by Donna Latham, Maggie Larkin, Rachael Murray and Emma Swain while performing at local libraries and the Theatre Arts School of San Diego.
The Challenge of Performing on Non-traditional Stages
New Match Collective performs in “found spaces,” or untraditional theaters carved into seemingly ordinary spaces.
For “Antony and Cleopatra,” the theater was created in a studio at the Dorothea Laub Dance Place in Liberty Station. The audience sat in a u-shape around the stage, and actors entering from behind sheet backdrops.
The building is usually full of students filtering in and out of martial arts, ballet and other dance classes. The opening night performance even featured a quick cameo from a car alarm.
These distractions can be challenging, but in a way, they also help to make audiences feel like part of a unique, shared experience.
“Whether it’s the 8 p.m. martial arts class next door or a disruptive motorcycle outside, some ‘distraction’ always finds its way in,” Director Jasmin Haddad said. “Luckily we’d been rehearsing in that space so we’ve found creative ways to overcome those obstacles.”
Haddad said she hopes the play — distractions and all — “inspired a bit of resistance” within the audience.
“I hope they recognize how vulnerable these characters are in their own ways and see that being vulnerable is okay for the most powerful, so it must be for us,” Haddad said. “I would like them to recognize the treatment of women and the resistance of the female characters in the play.”
For information on performing in New Match Collective’s staged readings this fall, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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