Mariah Richardson

Mariah Richardson’s new play, “Soy Yo!” (“I Am Me!”), runs June 28 through Sunday, July 14 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand Blvd. It’s a commission from Gitana Productions directed by Vivian Anderson Watt.

Gitana Productions premieres new work by Maria Richardson on Friday

What is it like to be Afro-Latina in America? Playwright, poet, actress and teacher Mariah Richardson explores outward appearances and ethnic cultures in her new play, “Soy Yo!” (“I Am Me!”), which premieres Friday, June 28 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand Blvd.

“Soy Yo!” is an Afro-Latino Suite filled with rhythm and dance. It runs weekends through Sunday, July 14, Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

Gitana Productions, which emphasizes global healing through the arts, commissioned Richardson,  to write the piece, which is a glimpse into what it’s like to be African-Latino in America.

“I set it across time, 1763-2013,” Richardson said. “It starts in Florida, when it was still a colony of Spain. It looks at what makes you Latin and how the U.S. classifies people based on appearance. I want people to re-think how they look at others, and to understand that race is a construct.”

The play is directed by Vivian Anderson Watt, with choreography by Carmen R. Guynn, and stars Jayden Reign, Jeanitta Perkins, Sheri Gonzales and Chiffontae Ross.

A native of St. Louis and graduate of Sumner High School, Richardson is an adjunct instructor in communications at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park. She received her bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of New Mexico and a master of fine arts degree in playwriting from Smith College.

Metro Theater Company commissioned her to write “Delilah’s Wish,” which won a Kevin Kline Award in 2011 and was published by Dramatic Publishing.

She has worked with numerous local and touring theater groups over the years. Her play “Sistahs Indeed!” was a mainstage production at STLCC-Forest Park in 2008. She worked with the St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre for two seasons and toured for three years in Metro Theater Company’s production of “Long Road to Freedom.” Her HBO/New Writers Project solo performance show, “all that…”, has toured throughout the country.

She is also a filmmaker with several films under her belt, and her work has been screened at the St. Louis International Film Festival.

Richardson has taught in after-school programs, residences and homeless shelters from Los Angeles to New England. Her goal is to combine all the things she loves – poetry, performance, film and music – to create work which inspires others to tell their own stories.

“I’m a creative at heart, so that’s what I do," she said.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors. Group rates available for groups of 15 or more. Credit card purchases can be made through Eventbrite. Box Office – call Gitana to confirm seating availability, 314-721-6556. Tickets also can be purchased at LaTropicana Market & Cafe, 5001 Lindenwood. For more information, visit www.gitana-inc.org.

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