The New York premiere of Madeline Sayet's solo show Where We Belong begins Off-Broadway at The Public Theater's LuEsther Theater with a Joseph Papp Free Performance October 28. Opening night is set for November 9, and the run will continue through November 27.
Directed by Mei Ann Teo, the work sees Mohegan theatre artist Madeline Sayet grappling with the question of what it means to belong, a question that was front of mind when she moved to England to pursue a doctorate in Shakespeare in the midst of the Brexit campaign in 2015. Emily Preis is the production's standby.
The work previously played a national tour that stopped at Philadelphia Theatre Company, Chicago's Goodman Theatre, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, and Seattle Rep. Following The Public engagement, the show will run at Folger Theatre at Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., in winter 2024.
Sayet's work runs only at theatres that agree to a rider developed by the playwright, according to Folgers' announcement of the tour. "I didn't want my story to be able to be used as a tokenistic way for theatres to check boxes, without actually changing their behavior,” explains Sayet. “So we created an accountability rider to go with the show in order to ensure all the presenting theatres 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 theatre 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."
Where We Belong, a co-production between The Public and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and in association with Folger Shakespeare Library, features production design by Hao Bai, costume design by Asa Benally, music and sound design by Erik Schilke, and dramaturgy by Vera Starbard. Grace Chariya is production stage manager.
An Indigenous Community Performance will be given November 6 at 2 PM, with free tickets available to Indigenous and Native communities using the code WWEBELONG. A talkback will follow the performance.
A Student Community Night is planned for November 16 at 8 PM, with students of all ages and those working in academia able to use the code WWBCOMMUNITY to purchase $20 tickets for the performance.