BALTIMORE, Maryland — Filipino Americans are taking the lead in pushing for Asian American involvement in the performing arts in the Baltimore area.
Five Fil-Ams are half of the Asian American cofounders of Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective (Bapac), a newly formed organization dedicated to strengthening racial understanding between communities.
The group also aims to empower the youth through artistic practices and community engagement.
Bapac will hold its launch program on March 30 with “AAPI Voices: How We Party!” The program includes a storytelling session and an announcement of its inaugural season line-up.
Founding co-executive director Cori Dioquino says the group aims to unify and to create. She manages the group with founding co-executive director Mohammad Suaidi.
“During our first meeting, we realized that while there were a number of us who had been cast together in different shows before, we’d never actually been together outside of these productions to just come together to talk about issues,” she says.
“It was empowering to be in one room all together and say to ourselves ‘Hey, we are here and we are allies.’”
Another of the group’s objectives is to establish itself as a go-to resource for the theater and performing community when it comes to Asian American concerns, for example, questions about scripts, costume and casting choices, etc.
“We think along the lines of ‘here’s a hole that needs to be filled, let’s fill it.’ Let’s do what we can to produce the best art we can do. We want to be there for one another.”
Raised in Laurel, Maryland, Dioquino studied theater at Towson University. Acting credits include “Neverwhere” (Cohesion Theatre), “Top Girls” (Fells Point Corner Theatre), “Titus Andronicus” (Faction of Fools), Institute of Visionary History (Submersive Productions), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Glass Mind Theatre), among others.
Bapac’s Fil-Am cofounders include Donna Ibale, managing and marketing manager; Sam Callanta, project manager; Marela Kay Minosa, operations and finance manager; and Catrece Tipon,production coordinator.
Callanta, Minosa and Tipon are all native to the US. Dioquino and Ibale both were born in the Philippines and immigrated to the US with their families when they were children.
The other cofounders are Cara Hinh, Mika Nakano, Channbunmorl Sou and Mani Yangilmau.
Feedback has been positive. “The theater community has been so welcoming. A couple of theaters reached out immediately to offer to work with us,” Dioquino says.
According to Dioquino, this kind of response is aligned with Baltimore’s sense of civic culture.
“Balitmore is such a supportive community because everyone builds things from scratch,” she says.
“It really is a charmed city. At first glance, it can feel gritty and rough around the edges, but if you’re here long enough or make an effort find these hidden cultural gems, you’ll find a strong underground cultural arts scene.”
After the launch event, BAPAC’s inaugural season continues with the production “Tornkid” in May.
“Tornkid” will be a collaborative production with Cohesion Theatre Company that aims to explore themes of healing using ancient female and non-binary stories.
Filipino American playwright Katelynn Kenney will assist both groups with crafting their script.
In August, the group will stage “#Modelminotiry: A Musical Parody Revue.” It will about the highs and lows of Asian Americans in the performing arts.
With music by Bobby Ge, the show will be written by Dioquino and directed by Donna Ibale.
“AAPI Voices: How We Party!” is on March 30 at The Motor House, 120 W. North Ave., Baltimore. Visit Baltimoreapac.org.