Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and composer,Quiara Alegría Hudes , understands theater’s important role in creating change. Hudes, a Philly-native herself, wrote to Power Street Theatre Company and said the following:
"Growing up in West Philly, I had no idea theater existed in Philadelphia. Theaters didn't put up posters in our neighborhood. Theater wasn't ‘for us.’ We weren't invited to the table. Power Street is building a new table. One Philly – and this nation – desperately needs. What more could we hope for?”
Hudes’ words ring true as Power Street projects an inclusive and accessible future for American theater. As Philadelphia’s only theater company run by all women of color, Power Street is dedicated to engaging and empowering culturally diverse communities through the performing arts – a creative and visionary response to the palpable under-representation of communities of color in performing arts spaces here in Philadelphia and beyond.
“As women of color, running Power Street, we get to model the world we want to see,” says Gabriela Sanchez, Power Street’s Founder and Managing Director. During her time at Temple University, Sanchez – and fellow collaborators – created the company out of a desire to see a myriad of Latinx representation in theater.
“I realized I wasn’t being cast because I actually didn’t fit the roles in any of those stories. There was no space for me. It wasn’t that my talent wasn’t good enough.” Yet out of that displacement, Sanchez asked herself: “How do I shift my anger into something positive and create space to vocalize it – not just for myself, but for others that may be feeling the same way?”
Out of that question grew the foundation of Power Street.
If the roles didn’t exist, Power Street would create them. If mainstream theater didn’t reflect Latinx lives, Power Street would amplify the voices they already knew and loved in the communities they called home.
Six years later and Power Street has engaged thousands of folks through numerous performances addressing topics of sexual assault; what it means to be labeled a “minority”; the intergenerational complexities of silence and violence; and many more.
Two of the company’s productions MinorityLand (2013) and Morir Sonyando (2014) by Erlina Ortiz were world premiere plays at the Fringe Festival and were listed in the top 15 must-see shows by Philadelphia City Paper. While another performance, She Wore Those Shoes (2016), garnered such positive acclaim that Broad Street Review called Power Street’s commitment to community outreach “refreshing and committed to having difficult conversations”, while featuring the group on BSR’s podcast. Similarly, Generocity and even The Philadelphia Inquirer have featured the company’s tenacious push for multicultural representation and authentic inclusion.
Yet despite Power Street’s accomplishments to date, there’s still much growth on the horizon - and that’s what led them to CultureWorks.
The concept of fiscal sponsorship wasn’t new to Power Street. When they came to CultureWorks, they already had a national fiscal sponsor who wasn’t quite meeting their needs, especially as artists working beyond New York boundaries. “There was no relationship there,” said Sanchez. “They didn’t have the infrastructure to support us beyond accepting donations. So, we were very limited in our growth. It’s something special to say that our fiscal sponsor is local and accessible. I only wish I would have known about it sooner because having that infrastructure is fundamental.”
"Our previous fiscal sponsor didn't have the infrastructure to support us beyond accepting donations. So, we were limited in our growth. It’s something special to say that CultureWorks is local and accessible. I only wish I would have known about it sooner!"
With CultureWorks’ 501c3 umbrella, bevy of back office services, and, most importantly, human expertise, Power Street is able to further plan and strategically scale their work. Not only have they applied (and received!) additional funding, but they’ve also rolled out initiatives like Theatre en las Parcelas , an open mic garden party in partnership with Norris Square Neighborhood Project. They’ve even recently received funding from the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) in support of Las Mujeres, a play centering the voices of marginalized women from Herstory’s past – a production which sold out each and every performance over the course of two weeks.