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Artists Repertory Theatre set to take the stage again

The Portland theater company will welcome back live audiences this week for the first time in 18 months.

PORTLAND, Oregon — After the pandemic shuttered theater companies around the country, curtains are once again beginning to rise.

This Friday, Oct. 22,  Artists Repertory Theatre (ART) in Southwest Portland will debut Lloyd Suh’s "The Chinese Lady," its first stage performance since March, 2020.

“We're really kind of thrilled by it,” said ART Artistic Directo, Damaso Rodriguez.

Audience members will be required to wear masks at all times in addition to providing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance. Damaso said he’s grateful for the federal, state and local support that kept ART alive without live shows for 18 months. He said the experience has changed their perspective in many ways.

“We're working five days a week instead of six which has been traditional in the arts in this attitude of 'The show must go on,' which in some ways is exciting,” said Damaso. “But sometimes the show can't go on and I think we've learned from that.”

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"The Chinese Lady" tells the true story of 14-year-old Afong Moy. Many historians believe Moy was the first Chinese woman to set foot on U.S. soil. The play opens Friday at Portland Center Stage at The Armory, where ART is a company in residence. The play is based off a book of the same name written in 2019. Cast members said its themes are remarkably relevant.

“It has helped me make a little more sense of our racial struggles in this country,” said actor Bern Tan, half of the play’s two-person cast.

“I hope the audience will be able to see themselves in the story a little bit, too,” said actor Barbie Wu, who stars alongside Tan. “To figure out how we can move potentially move past the pandemic with more empathy and more understanding for one another; to know that we're not so different; and to know that even when we're different we can embrace those differences and be kind to each other.”

Wu called the play “a love letter to the Asian community.” In that spirit, she said ART is carving out space to “nourish our Asian/Pacific Islander identifying audiences” with two highlight nights performances on Nov. 7 and Nov. 10. Those performances will center around community visibility and recognition with the hope of drawing in as many API identifying audience members as possible. Those who identity as API may use the promo code "AAPITCL" to purchase $10 tickets for those Nov. 7 and Nov. 10 performances.

“These nights will be filled with the energy of our community gathering,” said Wu. “A great night at the theatre, some moments to breathe together and more surprises in store.”

For anyone who’s missed getting out, Tan said he hopes they’ll use ART's return to the stage as a reason to return to community.

“Getting a night out on the town,” said Tan. “Treat yourself! It is time.”