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A Must See

Arts and Activism in America: Malika Oyetimein

Director Malika Oyetimein is on a mission. She has focused her career in the theater to “Create change. To affect people with my work. To change hearts.” As the Artistic Director of Ademide Theater Ensemble, a member of the Lincoln Center Theater’s Directors Lab, and a MFA candidate at the University of Washington, she has already set a firm foundation for herself. There are two major projects Oyetimein is working on that put her directly at the nexus of arts and activism: Robert O’Hara‘s Bootycandy, and a new play by Kia Corthron, Force Continuum.

The production of Bootycandy at the Intiman Theatre Festival in Seattle will be the first time the play will not be directed by writer Robert O’Hara — a fact Oyetimein does not take lightly. This play explores one man’s experience of growing up Black and gay in America, a story not often told in mainstream theater. Oyetimein feels, “It’s beyond time for us to start seeing the world through more than just the white gaze. Pushing people out of their comfort zone and forcing them to ‘step into someone else’s shoes’ is necessary and exciting!!” It is this type of commitment to expand the mindset of not only theater audiences, but society as a whole, that is crucial for the growth and healing of this nation.

The second work, Kia Corthron’s Force Continuum, is a somewhat different glimpse into the world of police brutality by focusing on the conflicts of a black cop at a crossroads of identity and allegiance. Oyetimein strongly believes that, “This play is more than just controversial or timely. To me, it is essential…This play was written 15 years ago and monologues from it will have audiences wondering if it was ripped from the headlines this year.” While still in the pre-production phase, it is important to Oyetimein that this play is seen and received as the call to action that it is. This work is a clear artistic representation of the genocidal war waged against Americans of color. Helping to make these type of theatrical pieces is Oyetimein’s battleground.

While it is despicable that this fight is still very necessary, it is good to know that artistic warriors, or “Artivists” as she says, like Malika Oyetimein are dedicated to using their skills to change the world. When asked how she believes the arts, especially theater, can be used in activism, Oyetimein writes, “In this life, we have to seize every opportunity to speak about the things that matter. We have to speak. We must use our voice. My voice is my art.”

Bootycandy by Robert O’Hara and directed by Malika Oyetimein will run September 17- October 3 at the Intiman Theatre Festival in the Cornish Playhouse Studio at Seattle Center. For tickets and more information, visit

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