Tisch New Theatre’s ‘Offstage’ shines a spotlight on stories often left untold

“Offstage” will present narratives about identities traditionally left outside of theater, with the hopes of creating a more inclusive theater industry.

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Adam Olkin

Taylor McBride ’22 performing “Here We Stay” for Tisch Offstage. Tisch New Theatre will present narratives about identities that are traditionally left offstage at 8 p.m. from April 30 to May 2. (Photo by Adam Olkin, Courtesy of Tisch Offstage)

By Jennifer Ren, Performing Arts Editor

Whether it’s auditions, interviews or classes, there are moments that ask us to tell the narratives of our lives. However, when the world is full of judgment and prejudices, certain people are often ignored in the arts. Fortunately, Tisch New Theatre offers a space for its actors to claim their voice, while encouraging the audience to be themselves. Titled “Offstage,” the student-created concert will be presented via filmed performances at 8 p.m. from April 30 to May 2.

Gallatin junior Zoë Lillis, who majors in directing and dramatizing history, is the vice president and director of this student-led theatre organization. After the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, she wanted to create an innovative platform to urge people to be proud of their identity.

“I want people to be able to be themselves,” Lillis said. “I want people to be walking to the audition room and not worry about their sexuality, the color of their skin and whatever it may be.”

Rather than a medley of preexisting songs, Lillis chose to make “Offstage” an original work. She pairs actors and composers, and asks them to come up with something they believe the world needs to hear.

The outcome is a series of standalone songs that genuinely express each participant’s unique view on life. Stern junior Nitya Patlola andTisch junior Sabrina Wan’s “Silhouette” is unlike your typical musical theme in that it prioritizes songwriting over narrative. Patlola collaborated with Wan to create a sense of universality in a song that forces you to reminisce on your own memories.

“Our song is really more up for interpretation, because as an audience member, I think it’s compelling to be able to hear a song and be like, ‘Oh, this reminds me of this thing that happened in my life,’” Patlola said .

As an actor and songwriter, Patlola is enamored with metaphor. Throughout the song, she likens the shame we carry with us to shadows. Sharing her experience as a child of immigrants, she wants the audience to recognize that the shadows around us are also parts of ourselves.

“I have always struggled with my sense of dual identities,” she said. “[Silhouette] speaks to my experience as a first generation in the United States, and how I grew up with [my parents’] Eastern values in a Western culture.”

Performed by Tisch junior Isha Narayanan and composed by Gallatin junior Lorenzo Mohr, “Free Yourself,” is an emotional and intense song dedicated to people at their crossroads, like themselves. As a rock-and-roll anthem, It has a magical quality to it that lights your heart on fire.

Narayanan and Mohr compel their audience to share their feelings and set themselves free unapologetically. Speaking to their experiences of coming from foreign countries — India and Italy, respectively — they recall moments when they embraced new situations with their international identity.

“We had this idea of internationalism and the idea of belonging and home,” Narayanan said. “We wanted [the audience] to feel very empowering.”

“Free Yourself” will be one of 11 songs featured in the three-part concert, all of which are filled with a great emotional depth that forces us to pause and reflect. The actors and composers have prepared since September, and they will now be released as filmed performances for the three nights. Each night’s performance will be different, reminding us that our identities are always in flux and should always be embraced with warmth, comfort and love.

For more information about “Offstage” tickets, please visit http://www.nyutischnewtheatre.com/offstage.

Email Jennifer Ren at [email protected]