April 20 2011
CONTACT: Lauren Solomon
PHONE: 206-251-8793

Memory War Theater Explores Hybrid Identity in Below U.S.

Ethnic Cultural Theatre, June 2-4

SEATTLE, WA- Collaborators Manuel Castro and Tikka Sears, Artistic Directors of Memory War Theater, join creative forces again to bring their newest multimedia play, Below U.S., to the Ethnic Cultural Theatre for three performances from June 2-4.

In Below U.S., Speedy, as he is nicknamed by his friends, seeks to find comfort within his complex identities. Labeled a gringo in Latin America and a Latino in the U.S., he experiences a state of perpetual banishment that makes him feel like an outsider abroad, at home, and even in his own skin. Zorro, Rico Suave, and other iconic stereotypes along with a montage of community voices show up to help or hinder Speedy in wrestling with these ill-fitting representations.

Combining physical theater, video animation by Tess Martin, and text drawn from interviews with community members, Below U.S. brings powerful, cross-cultural stories that deepen our understanding of the experiences of those living at the borders of cultures, languages, ethnicities and identities in Hybrid America. Most of the characters are portrayed by the versatile Sears, and include an array of real and imagined individuals that intersect with digital animation and shadow imagery, creating a visually striking multimedia experience that is layered, searing, funny, and explosive.

Manuel and Tikka encourage you to visit their website at, where you can learn more, join the discussion, and win a free ticket to the show. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for Seniors/TPS members, $5 for students, and can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets.

Performances are June 3 and 4 at 8PM. Thursday, June 2 at 7PM will be a free preview event showcasingBelow U.S., plus a multimedia film project created by Intergenerational Roots, A Mixed Heritage Family Oral History Project. Intergenerational Roots is an oral history project and course at the University of Washington exploring the experiences and stories of mixed heritage people through interviews and public dialogue. A community discussion will follow the performances.

Below U.S. is created and produced by Memory War Theater with support from Artist Trust4Culture, theMayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, and is co-sponsored by the University of Washington School of Social Work. Memory War Theater is a partner project of Shunpike.

About the Artists:

Tikka Sears is a Seattle-based theater director, performer, and educator. In 2004, Tikka returned from two years in Indonesia where she was a Fulbright Artist-in-Residence and collaborated with the internationally acclaimed Black Umbrella Theater. Tikka has been studying and performing Indonesian arts for 15 years and weaves mask, dance, and puppetry traditions into her current work. She also has been adept at using oral history projects as a way to solicit community voices in her artistry. Tikka is the co-founder and artistic director of Memory War Theater, and along with her collaborator, Manuel Castro, created the multimedia play,Work Created Under Compulsion, which was selected to appear at Bumbershoot and On the Boards Northwest New Works Festival. Tikka has received grants from the US Embassy, the American-Indonesian Exchange Foundation, Artist Trust, the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs and 4Culture.

Here is what the Seattle P.I. said about the On the Boards performance:

Of the nine works performed during the first weekend, three were clear standouts … Tikka Sears’ “work created under compulsion” is a powerful exploration of the struggles of three women throughout history — Scheherazade, a Holocaust survivor who painted concentration camp scenes, and a Latina immigrant serving in the U.S. Army Iraq. Actor-director Sears has collaborated with a team of musicians, singers and designers, including Manuel Castro… to create a multimedia production that ties these three very different life stories together … Sears and her talented collaborators enable us to see the challenges these women face as they try to make the best of very different, but equally difficult, life situations.

Manuel Castro is a Seattle-based glass blower and theater artist. Manuel is the lead writer and designer for Below U.S. and co-founder of Memory War Theater. Manuel’s first introduction to glassblowing was in 1997 at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle. He has worked as part of the Manifesto glass team, one of the premiere glass studios in Seattle, and in addition was part of the Lino Tagliapietra Seattle glass blowing team. In 2002 Manuel moved to Indonesia for two years and collaborated with visual artists and modern theater artists. With help from the Visual Arts Department of the Bandung Institute of Technology in Indonesia, Castro helped to open one of the first hot shops in West Java. “The time spent in Indonesia opened my eyes to new perspectives of what beauty and art could be. The artists there had few resources to work with, yet found ways to create and live for the art form they had chosen.”

For this production, Tikka and Manuel will be collaborating for the first time with filmmaker and animator,Tess Martin. Tess has been making her own short films since 2004. She has received an Artist Trust GAP grant, a City Artist grant, a Puffin Foundation grant and a 4Culture grant for work on her most recent film,Plain Face. Her last film (A Moment’s Reverie, a 10 min. stop frame animation) was on display at e4c, 4Culture’s media gallery in Seattle for a year, and has shown at multiple venues around the world. She is a founding member of SEAT, Seattle Experimental Animation Team, a collective of independent animators, and has helped organize animation events, screenings, and public works. Seattle Magazine profiled Tess and four other SEAT members in their March 2010 issue.