Brown Out Night brings Filipino culture to stage

A special reception after a play performance brought various comunities together

Play reception: Attendees participate in Brown Out Night for the play Kisapmata on Feb. 3, 2024 at Vertigo Theatre. Brown Out Night was inspired by Black Out Night founded by Slave Play playwright Jeremy O. Harris. (Photo by Janille Delos Reyes/The Press)

The Filipino community basked in food, laughs and entertainment Saturday during Brown Out Night for the play Kisapmata in The Studio at Vertigo Theatre.

Kisapmata playwright Bianca Miranda especially invited audiences with Filipino backgrounds and members of racialized communities like Black, Indigenous and other people of colour to watch the performance. This concept was inspired by Black Out Night, founded by Slave Play playwright Jeremy O. Harris on Sept. 18, 2019. 

Kisapmata packed a 130-seat theatre, with a majority of Filipino folks. 

“I don’t know if anyone’s ever done a ‘brown out’ night. We were inspired and so grateful that this exists,” Miranda said. “Brown Out Night is about celebrating our culture and welcoming folks to that space to whom I truly relate. There’s just something about being in a group of racialized folks and having the opportunity to speak my mind.”

Born and raised in the Philippines, Miranda is a performer, theatremaker, and arts administrator based in Mohkinstsis Treaty 7. Inspired by a song from Filipino rock band Rivermaya, Kisapmata – which means “blink on an eye” – tells a love story about two queer Filipino women.

Aside from love, longing and letting go, the play also accentuated Filipino culture through food, music and the family dynamics that Miranda wanted to celebrate with fellow Filipinos. Tagalog punchlines and songs are imbued in the dialogues, prompting giggles and sniffles from the crowd.

“I guess sometimes, we’re making ourselves palatable for white folks, and we don’t even know it,” she said. “This night is an invitation to rest your shoulders and take a deep breath. If you want to laugh at that like a Filipino joke, then laugh out loud. You

Mic burner: Kisapmata’s sound designer, Sallie Salcedo, participates in a karaoke session during Brown Out Night for the play Kisapmata. (Photo by Janille Delos Reyes/The Press)

can look around and feel at ease that you’ll hopefully not feel judged.”

 However, according to Miranda, the event is not exclusive to Filipinos or other racialized communities.

“If a white (person) has purchased a ticket, there are questions on the ticket page: ‘What do you bring into the space?’” Miranda said. “I’m always grateful when people are open to going on the journey with us. That’s really all I can ask for.”

The crowd was invited to a reception after the play. Filipino delicacies like spring rolls, barbecue, and pancit bihon were served, followed by a karaoke session, which raised the room’s adrenaline and gave the audience members a chance to socialize. 

“It’s an opportunity for strangers with common goals to get together and achieve belongingness,” said attendee Marichu Antonio. “These people are looking for communities where they can be themselves and be proud of themselves. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have to mingle with other racialized groups, but it’s empowering, and I think it’s crucial to keep these activities going.”

Antonio is a member of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. She’s also a social justice and human rights advocate. Meanwhile, attendee Diana de Gracia found a space to celebrate her culture through the event. De Gracia grew up in Singapore and has lived in Canada for the last 10 years.

“I had a lot of internalized racism,” De Gracia said. “Seeing this play and just seeing them so proudly talk and celebrate about food and culture, it was just so satisfying to see that kind of representation.

“To be surrounded by other Filipino talent is so inspiring for me, and it makes me so hopeful for the future.”

Kisapmata’s sound designer, Sallie Salcedo, is grateful to bring the Filipino community together through theatre. 

“I find there hasn’t been enough representation of black and brown communities,” Salcedo said. “Having a celebration like this to bring out the community is super important. I hope other productions follow along and do the same thing.”

The play is in a co-production with Chromatic Theatre and will run until Feb. 18.

After successfully drawing the curtains for the night’s performance, Miranda has big aspirations for the future. 

“I’m incredibly privileged and honoured. It’s wild how the community shows up for me, and I feel very blessed,” she said. “The night is sold out, so I feel like that is so telling that people crave these spaces. So hopefully, we can do it again.”

Brown Out: The play Kisapmata holds a special Brown Out Night performance on Feb. 3, 2024, in the Studio at Vertigo Theatre in Calgary, Alta. Brown Out Night was inspired by Black Out Night, founded by Slave Play playwright Jeremy O. Harris on Sept. 18, 2019. (Photo by Janille Delos Reyes/The Press)
About Janille Delos Reyes 7 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Janille Delos Reyes is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.