Alyxandra Ciale Charfauros, known as ciale, was in their junior year studying theater performance in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
While it was rewarding for the San Diego native to take part in classes and productions, ciale sought to connect with the arts on a more personal level. They co-founded We the People Representing Our Unifying Diversity, or We the PROUD, in late 2019.
The polycultural productions group and student organization’s mission is to promote and support artists from an array of resilient cultural backgrounds providing them a brave space to claim artistic expression allowing them to reinvent themselves out of oppression.
“I was really wanting a space to explore myself as an artist and an artist of color,” said ciale, who is graduating with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in theatre performance: acting. “The majority of my graduating class is white, so it was hard for me to see myself a lot of times in the context of my training. We started We the PROUD as a means to make space for that journey as an artist of color specifically and explicitly.”
By working with optiMize and the SMTD’s EXCEL Lab, We the PROUD secured mentorship and funding for projects, conducted virtual performances through SMTD, and hosted “talk-backs” and open forums to discuss the arts “from the lens of being a person of color,” ciale said.
When ciale takes on a role, they view the character as a spiritual being. That was especially true during a University Productions performance of “Water by the Spoonful,” playing the character Orangutan.
“Orangutan is a struggling Asian diasporic drug addict who goes back to Japan to make amends with parents she’s never met,” ciale said. “I remember getting off stage and thinking this is crazy how in tune I can feel to the work and how I can lose myself in a way that makes me feel vulnerable and empowered at the same time. That’s a testament to how much I give myself to the work and how much I feel spiritually connected.”
As with most things, the arts world faced challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Theaters closed to the public, performances went virtual, and the living, breathing medium of theater went dormant.
“It’s really tough for theater artists right now. I think everyone in the theater world is just missing theater,” ciale said.
But on the heels of years of grinding, ciale found the pause caused by the pandemic as an opportunity to slow down. They are also moving away from a career in acting and more to one centered in healing through the arts. ciale credits classes they took with Jake Hooker, Amy Hughes and Charli Brissey, in particular, for fostering their desire to create art about themselves and to learn about their ancestry.
“I wrote a movement meditation piece to integrate that healing and the theater arts that’s coming out in mid-May,” ciale said. “The difficulty around COVID is people need a lot of healing and a lot of wellness spaces to unpack all the crazy stuff that’s been going on.”
ciale said they plan to return to California to be near family and to undertake a three-month certificate program for embodied social justice with their partner.
“I’m just really looking forward to slowing down and recovering from this crazy and intense year,” they said. “I’m going back home to help my family and make art about my grandparents. Just being my own person and my own artful human is something that’s really important to me.”