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Where We Belong

February 25 – March 26, 2023
On the U.S. Bank Main Stage

An Indigenous theater-maker journeys across geographic borders, personal history, and cultural legacies in search of a place to belong.

In 2015, Achokayis, a Mohegan theater-maker, moves to England to pursue a Ph.D. in Shakespeare, grappling with the question of what it means to remain or leave, as the Brexit vote threatens to further disengage the UK from the wider world. Moving between nations that have failed to reckon with their ongoing roles in colonialism, she finds comfort in the journeys of her Native ancestors who had to cross the ocean in the 1700s to help their people. In this intimate and exhilarating solo piece directed by Mei Ann Teo, playwright Madeline Sayet asks us what it means to belong in an increasingly globalized world.

Indigenous actor Jessica Ranville will perform the role of Achokayis!

“An important story — thought-provoking, respectful, and alive.” –MD Theatre Guide

Where We Belong

  • Portland Center Stage presents the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company production of Where We Belong in association with Folger Shakespeare Library
  • By Madeline Sayet
  • Directed by Mei Ann Teo
Playwright Madeline Sayet

A Note From the Playwright: Madeline Sayet

The writer of Where We Belong on embracing the story as one person's journey along the "Trail of Life," and how coming along with her on that journey might help us see the world differently.

Preview image for *Where We Belong* Reading List

Where We Belong Reading List

Calling all readers! Multnomah County Library put together a reading list inspired by our production of Where We Belong.

Jessica Ranville*

Achokayis

Jen Olivares*

Cover for Achokayis

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Madeline Sayet

Playwright

Mei Ann Teo

Director

Hao Bai

Production Designer

Asa Benally

Costume Designer

Erik Schilke

Original Composition & Sound Design

“One Spirit” by Erik Schilke (Hymen Records)

Jen Olivares

Movement Consultant

Vera Starbard

Dramaturg

Liz Hayes

Dialect Coach

Judy Bowman

Casting Director

Kenny Ramos

Accountability Rider Organizer

Alison McLeod*

Stage Manager 

Megan J. Coffel

Technical Director & Lighting Supervisor

Dawn Newsome

Makeup Consultant

Grace Chariya

Stage Management Consultant

Thomas Nagata

Production Assistant

David S. Cohen*

Stage Manager (for select performances)

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

The Director is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Inc., an independent national labor union.

The Scenic, Costume, Lighting, and Sound Designers in LORT theaters are represented by United Scenic Artists, Local USA-829 of the IATSE.

Roy Joshua Antonio, Bennet Berkower, Mike Cino, Sophina Flores, Jesse Harkin, Zachary Horn, Allison Knight-Blaine, Steph Landtiser, Dug Martell, Oliver Pemberton, Esther McFaden, Paul Rhoads, Myke Rodriguez, Electricians

(She/They)

Jessica is an actor and teaching artist from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and based in New York City. Her work in the theater spans devised, movement-based plays to folk musicals to Shakespeare, to new play development. Jessica is a citizen of the Manitoba Métis Federation and has performed in new and classic works within the Native theater community for nearly a decade, including multiple collaborations with Madeline Sayet and Ty Defoe. She is currently in residency at IRT Theater in Manhattan and is an adjunct for Brooklyn College’s B.F.A. Theater Program where she teaches movement. She has developed new works at The Playwrights Realm, The Drama League, The Lark, WP Theater, The New Ohio Theater, and La MaMa. Regional: Men On Boats (Baltimore Center Stage). M.F.A., The New School for Drama. Miigwetch & Maarcii to her family, near and far, and to Madeline Sayet, for bringing us this story.

Jen Olivares, Cover for Achokayis & Movement Consultant
(She/Her)

Jen is a member of the Acjachemen Nation, a Southern California tribe whose unceded land is also known as Orange County, CA. Jen is a director, actor, dancer/choreographer, and commissioned playwright with Celebration Theater in Los Angeles. Favorite movement/choreography credits: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale, SHIFT Dance Company (NYC). Favorite acting credits: Off-Broadway: The Pirate La Dee Da (Atlantic Theatre Company); Regional: Between Two Knees, Manahatta (Yale Repertory Theatre), Oklahoma!, The Way The Mountain Moved, Off The Rails (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); National Tours: Rock of Ages; TV: Bull (CBS), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video). jenolivares.com

Madeline Sayet, Playwright
(She/Her)

Madeline is a Mohegan theater maker who believes the stories we pass down inform our collective possible futures. She serves as an assistant professor at Arizona State University with the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) and is the executive director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program (YIPAP). She has been honored as a Forbes 30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment, TED Fellow, MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, National Directing Fellow, Drama League Director-In-Residence, NCAIED Native American 40 Under 40, and a recipient of The White House Champion of Change Award from President Obama. As a writer, her plays include: Where We Belong, Up and Down the River, Antigone Or And Still She Must Rise Up, Daughters of Leda, The Neverland, and The Fish (In Development). Her play Where We Belong has previously been performed at The Public Theater, Seattle Rep, Hudson Valley Shakespeare, The Goodman Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, and Baltimore Center Stage as part of a national tour produced by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in association with Folger Shakespeare Library. Recent directing work includes: Tlingit Christmas Carol (Perseverance Theatre), A Midsummer Night's Dream (South Dakota Shakespeare), Henry IV (Connecticut Repertory Theatre), Whale Song (Perseverance Theatre), As You Like It (Delaware Shakespeare), The Winter’s Tale (Amerinda/HERE Arts), Poppea (Krannert Center, Illinois), The Magic Flute (Glimmerglass), Macbeth (NYC Parks), Miss Lead (59e59). madelinesayet.com Where We Belong is published by Bloomsbury.

Mei Ann Teo, Director
(They/Them)

Mei Ann is a queer immigrant from Singapore making theater and film at the intersection of artistic/civic/contemplative practice. As a director/devisor/dramaturg, they create across genres, including music theater, intermedial participatory work, reimagining classics, and documentary theater. Mei Ann’s work has been in international festivals including Belgium's Festival de Liege, Edinburgh International Fringe, Beijing International Festival, Singapore Theatre Festival. They helmed Dim Sum Warriors the Musical by Colin Goh and Yen Yen Woo, composed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Du Yun for the national China 25-city tour. They have directed and/or developed new work at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Theatreworks Hartford, Playwrights Realm, Goodman Theatre, Public Theater, Berkeley Rep (Ground Floor), Crowded Fire, History Theatre, Page 73, Musical Theatre Factory,  and the National Black Theatre. Recent work includes Jillian Walker’s world premiere SKiNFoLK: An American Show at the Bushwick Starr, Madeline Sayet’s Where We Belong at Shakespeare’s Globe, the film at Woolly Mammoth, and the National Tour, the North American premiere of Amy Berryman’s Walden at Theatreworks Hartford (Best Production and Director — Connecticut Critics Award), and the English U.S. premiere of Stefano Massini’s 7 Minutes at Waterwell. Mei Ann received the League of Professional Theatre Women’s Josephine Abady Award, is the inaugural recipient of the Lily Fan Director Lilly Award, and is the associate artistic director and director of New Work at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Hao Bai, Production Designer
(She/Her)

Hao is a multidisciplinary designer in lighting, sound, video projection, and world-building (environment) for live and virtual performances. Hao’s work has been seen internationally at Asia Culture Center (South Korea), WuZhen Festival (China), in the states at Woolly Mammoth Theater (D.C.), TheatreWorks Hartford (CT), BCS (MD), Harvard (MA), CAC (Cincinnati), Stanford, Jone Hall (Houston), and in New York at The Public Theater, NYU Skirball, NYU Tisch, Bushwick Starr, La MaMa, JACK, The Flea, HERE, Performance Space New York, New Stage Theatre, 59E59, A.R.T/New York Theatres, 14 Street Y, BAAD!, Stella Adler, The Performing Garage, The Gallery Players, The Tank, etc. Recent: Virtual: Final Boarding Call (Ma-Yi Theater+WP Theater); Nocturne in 1200s (Ping Chong). Lighting: Waterboy and the Mighty World (Bushwick Starr and The Public Theatre). Projection: Electronic City (NYIT Awards). Sound: Walden (TheatreWorks, CT, Critics Circle Award). Lighting/Sound: 7 Minutes (HERE). Lighting/Sound/Projection: Arden (The Flea). Production Design: and the grass grows (Harvard University). Upcoming: Lazarus (Ping Chong). haobaidesign.com/

Asa Benally, Costume Designer
(He/Him)

Citizen of the Navajo and Cherokee Nations. The Rez Sisters, 1939 (Stratford Festival); 7 Minutes (Waterwell); Where We Belong (Woolly Mammoth Theater, Baltimore Center Stage); Mrs. Warren’s Profession (The Gingold Group); Blues for an Alabama Sky (Keen Company, Drama Desk Nomination); Somewhere Over the Border (Syracuse Stage); Too Heavy For Your Pocket (George Street Playhouse); Skeleton Crew (Westport Country Playhouse); Father Comes Home … (Juilliard); Measure for Measure (The Public Theater Mobile Unit); Cymbeline (Yale Repertory Theater); The Brobot Johnson Experience (The Bushwick Starr); Tricks the Devil Taught Me (Minetta Lane Theater); Coriolanus, The Seagull (Yale School of Drama); Whale Song (Perseverance Theater); Roberto Zucco (Yale Cabaret); The Winter's Tale (HERE Arts Center). Training: M.F.A., Yale School of Drama. B.F.A., Parsons School of Design. asabenally.com IG: @Asa_Benally_Design

Megan J. Coffel, Technical Director & Lighting Supervisor
(They/Them)

Megan is proud to be the lighting and technical director for Where We Belong and enjoys traveling with the team to share the story with people across the country. They are a graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with an M.F.A. in lighting design and technology. There, they enjoyed being a head electrician (The Marriage of Figaro, Cabaret, Crazy for You), designing lights (Fun Home, Hit the Wall, Adventures of Little Sharpears), and exploring many classes in the scenic technology department. They have worked at Utah Festival Opera and Theatre Company, the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, and Strayer-Wood Theatre. Outside of theater, they enjoy freehand drawing, playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends, and watching Star Trek (Deep Space Nine is their favorite series thus far).

Erik Schilke, Composer & Sound Designer
(He/Him)

Erik is an ambient electronic artist and music producer. His work draws from the narrative patterns in the natural world around us to both engage with the soundscape of our existence and escape from it at the same time. His debut album Synthesis was recently released on the German label Hymen Records. He has previously scored film projects for acclaimed directors including Fernando Lazzari and Madeline Sayet. Erik is honored to be working on Where We Belong. IG: @erikschilkemusic

Alison McLeod, Stage Manager
(She/Any)

Credits include: Heroes of the Fourth Turning (Studio Theatre); National Music Theatre Conference (Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center); Bakkhai (Baltimore Center Stage); Hamlet (Gloucester Stage Company); Assassins (Flint Repertory Theatre); Julius Caesar (Montana Shakespeare In The Schools); and eight years of productions in Chicago with theaters such as Victory Gardens Theatre, Apollo Theater — Chicago, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Kokandy Productions, and Sideshow Theatre Company.

Vera Starbard, Dramaturg
(She/Her)

T’set Kwei yóo x̱at duwasáakw. Vera Starbard áyá ax̱ saayí. Dleit ḵáa x̱’éináx̱ Vera Marlene Bedard yóo x̱at duwasáakw. Leineidi naax̱ x̱at sitee. T’akdeintaan yádi. Wooshkeetaan dachx̱án. Dena’ina dachx̱án.Takjik’ ḵwáan áwé uháan. Shaan Seetxʼ x̱at ḵuwdiztee. Dgheyaytnux’ ḵux̱aa.óo. Vera Starbard, T’set Kwei, is a Tlingit and Dena’ina writer and editor. Her mother is of the Leiineidi clan and her father is T’akdeintaan. Vera was playwright-in-residence at Perseverance Theatre through the Andrew W. Mellon National Playwright Residency Program from 2016-2022, and a writer for the PBS Kids animated children’s program Molly of Denali, which won a Peabody Award in 2020. She is currently editor of First Alaskans Magazine and staff writer on the ABC show Alaska Daily. Vera lives with her husband Joe Bedard (Inupiaq/Yup’ik/Cree) on Dena'ina land around Dgheyaytnu — colonially called Anchorage, Alaska. verastarbard.com

Judy Bowman, CSA, Casting Director
(She/Her)

At Woolly: casting collaboration on Shipwreck, Fairview, Familiar, An Octoroon, Guards at the Taj, The Convert, Lights Rise on Grace. Recent NY: Nothing Gold Can Stay, Molly Sweeney (Keen), Greg Keller’s Dutch Masters (André Holland), The Net Will Appear with Richard Masur. Regional: Lloyd Suh’s Bina’s Six Apples (Eric Ting/CTC/Alliance Theatre), Four Women: Nina Simone, Justice (Arizona Theatre Co), Dorset Theatre Festival (11 seasons), several productions with Cleveland Play House, Humana Festival, and upcoming Lauren Keating’s A Christmas Carol (McCarter). Film/TV: Separation, Hurricane Bianca, The End of the Rope, Trick, Lost Cat Corona, Gold Star, and Big Dogs. Artios Award nominee for Best Webseries Casting, PT Barnum Award recipient. judybowmancasting.com

Victoria Lang, Executive Producer
(She/Her)

Victoria has enjoyed an award-winning producing career in theater, television, film, concerts and podcasting. On the cutting edge of the best of Off-Broadway theater she has produced such hits as Found: A New Musical, Silence! The Musical (Best Musical: Off Broadway Alliance Award, Top 5 Musicals: Time Magazine), Shout! The Mod Musical, Johnny Guitar (Best Off-Broadway Musical: Outer Critics Circle Award), Matt & Ben (Top 5 Plays: TIME magazine), and David Friedman’s Listen To My Heart (Drama Desk Award). Recent Broadway productions include The Kite Runner, Funny Girl, Paradise Square (Tony nomination), Tootsie (Tony nomination), The Cher Show, The Lightning Thief, Sylvia, 1984, and Escape To Margaritaville. West End productions include Funny Girl (Olivier Award), Bat Boy and Shout! Upcoming Broadway: A Face In The Crowd, Loch Ness, The Cottage. Television: Live With Regis and Kathie Lee (3 Emmy nominations), music specials for PBS and A&E. Film: Macbeth in Manhattan (Showtime), Dark Tides, and more. Podcast: Found on the Wondery network. Victoria is a founder and co-president of content of Broadway & Beyond Theatricals, a founder and co-president of Plus Media & Plus Entertainment, and president of Lang Entertainment Group. Victoria attended Emerson College and graduated with a B.F.A. in theater arts Summa Cum Laude from Long Island University. She is a member of the Broadway and Off-Broadway Leagues, the Off-Broadway Alliance, BAFTA, and the Black Theatre Coalition.

Ryan Bogner, Executive Producer
(He/Him)

Ryan is a producer and entertainment entrepreneur and is currently the co-president of content for Broadway & Beyond Theatricals (BBT), a full-service production company and theatrical booking agency which he founded with partners Victoria Lang and Tracey McFarland. Bogner has produced shows and events on and off Broadway, and with such organizations as The Public Theater, Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Ohio Theater, The Zipper Factory, Dixon Place, The New York Musical Festival, and The New York International Fringe Festival, as well as countless developmental workshops, readings, and concerts in both the live and digital spaces. Notable past productions include: The Woodsman, Here Lies Love, The Orion Experience, Yeast Nation, Doctor Zhivago, Top Hat, Big Fish, The Cher Show, and Cheers: Live On Stage, among others. Upcoming: The Kite Runner, Cambodian Rock Band. Prior to the founding of BBT, Ryan served as an executive at such production companies as RKO Stage and Stageworks Media, worked in licensing at Theatrical Rights Worldwide, and was a founder of the booking agency Off Broadway Touring. Ryan holds a B.F.A. in musical theater and directing from The Boston Conservatory, and an M.F.A. in theater management and producing from Columbia University.

David S. Cohen, Stage Manager (for select performances)

David has worked on Broadway, Off-Broadway, regionally, and is a show caller and deck manager for large-scale corporate events. Some highlights include: work with local Profile Theatre, 1st National Tour of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. Broadway: The Normal Heart, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Off-Broadway: Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man. Proud Actors' Equity member and councilor. Much love to Jimmy and the pack.

Audience Raves

"I learned so much about indigenous people and their struggles, and to be honest, I thought I was already well-informed. [Jessica Ranville] was amazing. I didn't know what to expect, but I'd frame the show as a history lesson everyone needs to hear."

"Very powerful message and tremendous storytelling."

"I loved this play. It really spoke to me. Being a Shakespeare lover, it was such a profound topic of colonialism and allowing cultures to maintain their own boundaries."

"Jessica Ranville was amazing! Tour de force for the entire 80 minutes! The set was very innovative, almost like another character in the show."

"We loved this play! Everything about this experience is powerful." 

"Remarkable and affecting portrayal of a Native American culture we don’t think about enough. Fascinating Shakespeare connection. Rich and beautifully performed."

"I truly enjoyed learning about Native American culture and traditions from a Native American. History has, for too long, been told from only one point of view. Too many people have suffered as a result. While true change can take generations to complete, it needs to start someplace."

"Fascinating — made us see things from another perspective that facts alone cannot fully explain."

"Incredible performance — a solo show reminiscent of Frida. I learned a lot, and it piqued my interest to learn more about Mohegan culture and history." 

"One of the best performances I have seen in a long time. The set, lighting, and sound design were so incredibly waved into the story. The performer was phenomenal, and the writing deeply moving."

"Incredible. Top 5 theatre experiences in Portland — EVER. Thought-provoking, compelling, beautifully written, and masterfully performed. Gorgeous set design and staging!"

"We loved the dialogue, the single voice with so much commitment and verve. We loved this play! Everything about this experience is powerful."

Local Reviews

"I don’t think I’ve ever learned more or been as changed by eighty minutes of live theater in my life. Where We Belong somehow covers hundreds of years of culture and trauma, one modern journey of identity and purpose, and even an analysis of The Tempest, all the while making the narrative accessible to every audience member, no matter what stories were taught to us in school. And all of the heaviness is infused with so much humor and buoyancy throughout, that audience members can hold it. The show is kind in that way." –PDXParent

In the News

"I was always thinking of it as oral tradition, where it wasn’t designed to have this linear path. These are my stories, and this is how I pieced them together culturally and spiritually. I was telling parts of it, but also my ancestors were always there with me telling it." –Madeline Sayet with Portland Monthly on writing Where We Belong. View the Feature

"The play Where We Belong is Madeline Sayet’s story of going to England — to Stratford-upon-Avon, even — to pursue a Ph.D. in Shakespeare studies only to confront hard questions about colonization, ancestry, identity, belonging, and, of course, language." View the Feature 

Portland Center Stage Literary Manager Kamilah Bush joined Everyday Northwest to share more about three upcoming performances all written by women. View the Feature

Seattle Times interviews Mohegan theater artist Madeline Sayet about her solo show Where We Belong. View the Feature

"In 2018, when I moved back to the United States after living in the UK for a few years, it was the first time that my feet didn't root quite right to the ground. Before that, every time I came home I could feel my roots reaching all the way down; it was evident in my body that this was the place of my ancestors." –Madeline Sayet in an interview with Theater Mania about her solo show Where We Belong. View the Feature

Critic Reviews

“An important story — thought-provoking, respectful, and alive.” –MD Theatre Guide

“Will inspire and demand your utmost attention, from beginning to end.” –Times Square Chronicles

"Where We Belong illuminate[s] a culture, in the past and in the present, that we should know more about." –New York Theater

“There are stories of her mother, her elders, her responses to Shakespeare, and the ways she believes that her culture’s insights can transform theater.” –DC Metro Theater Arts

“Witnessing that kind of passion for storytelling on stage is theater magic.” –BroadwayWorld

"Where We Belong belongs to the realms of both theatre and lecture, cultural retrospective and personal memoir." –New York Theatre Guide

Where We Belong tells [the tale] with grace and humanity.” –Metro Weekly

National Audience Raves

"I love being challenged, educated, and exploring our world through your plays. This play will stay with me a while."

"This was a spectacular production, and I'm so, so glad I saw it."

"I love, love, loved the show. Sayet is brilliant, and this was a moving, thoughtful, sharp piece."

"Wonderful and very meaningful performance! I normally struggle with one-person shows, but this show was extremely engaging and I was riveted from start to finish."

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