Art for the Now: Theater Ensemble of Color

Art for the Now is an interview series. We speak with Maine artists, makers, and organizers who are engaging with issues of social justice, questioning the political, creating inclusive spaces, and/or are generally fueling the resistance with creative spark. Welcome. Let’s meet our neighbors.

Theater Ensemble of Color

René Goddess Johnson, Creative Artistic Director of Theater Ensemble of Color

Theater Ensemble of Color strives to improve inclusion and strengthen culture within our communities through education, social activism, and the arts.

Describe TEoC in 10 words or less.
An innovative grassroots non profit organization of multigenerational, multicultural, and multi-ethnic artists.

Tell us about TEoC’s origin story.

How do you envision the importance art in our communities?
I envision Art in our community as freedom. Like the kind of freedom we felt at birth. The kind of freedom that allows for a full body, all natural, energy bending kind of movement. The kind of energy that would make one neighbor curious about another enough to invite them into their home, brain or heart, openly.

What role do you believe an artist/ artist collective should play in our daily lives?
I believe all creatures are creators. The artist is the beacon, the collective is the tribe and foundation, the community is the lifeblood. They all need each other to see themselves fully.

Can you share a favorite memory from a TEoC performance/event?
My first curtain speech as Creative Artistic Director for Theater Ensemble of Color of The Celebration Barn Theater at Space Gallery the night of our sold out premier performance of The Others. It will take me a lifetime to find the words to describe the gratitude and the pride I felt welcoming so many friends to a dream, my dream.

What do you find challenging about creating art and/or art spaces in 2017?
Gentrification. White fragility. Tokenism. Generational privilege, in the Greater Portland area. Institutional racism, in the Greater Portland area. Intellectual laziness, as a standard. Internalized Racism, Colorism, xenophobia, and cultural misunderstandings. A lack of inclusive community dialogue about the definition of what art is in Maine, that are lad by non white people. A lack of people of color in key positions on arts organization boards and in Mainstream art.  A lack of fundamental support from long standing “reputable” theaters and arts organizations with resources ten plus times the size of ours, outside of their bricks and mortar establishments.

What do you find exciting?
Conquering my life like BOSS!

Describe the TEoC workspace(s). What essential tools do you use to stay organized and connected?

Do you have any creative routines or rituals?
SO MANY! I am a person who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder. The longest running routine I have after singing and dancing is journaling. Pretty much everything.

What are you listening to/reading/looking at right now?
I’m currently swapping between a breakup playlist  (two weeks fresh), Nina Simome, The Read, my favorite podcast of all time, and I am reading  Lived Experiences. Our company’s first original devised piece.

What artists or organizations are inspiring you locally?
Here is a very short list…

What wise words do you carry with you into your practice/this project?
I can’t do everything, but I can do anything! & Each community members has to build themselves up daily and their community up daily, and sustain it, then it can call itself a community. Both are mine.




René Goddess Johnson is the Creative Artistic Director of Theater Ensemble of Color and a member of the Lorem Ipsum Theater Collective. She has lived in Maine for 26 years, originating from Johannesburg, South Africa. René has been a Performance Artist for twenty years. René’s autobiographical one woman show, g e e l, unfolds through thoughtful storytelling as her “tribe”, the audience, experiences a new kind of interactive theater that includes powerful dance and song. Follow the day-to-day on Instagram.