FULL CIRCLE TOURS “THEATER: A SACRED PASSAGE” Showcasing Diverse Artists’ Paths to a Life on Stage @ CHAT!

Join us for Full Circle’s “Theater: A Sacred Passage” FREE show at CHAT’s Studio 220!

WHEN? Thursday, April 14, 6PM

WHERE? CHAT Studio 220, 995 University Avenue, 2nd Floor, Saint Paul, MN 55104



Five St. Paul community based organizations and venues will benefit this April from Full Circle Theater Company’s tour of their play, “Theater: A Sacred Passage,” supported by a Knight Arts Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“Theater: A Sacred Passage” is an original performance piece devised by the five core artists of Full Circle from their personal journeys into theater. Their stories embody the challenges and transformational experiences they have had in becoming theater artists and how their lives and work reflect the huge changes in our theater community over the past two decades. The artists/playwrights are Rick Shiomi, James Williams, Martha Johnson, Lara Trujillo and Stephanie Lein Walseth. The play premiered in November 2015 at Dreamland Arts, directed by Rick Shiomi and dramaturgy by Martha Johnson, and features acting, storytelling, choreography and music.

“With our personal stories performed on stage, we hope to inspire youth and adults from diverse backgrounds to feel confident that they have the right and power to enter the theater world, that they can have the talent and calling to pursue a career in theater,” said co-artistic director Rick Shiomi.

Specifically, with this grant, Full Circle’s production of “Theater: A Sacred Passage” will engage audience members, through experiencing the play, post-show discussions and workshops, to share their experiences and perspectives on the issues of diversity and inclusiveness in theater and society, exploring how to support each other in the larger cultural context of society.

Performances will be presented at:

  • Four St. Paul neighborhood venues: The Wilder Foundation, East Side Freedom Library, Neighborhood House Teen Resource Center, and CHAT (Center for Hmong Arts and Talent).
  • Dreamland Arts in St. Paul for three additional public performances, April 22-24.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion expert Gordon Nakagawa attended “Theater: A Sacred Passage” last November as an independent audience member, and he was moved to write of his experience: “Comprised of life stories and ‘passages,’ Theater: A Sacred Passage attests to the bracing power of narrative to move, teach, and inspire… Rarely have these intersections among historical, social, political, cultural and personal contingencies been so movingly and provocatively realized in staged performances as they are in “Sacred Passage”.

The ten cast members are: Emily Grodzik, Marisa Carr, Lara Trujillo, Siddeeqah Shabazz, Allen Malicsi, Matthew Thompson, Song Kim, John Stephens, Katelin DeLorenzo and Marcos Lopez.

About Full Circle Theater

Full Circle was founded in the spring of 2015, by co-artistic directors Rick Shiomi and Martha Johnson. The mission of Full Circle is to produce heartfelt groundbreaking theater that artfully addresses issues of diversity and social justice for 21st century audiences. One of our core values is to produce theater that is multiracial and multicultural in its representation of life, and theater that is deeply inclusive of artists of color who share in the artistic leadership of the company. We also value theater that is deeply aware of feminist perspectives, that cultivates emerging artists, and that incorporates intergenerational artistic collaboration. We further value the creation of theater pieces based on personal narrative.

Full Circle Artists/Playwrights

Rick Shiomi (co-artistic director) received the 2015 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award and the Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2012, and was a founding member and the artistic director of Mu Performing Arts for twenty years.

Martha Johnson (co-artistic director) was co-artistic director of 21st Street Players in the 1980s, was a founding and core member of Mu Performing Arts, and directed and taught theater at Augsburg College for many years.

James Williams (artistic associate) is an award winning actor who has performed on Broadway and at major regional theaters and for several decades in Twin Cities theaters such as Penumbra, Mixed Blood, and the Guthrie. He has received several Ivey Awards and a 2015 McKnight Theater Artist Fellowship.

Lara Trujillo (artistic associate) has performed with numerous Twin Cities theater and music theater companies including the Minnesota Opera, the Ordway, Pantages, Mu Performing Arts, History Theater and Teatro del Pueblo.

Stephanie Lein Walseth (artistic associate) has worked as artist, educator, scholar, and administrator at such theaters as Penumbra, Mixed Blood, and Mu Performing Arts. She was an August Wilson Fellow at Penumbra Theatre and recently received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Theatre Historiography. She is the Director of Inquiry at Penumbra Theatre.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that the arts are a catalyst for public dialogue and that shared cultural experiences contribute to a sense of place and communal identity. To learn more, visit http://www.knightfoundation.org.

About Community Venues

Amherst H Wilder Foundation   April 12

451 Lexington Parkway North | Saint Paul, MN 55104 www.wilder.org

The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation is a non-profit community organization that helps children, families and older adults in the greater St. Paul and East Metro area through direct service programs, research, leadership development and community building. The performance will be for the Youth Leadership Initiative program.

Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT) April 14

995 University Ave W, Suite 220, Saint Paul, MN 55104 http://www.aboutchat.org/

The Center for Hmong Arts & Talent (CHAT), the first Hmong arts organization in the United States, exists to nurture, explore and illuminate the Hmong American experience through artistic expressions.CHAT envisions a vibrant community where Hmong American artists are inspired to share their perspectives, valued for their creative contributions, and empowered to challenge life’s boundaries.

East Side Freedom Library April 17 – Performance Open to the Public, 4:00 p.m.

1105 Greenbrier St., St. Paul. MN 55106 http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/

The East Side Freedom Library (ESFL) mission is to inspire solidarity, advocate for justice and work toward equity for all. ESFL has its home in the former Arlington Hills library, one of St. Paul’s historic Carnegie library buildings at 1105 Greenbrier Street, located in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood. The library houses non-circulating research collections that appeal to interested general learners as well as scholars, with innovative databases and finding aids that make using the collections fun and vital.

Neighborhood House   April 19

Wellstone Center, 179 Robie Street East · St. Paul, MN 55107 http://neighb.org/

Neighborhood House helps people with basic needs, education, multiple youth programs, and health and well-being. Its mission is to help people, families and organizations develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to thrive in diverse communities. Its Youth Leadership Programs offer new opportunities to develop skills, supportive relationships, and a positive self-image in a safe, nurturing setting. The Teen Resource Center (TRC)is where youth, ages 12-18, develop positive relationships with adults, find homework help, a positive social network, and support for whatever is happening in their lives.

Dreamland Arts April 22 -24 – Performances Open to the Public (see below for dates)

677 Hamline Ave. N., St. Paul, MN 55104

The mission of Dreamland Arts is to build a healthy community through the arts. Its goals are to provide high quality arts programming in an intimate, accessible, community-friendly environment. It offers arts-related activities to a neighborhood that is committed to having more of it and seeks to operate a dynamic business built around their individual talents and skills as performers, teachers and producers.

Purchase Dreamland Arts Tickets At:



Listing of Dreamland Arts Shows:

Friday, April 22 at 7:30 pm

Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 pm

Sunday, April 24 at 2 pm


Full Circle Theater Company, Contact Rick Shiomi at fullcircletheatermn@gmail.com www.facebook.com/fullcircletheater 612-327-5223

Theater: A Sacred Passage,
is supported by a Knight Arts Challenge grant from the
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Jerome Emerging Artists Fellowship Information Session

Jerome Emerging Artists Fellowship Information Session
And Artist Talk
Grab a bite to eat and join Fellowship Director Kerry Morgan, Fellowship Coordinator Nathan Lewis, and two past fellows Pao Her and Sieng Lee for a discussion about the Jerome Emerging Artists fellowships.
This competitive fellowship provides $12,000 awards to five recipients annually. In addition, the fellows have the opportunity to meet with visiting critics over the course of the fellowship year, to have their work featured in a group exhibition in the MCAD Gallery, to have an essay written about their work that appears in the exhibition catalog, and to participate in a public panel discussion.
This discussion will highlight the foundation and program while offering application best practices. Artists Pao Her, 2013/14 fellow, and Sieng Lee, 2014/15 fellow, will discuss their work and experience as Jerome fellows. Finally we will open the floor up for questions.
WHEN? Monday, April 18, 2016, 6:30-9PM
WHERE? CHAT Studio 220, 995 University Avenue, 2nd Floor (directly above Destiny Cafe), Saint Paul, MN 55104
RSVP’s recommended, however not required.
For more information about the fellowship, visit
Delicious food provided by Cafe BonXai.

From Fres Thao, Executive Director

Hello and Nyob Zoo!

During the past six years, my tenure as Youth Programs Director, Program Director, and Executive Director at the Center for Hmong Arts & Talent (CHAT) has been nothing short of pure excitement, joy and creativity.  I love CHAT and am profoundly proud of what the organization has been, is, and will continue growing to be.  I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to guide the organization, and grow along with the community of artists, youth and leaders who selflessly carry on CHAT’s mission of nurturing, exploring and illuminating the Hmong American experience through artistic expressions.  

That being said, it is with great sadness that I resign from my role at CHAT where I’ve been blessed to work alongside the most amazing and supportive team I’ve ever known.  I leave CHAT with much optimism and confidence in the hands of this excellent team and outstanding community of artists, youth and leaders.

From the Hmong Arts & Music Festival to the Fresh Traditions Fashion Show to every amazing event and program CHAT has offered or been a part of, I’ve been so fortunate to witness and experience firsthand the wonders of bringing community together through the arts.  With my ever evolving understanding of how crucial the arts is to our individual and collective growth, I’ve learned that creativity and innovation are directly connected to being an effective and empathetic leader, activist, and organizer.  I’ve learned that it’s important for us to utilize, and make art accessible as a means of education, expression, empowerment, documentation, truth-telling, and healing in order to progress and thrive.

Having been an artist, arts administrator and arts advocate for most of my life, I’ve been in dire need of time to reflect on my accomplishments and challenges, reinvigorate my purpose, re-energize, and reconnect with my roots in order to continue growing, creating meaningful art, and effectively supporting the community.  I’ve decided to spend the next few years traveling and exploring the world, creatively writing, and connecting with my roots.  This is both terrifying and exciting in equal measure, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow, and see where the wind takes you.

I’m proud to have been part of such an amazing team and community, and I wish CHAT only the finest in future endeavours.  CHAT has helped me develop and flourish as an artist, leader and activist, and I firmly believe if its ripples hasn’t inspired and affected you yet, it soon will.  I encourage each and everyone of you to continue supporting this wonderful organization.  

To those of you who have an interest in a life changing and affirming experience in the Hmong community and local Twin Cities art scene, I encourage you to consider applying to lead and usher the Center for Hmong Arts & Talent into the future.  For more information, visit http://wp.me/p3Rh5b-19l .

My last official day at the Center for Hmong Arts & Talent will be on April 29, however I will still reachable at fres@aboutchat.org.

Stay humble, and creative.


Fres Thao