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Spoken word group explores Filipino identity

All-female group Archipeleg-a to modernize old pieces in first performance in five years

Archipeleg-a, an all-female Filipino spoken word group, will celebrate its 20th anniversary Sunday by performing 20 different pieces. Archi hosts its own show only once every five years and plans to showcase the talents of 10 students this weekend.

Archi, the oldest spoken word group at Brown, was founded in 1995 by 14 female Filipino students, said Mae Verano ’17, a member of the group.

Sunday’s show will deviate from the format of previous shows, punctuating solo spoken word acts with other types of  performances by members of the Filipino Alliance. These interludes will include a cappella, a comedy set, a ukulele piece, a mash-up and a duet performance, said Marielle Bugayong ’17, another member of Archi.

Almost half of the performances will be solo sets, said Sarah Day Dayon ’15, another member of Archi. The group is also “bringing back old pieces and revitalizing them in ways that they have never been performed before,” she added.

The pieces written over the years explore different aspects of Filipino identity, including “the Filipino-American identity, immigrants, how to adapt to American culture and social issues,” Bugayong said. Archi provides a space to present often-unheard Southeast Asian female voices to the greater community, she added.

“In a lot of spaces, you are told to just operate with one of your identities,” Dayon said. Archi integrates overlapping identities such as “being Filipino, being a woman and other identities regarding class and sexuality,” she added.

Verano echoed this sentiment, noting that though the group is specifically for Filipino women, members are “careful about the intersection of identities.”

Through spoken word, the members of Archi command the stage, expressing their opinions and sharing their unique experiences, Verano said. “A lot of us aren’t used to taking up an entire auditorium for ourselves.”

Many Brown community members expect the group to sound “cute,” Verano said, adding that part of Archi’s goal is to have female voices taken seriously.

“We speak truth and power. They don’t see it coming,” Bugayong said.

For many members, Archi is their first taste of spoken word or poetry. Some had never performed on stage before.

“Every now and then I’ve written a poem or two, but I’d never imagined I’d be performing on a stage,” Bugayong said.

Before becoming involved with Archi, Briana Garcia ’16 had never performed before, not even with a musical instrument. Joining the group “was a transition,” she said, adding, “What helped get over the fear was knowing that you could trust everyone in the group.”

The meetings allow members to simply write about what they feel and what is important to them, and then craft these ideas into cohesive pieces, Garcia said.

These free-writes and scripts are kept in a box called the “Archives,” which is “our version of institutional memories and inspiration from what alumni have written,” Verano said. “Even though we’ve never met, we can still read what they wrote.”

Archi members say the group welcomes not only creativity and self-expression, but also mentorship. Archi has “supported me where I felt like other people who were assigned to mentor me didn’t,” Dayon said.

“People here know exactly what I’m going through,” Verano said. “It has been so vital to my present life at Brown.”

Archi is a “space for art, support — a space to talk to each other and cry over each other’s shoulders,” Dayon said. “That’s the beauty of it.”

Looking ahead, Archi’s next performance will not be until 2020. Meanwhile, Sunday’s show is “going to change from what alumni had expected the space to be, and that’s okay” as long as it still serves the needs of group members, Dayon said.

The show will take place Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Building for Environmental Research and Teaching.


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