Theatre may be dark, but we are turning the spotlight on! NLT wants to celebrate theatre creators and change makers that we admire, that inspire us, and that we think are acting as a light in their community. Join us each month as we uplift the voices that are working to positively impact our industry and our fellow humans.
Ang Bey (they/them/theirs) is a Black, Queer, Philadelphia-based multidisciplinary theatre artist. An actor, playwright, director, educator, and producer, Ang’s work is committed to decolonization and radical healing through the transformative power of storytelling. Ang currently serves as the co-artistic director of both Shoe Box Theatre and the new Wings of Paper Theatre Co., and is a member of both Ring of Keys and Director’s Gathering.
NLT: When did you first get involved with theatre, and when did you know it was going to be something you devote your life to?
AB: I went to an elementary-middle school centered around the performing arts here in Philadelphia. My introduction to traditional theatre began there, in the 2nd grade. As a Vocal Music major, I started out singing in the choir, performing in musicals, and dancing every winter in Pennsylvania Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Writing, though, was a constant in my artistic practice since I was able to string sentences together on a page. After middle school, I fell out of love with musical theatre, embraced my passion for short stories and spoken word, and married the two. I became serious about playwriting and “straight” acting in highschool. I’ve been working professionally ever since. The truth is, I don’t know if theatre is my ultimate, or singular, devotion in life. I think it’s a gateway and a tool for a larger purpose that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I’m excited to stay present and accept change as it comes. As a theatre artist, and as a human being in general, I am constantly learning, exploring, and experimenting with new ways of connecting with others.
NLT: You're a multidisciplinary artist: an actor, playwright, and director. What is a commonality you’ve experienced between these disciplines, and what unique challenges do they provide you? Is there a part of yourself that you see recurring in your work?
AB: This is a great question! A commonality? I choose work that I’m excited about. That means work that aligns with my mission statement, intimate collaborations between friends and colleagues, explorations of the brutally honest and absurd, etc. etc. etc. I’m also a producer, so it’s important to create such opportunities when they are few and far between-- for myself and other like-minded artists. As an actor, you have far less agency than as a playwright and director. So, when I work in the later two disciplines I keep that in mind. As a playwright, I write dynamic characters and stories that actors enjoy playing. As a director, I bring a lot of dramaturgy to the process to ensure that every actor feels seen in who they are within and outside of the rehearsal room. I’m always writing about racism! I’m often cast as characters that are loud about racism too. I direct… many shows about racism. I think that part of me feels obliged to do so as a Black artist, and I’m really trying to get away from that pressure; I ask: “Where is that coming from?”, “Why does it keep happening?”, “How are you taking care of yourself during these explorations?”. Looking forward, I’m writing more about joy. Intersectional, unapologetic joy. I’ve got a few projects in the works, as an actor, playwright, and director, that I’m excited to share with you!
NLT: Is there a moment in your career you're particularly proud of?
AB: Plenty! I went to Sundance Directors Lab as an actor in 2018. I was the first Black student to have a play produced on the mainstage of Ursinus College. All the work I do with Philadelphia Young Playwrights is a gift. I’m very blessed.
NLT: Is there a cause or an artist you've yet to work with that you are hungry to in the future?
AB: I’m really looking forward to developing my play “Twenty-Six” with the Strides Collective this spring/summer. It’s an intentionally queer-centered company and this play is a Black, trans, self-love-story. I’ll let you in on a secret - when I watch shows and movies, I scout for actors that I’ll write movies for later in my career. So, speaking it into existence: Lakieth Stanfield and Moses Ingram - I’m coming for you!
NLT: What is your dream project?
AB: I want to collaborate with Boots Riley. Let’s write something together. Put me in, Coach!
NLT: You say in your artist statement, "I create to ignite decolonization and radical healing within myself & within the world." How do you manifest that in your work, not just in yourself, but in the various other artists and companies you work with?
AB: This is much “easier” to do as a producer, playwright, and director because those are often leadership positions. I make work about the elephants in the room. To do so, you have to curate a space that allows collaborators to feel just as, if not more, comfortable and justified in that exploration as you. This manifests in specific ways with every project, but I can tell you a few commanilites. As a producer, I pay all collaborators and I am very intentional about scheduling equitable rehearsal times. As a playwright, I don’t write trauma into a story without clear arcs. As an actor, I will never step into a role that I have no business playing. With other companies, they know what they’re getting into in hiring me. But because no one is perfect and the work never stops, I continue these accountability processes till the end of my contract.
NLT: Why is theatre the best medium for the goals you’ve set out in your artist statement?
AB: I don’t know that theatre is the best medium. Right now, it’s the medium that I’m best at in expressing those goals. When practicing theatre, I’m the most generous, creative, and empathetic version of myself. I do the most. Theatre, for me, is activism. Or else, why bother?
NLT: Is there a person, cause, or event in your life that you return to when you are in need for motivation to keep doing your work?
AB: My mother, Dr. Marie Antoinette Bey. She’s the strongest person I know. She inspires me every single day to keep it pushing.
NLT: What is the last piece of writing you read that you had to share with a friend?
AB: Not sure if this exactly qualifies as a piece of writing, but my housemates and I had a long conversation about a post on the @freeschoolmedia Instagram page. It’s Yvonne King’s, Former Field Secretary of the Illinois Chapter Black Panther Party, statement on the movie, “Judas and the Black Messiah”.
NLT: What was the last song or album you listened to that you had on repeat?
AB: Heaux Tales by Jasmine Sullivan. On REPEAT.
NLT: What’s the last television show, movie, or recorded theatre piece you watched that deeply moved you?
AB: “Mine Cunt: The Hideous Manifesto” by Vida Landron, produced by The Gumbo Lab.