We had the good fortune of connecting with Cristina Angeles and Ayana Parker Morrison and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cristina Angeles, Ayana Parker Morrison, why did you pursue a creative career?
Checkmark’s mission is to create a home for artists of color to tell their stories and develop their craft.
We encourage the growth of artists of color through the development of new plays, musicals, and screenplays. To do so, we fundraise to not only support our artists’ work, but also to compensate them for their time and talent. One of the main reasons behind the disparities in the performing arts is inaccessibility due to unpaid and under paid work. As a result, we work tirelessly to ensure every artist is given proper compensation for their work with Checkmark.
Supporting artists of color will always be our focus. In doing so, we create a space that incites conversation, that cultivates a community of independent artists, and rethinks traditional producing models that challenge the limits of storytelling in theater, television, and film.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Checkmark is unique in that it is a company committed to solely producing the work of and employing artists of color.
We’re most proud of our working relationship. We’ve been able to grow as both friends and collaborators by setting clear boundaries, encouraging transparency around our strengths and weaknesses, and creating a cohesive mission we are both passionate about. We’ve also prided ourselves on creating space to collaborate with our favorite artists, many of whom are our dear friends, and have always prioritized championing our colleagues’ work as much as our own.
A major lesson that we’ve learned is that the producing models utilized by the entertainment industry are unsustainable due to their reliance on systems of white supremacy. With that being said, no, it has not been easy. We haven’t overcome the challenges. We’ve produced plays about gentrification, developed screenplays about the challenges women of color face code switching between their public and private lives, and we’ve produced live events to cultivate community among our colleagues and friends. All of this is geared towards reimagining a new infrastructure that prioritizes humans over profit, and one that will sustain the lives of artists of color for years to come.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Honestly? We’re Brooklyn girls, and you can walk down Eastern Parkway at sunset and find the best park in NYC, the best local restaurants, and people from every corner of the world that will make your time here worth wild. Pre-Covid, we’d definitely suggest seeing a show at the New York Theatre Workshop, or an evening walk through lower Manhattan. During Covid, a Prospect Park day with friends at a social distance is what does it for us! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Ayana and Cristina met when they were both working at the New York Theatre Workshop, Ayana was the Producing Fellow and Cristina was assistant directing a play on their main stage. Coincidentally, they both attended the same production meeting and spotted each other across the room, acknowledging they were two of the few people of color present. After the meeting, they headed straight towards one another to introduce themselves. They knew right away they wanted to work together after Cristina expressed interest in self producing work by artists of color. After that meeting, Ayana and Cristina got to work on kicking off the first full season of programming at Checkmark Productions, and it was thanks to the New York Theatre Workshop’s generosity that they had the resources to organize their first fundraiser and workshop production. NYTW provided Checkmark with rehearsal space, office supplies, and guidance that directly resulted in the success of its 2018-19 season, and we couldn’t thank them enough!
Ryan Darius and Nicholas Angeles