We had the good fortune of connecting with Rose Kim and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rose, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I’m an actor and theatre artist and I run my theatre company, Art Rat.
I discovered acting in college. Acting was fun, it made sense, and I felt I could be good. One of those “click” moments where you’re like “Wow, I like doing this, I’m good at doing this, and now I’m obsessed with being the best……”
Making theatre and performing was amazing.
The lack of diversity was exhausting.
All my college theatre department’s productions were insistently predominantly white spaces. Plainly speaking: not super inspiring and a lot of the material was written by white folks, directed by white folks, performed by white folks, for an audience predominately made of white folks.
As an actor of color, the options are slim. Most of the time are you waiting for some white director’s “yes”. And if you don’t get that “yes”, you don’t have another opportunity to perform.
My big issue at the time was “How can I continue to have a reason to perform, regardless of some white person’s agenda?”
I wanted to work with diverse actors, we wanted to perform for a more diverse audience, but nobody with the resources seems concerned.
Jr year of college, 2015, I started producing independently. In college, my indie producing became a new theatre company, Millennial Theatre, that I co-founded with my good friend Bhargav.
Now I am running Art Rat Theatre out of LA county.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am most proud of what, who, why, and how Art Rat Theatre is made up of. In college, I had the vision but I had to go through a practical maturing process through working with others to begin to really understand what it means to lead an art vehicle without replicating the colonial, patriarchal, White-Supremacist societal harms.
Today I can say with my chest that our community is not your average “general audience”. Our networks of artists and our communities of artists are the young adult, indie, radicalizing Black, Indigenous, and People of Color artists that our vehicle seeks to serve. Our works are young-adult driven and young-adult powered. We make it a principle to compensate the artists we work with. We are constantly poking holes into traditional hierarchical modes of working. We are building platforms that allow other marginalized and radicalized artists can lean on for artistic expression and manifestation, and in doing so, we are building the future – one where we no longer rely so much on HWI’s/PWI’s for our personal and professional development.
I got into producing first in jr year of college, 2015.
By 2016, my friend Bhargav and I teamed up to start our own company.
It definitely was NOT EASY. I was a full-time student, working a job, performing in department works, while also producing and performing our own indie theatre scene. I felt like I had to do everything, for everything to work out. It was an unhealthy relationship with productivity. At the same time, the pressure and anxiety on actors of colors is real — you really don’t feel like you can “rest” because we have this herculean task of creating our own opportunities because the ones white folks are giving us kinda really suck!
Thankfully, I had a real fire for what I was doing. Thankfully, I was not alone. Thankfully, I had a heart willing to learn the lessons from my mistakes, and I had the will to call myself to grow and mature every project after the other.
One big lesson I learned: When you start organizing people to create a show, at an age as young as 21, and you’re working with other 20 somethings, life is not very stable. Especially for folks dealing with various miles of systemic obstacles. We deal with people coming and going, staying and leaving, some leave with great memories, some leave with bad ones. So, learning to flow with others’ flows, learning to strip and deconstruct myself of patriarchal entitlements to power, learning to accommodate others and their unique stages in their lives, learning how I could show up for others in these ways is maybe the one area of growth that has humbled me and sustained me all the way until now, and more, for a lifetime of this work.
I would love the world to hear Art Rat Theatre on this:
I hope these White American Theatres know it is clear to us who they are thinking about and who they are not. No website mission statement can obscure the people who make up your house, your production, your team.
They like to call their audiences a “general audience.” If anyone has been to an institutionally-funded/well-funded theatre and looked around the audience, you quickly realize it is a very, very specific audience. They are most often middle or upper class beneficiaries of racism. I hate to dehumanize them like that but I need to communicate how dire and absurd their concept of “General” audience is.
If they truly want to serve a broader audience, these well-resourced theatres must unsettle their racist, capitalist foundations. Theatre is frickin beautiful when the environment is authentic and liberating.
Sharing presence is such a simple, beautiful potential. Most systemically-marginalized folx are challenged to experience these beautiful simplicities because predominantly White spaces often require ridiculous mental gymnastics and numbing just to survive in.
Theatre is all about exchanging energy. What could be more appropriate for young adult communities of color? Young people could have a killer time at the theatre. Young people of color can have a killer time at the theatre.
No more exorbitantly-priced productions created for white folks pretending otherwise, please.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
In a pandemic?
It’s the beach or the park for me.
Some food/drink/snacks, a mat, plenty of water, and beloved company is all I’d need.
I’m not gonna be great with this answer because I’m so not the one to ask about touristy things LOL.
I’m really simple when it comes to spending time with the people I love.
I’m also suspicious and wary of burning out local spots. Tourism is scary LOL. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to shout out Myah Daniels, the editor of my self-published book “25: Before, During and Shortly After”. (25thebook.com) Myah is an actor, writer and instagram marketing bad ass! She’s currently a student at Stella Adler LA and wrapped the first performance of her new one-woman-show on Josephine Baker!
I also want to shout out my treasured collaborators. Angelita Sanchez, Eman Moore, and Joré Aaron! We are currently collaborating on a “pop up” theatre and dance event in LA. Angelita is a fierce artist activist with a lot of experience working with and empowering young students. Eman is a dancer, model and creative director telling stunning visual stories on their Instagram and a gorgeous mover. Joré is a theatre artist in LA who was producing amazing interdisciplinary indie art functions before the pandemic and is now co-hosting the “Art Rat Group Chat” podcast with me while also producing with a theatre company in Santa Barbara.
I also have to shout out Margaret Kemp, a LIGHT at the UC Davis Theatre and Dance department. An incredible mentor to students of color navigating that PWI (predominantly white institution).
Instagram: rosek1m, artrattheatre
Youtube: art rat theatre school
Kyla Ohayon, Ann Nguyen, Thoa Bui Nguyen, Quoc Quan Le, Justin Tran-Huy Ha