Asian American Arts Center showcases talent from all walks of life

SAN DIEGO — Many Asian-Pacific Americans say they are often underrepresented in the arts, media and entertainment.

A South Bay performing arts center is working to change that.

For the artists of Maraya Performing Arts, the world is their stage. “I’m thrilled to see the audience and the people I know,” says Eddie Gange, an autistic artist.

At Maraya Performing Arts, the actors use their environment as a stage and the audience moves to different sets with the performers.

“It’s an interactive, participatory experience and we’re really breaking down the fourth wall for the audience to really interact with the performers,” says Anjanette Mayara-Ramey of Maraya Performing Arts.

It’s not the only wall they’re knocking down. Maraya accepts actors who are not normally exposed to the stage.

“We have students of various races,” says Mayara-Ramey. “We have geographically diverse students, we have socio-economically diverse students, and neuro-diverse students, including those with autism, ADHD, and turrets.”

This inclusion helped AJ Gange and Eddie, his autistic brother, to perform together for the first time.

“When I found out that Maraya was accepting autistic kids. I was like ‘oh my god yes! Eddie!’ said artist AJ Gange.

As a first-generation Filipino American business owner, Anjanette Maraya-Ramey knows how important representation is.

“I didn’t see a lot of representation, especially with black people, Native people of color and Asian Americans growing up, so I wanted to create a business that would allow younger generations to see reflections of themselves- same and diversity that is San Diego,” says Maraya-Ramey.

Maraya offers low-cost training in music, dance, and theater to spotlight performers of all kinds.

“I was inspired after my three-year battle with a rare form of leukaemia. I got a second chance at life and I feel like I’m living my dreams,” says Maraya-Ramey.

Maraya anticipates that her next live music production will take place in the fall.