Undesirable Elements

The Undesirable Elements series is an anchor of PCC’s artistic and community-engaged programming. Rooted in approaches to interview-based theater, storytelling, and collaborative generative practices, Undesirable Elements invites local community members to the stage to collectively share their own stories of identity, place and belonging. A deeply collaborative process, Undesirable Elements productions are created in partnership with cultural, community-based, and educational organizations, and PCC artists with deeply realized practices in community engaged work.

Originally conceived and created by Artistic Director Emeritus Ping Chong in 1992, the series has grown and deepened through the lens and impact of expansive artistic and community partners, becoming a national platform for storytelling, community dialogue, and self-expression. Through Undesirable Elements, PCC creates cultures of care within our artistic and organizational practices, builds long-term organizational and artistic partnerships, and fosters our organizational values in spaces of engagement and community-building.

Since 1992, PCC has made over 65 productions with communities across the country and around the world, exploring experiences of immigrants and refugees in the U.S., living with disability, Muslim American identity, and experiences of survivors of sexual violence. Recent productions have looked at living with chronic illness and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth of color in New York City.

The development of each Undesirable Elements production is shaped by an extended community residency during which PCC artists conduct intensive interviews and generative workshops with the local participants. They then develop a script based on the cast members’ experiences and interweaving local and global histories. The production is performed by the community members themselves, rather than professional actors, with performers also having input and final approval of content. The experience of watching an Undesirable Elements production is that of participating in an intimate conversation, structured with artistic elements of rhythm, image, poetry, choral language, empathy, and humor.

In order to expand the impact of Undesirable Elements beyond the limitations of traditional theatrical spaces, many productions have toured and been presented in community spaces such as churches, YMCAs, classrooms, and libraries. PCC has also created accompanying documentaries, toolkits, training workshops, and in-school arts education programs to expand the impact of the work and to make it available for communities who wish to use the arts to address social justice and community dialogue in their own work. These productions have become tools for community-based dialogue and action.

For more information about how to bring Undesirable Elements to your community, please contact Sara Zatz sara@pingchong.org.

View All Undesirable Elements Projects in Archive