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Pangea World Theater

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Isla Tuliro

Lita Malicsi performs in Isla Tuliro by Marlina Gonzalez, a production co-produced by Pangea World Theater and Teatro del Pueblo at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. Photograph by Bruce Silcox, April 2018.

Pangea World Theater is an international, multidisciplinary theater based in Minneapolis. Founded in 1995, Pangea produces, commissions, and presents the work of artists who address social, economic, cultural, racial, gender, and political inequity. Through its community-centered and relevant programming, Pangea builds bridges of understanding across cultures locally and globally.

Pangea World Theater was founded in 1995 by Keith Lee, Kathy Haddad, Luu Pham, and Dipankar Mukherjee. They were soon joined by Meena Natarajan, and the group set out to create a global space in the arts for dynamic conversations. The development of the theater was greatly informed by the cornerstones of Indian dramaturgy: need, desire, and revelation. Its founders also crafted a mission statement: “Pangea illuminates the human condition, celebrates cultural differences, and promotes human rights by creating and presenting international, multi-disciplinary theater.”

In 1996, Pangea produced its first production: Conference of the Birds, a theatrical adaptation by Meena Natarajan of a twelfth-century Sufi poem. The play inspired Pangea to commit to producing, commissioning, and presenting works that explore themes such as race, exile, freedom, immigration, and human rights.

A key value of the organization is centering Indigeneity. Before beginning any rehearsal, event or production, Pangea acknowledges that it exists on the sacred, traditional lands of the Dakota people. In 2001, it launched the Indigenous Voices program, a series that takes place before Thanksgiving each year and highlights the work of Indigenous artists.

Another key value of the organization is sustained collaboration. For example, Pangea has been a long-term collaborator with Latinx theater company Teatro del Pueblo since 2008. This partnership led to the birth of the Latino Asian Fusion program in 2014 and numerous productions.

In addition to producing three or four original artistic creations, productions, and presentations each year, Pangea hosts programs that speak to minority and immigrant cultures and serve a broad public. This includes programs such as Bridges, which was launched around 2004. The program brought together immigrant artists and artists of color from across the Midwest for a peer exchange guided by the Open Space Technology leadership practice.

In 2004, Pangea was commissioned by The Advocates for Human Rights to adapt the book Journey to Safety into a play that centered the voices of immigrant women and women’s advocates. This production toured from 2004 through 2012. In partnership with the Battered Women’s Justice Project, it was made into a video and facilitator’s guide that was dispersed widely. It also influenced national policy on issues of domestic violence against immigrant women. In 2005, Pangea received a Special Recognition Award from The Advocates for Human Rights for its work in using arts to promote human rights.

Also in 2005, Pangea launched its education initiative, Diverse Stages, to unite young people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. With the support of Pangea artists, students created performances around issues of race construction, social equity, discrimination, and activism. Pangea’s educational programming has grown over time to include artist residencies, workshops, study guides, and student matinees. Each program aims to expose students to literature and creative processes outside of the Western canon.

In response to the lack of professional development and exchange opportunities for directors of color and women directors in the US, Pangea collaborated with Art2Action in 2012 to launch a program called The National Institute for Directing and Ensemble Creation. This pilot program grew into an annual summer institute dedicated to peer exchange and training for directors of color and women directors. In July 2018, Pangea welcomed local, national, and international directors and director mentees to Minneapolis for the fourth incarnation of the institute.

In 2014, Pangea received an Artplace award to bring Somali and Latinx communities together through a creative placemaking project called The Lake Street Arts Corridor. This project grew into a larger community engagement initiative called Lake Street Arts!. This four-year program facilitated art making and dialogue around issues such as immigration, migration, and displacement among East African, Latinx, and Indigenous communities in Pangea’s neighborhood. In 2017, as part of Lake Street Arts!, Pangea launched its first-ever Arts Organizing Institute, dedicated increasing the role of artist organizers in community and city development work.

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Mukherjee, Dipankar (Pangea cofounder, executive/literary director). Interview with the author, June 6, 2018.

Natarajan, Meena (Pangea cofounder, artistic director). Interview with the author, June 6, 2018.

Related Images

Isla Tuliro
Isla Tuliro

Turning Point

In 2012, Pangea launches its pilot National Institute for Directing and Ensemble Creation in collaboration with Art2Action. The Institute, dedicated to peer exchange and training for directors of color and women directors, marks a shift towards a more equitable field of directing, both nationally and internationally.



Pangea World Theater is founded in Minneapolis.


Pangea produces its first play, Conference of the Birds, based on a Sufi poem by Farid Ud-din Attar, adapted by Meena Natarajan, and directed by Dipankar Mukherjee


Pangea wins the International Gardens of Peace Award.


Pangea launches its annual Indigenous Voices Program with a production by Tasmanian Indigenous artist Tammy Anderson.


Pangea wins the 3M Innovation of the Arts Award.


Pangea wins the Excellence in the Arts Award from the Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans.


Pangea launches its Alternate Visions Series, which gives playwrights of color a chance to spend an extended period of time writing and developing new plays.


Pangea wins the Special Recognition Award from the Advocates for Human Rights for its work in using arts to promote human rights.


Pangea undertakes its first collaboration with Teatro Del Pueblo: The House of Bernarda Alba, directed by Laurie Carlos.


Pangea co-hosts the National Asian American Festival with Theater Mu, as well as Desi Drama, a gathering of South Asian American artists from across the country.


Pangea wins the Joyce Foundation award for the collaboration between Pangea World Theater and Teatro in developing the Latino Asian Fusion series.


Pangea World Theater becomes one of the founders of the Twin Cities Theatres of Color Coalition, along with Mu Performing Arts, Penumbra Theatre, New Native Theatre, and Teatro Del Pueblo.


Pangea is given an Artplace award to bring Indigenous, Somali, and Latinx communities together through a creative placemaking project called Lake Street Arts!.


Pangea collaborates with Art2Action, NEFA, and the First Peoples Fund to host a Native artists gathering in Minneapolis with local and national indigenous artists.


Pangea, along with five national organizations, is chosen to join the National Performance Network Leveraging and Networking Equity cohort.