Arts & Entertainment

Tacoma Little Theatre presents “Skin”

A story about the origins of tattooing and how people relate tattooing to skin color.

Live theater, like many other industries during this pandemic, has been hit hard and forced to adapt to these hard times. In the beginning, theaters all over the world had closed down for the safety of their patrons. Throughout the first few months, there was no live theater. No musicals, plays or onstage performances could happen with the state mandates. After a while, theaters started to evolve and become more accessible to the public at a safe distance.

Tacoma Little Theatre is one of these theaters. TLT is located near the stadium district across from Wright Park. The theater hosted their page to screen event — an event where a local playwright can see their work performed by a cast — virtually this year on Feb. 20. This year, the TLT put on “Skin,” written by Anamaria Guerzon and directed by Darryin Cunningham, both of whom are puget sound locals. 

“Skin” is a story that deals with tattooing as an art form. The differences between being an artist for fun and creating tattoos as a job are discussed. This script intertwines two stories: one true and one fiction. 

The true story delves into the story about a Filipino man and his mother who were captured and sold into slavery. Jeoly — the son — was covered in markings and designs that people saw as freakish or odd. His slave owner would parade him around to make money off those who would like to examine this taboo thing. These markings, or what we now call tattoos, were like nothing the people had ever seen before.

The fictional element takes place during present day and revolves around the story of a Filipino girl trying to apply to become a tattoo artist. Despite getting denied, she doesn’t give up on her dream until she receives an internship. 

TLT used YouTube to stream their show while the actors used Zoom to perform it. Digitally, it was a bit messy, but since we can’t use a stage at this time it worked for what they needed.

This was the first time I had seen shows streamed on YouTube and due to technical issues, it could have been done better. There were a few lagging problems but with virtual streams, there always will be. Moreover, the production itself was unique. There was a narrator to read stage directions so you could hear the scene changes rather than see them, and all of the actors performed from their own homes or spaces.

“Skin” was really well done and appropriately assessed the idea of tattooing and race. The Filipino girl related her generic history to tattooing since tattoos originated in the Philippines. Later in the show, the fictional story discusses how people of color are often rejected by tattoo artists because many people don’t know how to deal with dark skin. The Filipino girl remembers her heritage and how she descended from the origin of tattoos.

The idea of tattooing as an art form is nothing new, but the idea that it should be an art form for any skin color is one that should not be ignored.