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

One performing arts center in the South Bay is working to change that.

For artists at Maraya Performing Arts, the world is their stage. “I’m excited to see the audience and people I know,” says performer with autism Eddie Gange.

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

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

That’s not the only wall they are tearing down. Maraya accepts actors who may not normally be exposed to the stage. 

“We have racially diverse students,” says Mayara-Ramey. “We have geographically diverse students, we have social economic diverse students, and neurodiverse students, including those with autism, ADHD, and turrets.”

That inclusion helped AJ Gange and Eddie, his brother with autism, perform together for the first time.

“When I found out that Maraya was accepting kids with autism. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh yes! Eddie!’” said performer AJ Gange.

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

“I didn’t see a lot of representation, especially with Black, Indigenous people of color and Asian Americans growing up, so I wanted to start a company that would enable younger generations to see reflections of themselves and the diversity that is San Diego,” says Maraya-Ramey.

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

“I was inspired after my three-year battle of a rare form of leukemia. I got a second chance at life and I feel that I am living out my dreams,” says Maraya-Ramey. 

Maraya is planning their next live musical production set to take place in the fall.