From left to right, actors Robin McAlpine, Darius Pierce, Nikki Weaver and Dana Green, in Portland Playhouse’s “Barbecue” production.

Shawnte Sims / Courtesy

The Portland Playhouse is launching a series of special evenings throughout the season aimed at making local theater more accessible to people who identify as Black, Indigenous and / or People of Color, or BIPOC.

Development Director Aiyana Cunningham said the theater will offer these new paid events – called BIPOC Affinity Evenings – for every production in the 2021-2022 season.

The theater was scheduled to inaugurate the first of the Affinity Night events at 7:30 pm Friday during the production of “Barbecue.” The play was written by eminent African-American playwright Robert O’Hara and is performed by a cast largely from BIPOC with the support of a diverse creative team.

“People come to see plays that reflect the people, the culture and the situations they can relate to. And the vast majority in the theater, the stories have been centered on white people, ”Cunningham said. “The dismantling job that needs to be done, and it’s a work in progress.”

Other theaters are also trying to diversify their audiences. Portland Center Stage, for example, will present its first sensory show, a more relaxed performance that benefits people with the autism spectrum or with sensory processing issues.

More information about the Portland Playhouse’s BIPOC Affinity Nights can be found on the theater company’s ticketing page.