News: Playing Jewish at the National Asian American Theatre Company

Stephen Brown-Fried, Lisa Silberman Brenner, Mia Katigbak, and William Finn (left to right)/ photo credit: Peter Kim

Stephen Brown-Fried, Lisa Silberman Brenner, Mia Katigbak, and William Finn (left to right)/ photo credit: Peter Kim

Theatre scholar Lisa Silberman Brenner began the Public Theater’s June 8th panel discussion Playing Jewish at the National Asian American Theatre Company with the following provocations:

  • According to an Asian American Performers Action Coalition analysis, from 2006 onwards the percentage of Asian American actors performing in Broadway or major non-profit off-Broadway productions has ranged from 1% to 4% (an all time high, never repeated).
  • Of all ethnic minorities, actors of Asian descent are least likely to play roles not defined by race
  • Twenty percent of approximately 6 million Jewish Americans are non-Caucasian.

These statistics informed a lively discussion about issues of ethnicity and representation in the theatre as they intersect with and inform the National Asian American Theatre Company’s upcoming all Asian-American production of Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing!, a play about a three-generation Jewish American family set during the Great Depression. Continue reading

TALKS: Dael Orlandersmith of NYTW’s FOREVER

Dael Orlandersmith in FOREVER  (Photo Credit: Joan Marcus)

Dael Orlandersmith in FOREVER
(Photo Credit: Joan Marcus)

New York Theatre Workshop is closing their 2014-2015 season with the one-woman show Forever written and starring Obie award-winning actress, poet, playwright, and teacher Dael Orlandersmith. Directed by Neel Keller, the Associate Artistic Director of Center Theatre Group and recent director of The NetherForever a memoire that reflects upon family as Dael journeys to the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where countless artistic icons in history are buried. While exploring  the graves of such greats like as Morrison and Oscar Wild, Dael takes a look back at her past – from the New York City up bringing to the strained and abusive relationship with her mother, from her passion for music and art to her to her conviction to success where her mother couldn’t.

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THOUGHTS: Isfahan Blues

Vida Ghahremani and L. Peter Callender Photo Credit: Pak Han

Vida Ghahremani and L. Peter Callender
Photo Credit: Pak Han

Isfahan Blues is set up in flashbacks. Aging Iranian film star Bella (Vida Ghahremani) has conjured up musician Ray Hamilton (L. Peter Callender), to regale her with tales of the 24 hours they spent together in Iran in 1963.

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TALKS: Heesuk Chae on Artistic Asians Runs On Shorts

file-page1Artistic Asians Runs on Shorts (AAROS) is the inaugural showcase for works created by a collaborative collective of Asian and Asian American artists in New York City. Taking place at the architecturally gorgeous former firehouse on 87th Lafayette St. in Manhattan, the May 16th event brings together performances, videos, and exhibitions from actors, directors, dancers, filmmakers, musicians, and visual artists. Featured works include Caroline Shin’s delightful YouTube series in which local grandmothers are interviewed while cooking traditional dishes and a unique musical art installation from James Wu in which the sound of a violin interweaves with recordings of NYC subways. AAROS founder Heesuk Chae spoke with Arts in Color about the inspiration behind the collective, the upcoming showcase, and her hopes for the project’s future. Continue reading

THOUGHTS: Red Flamboyant

Criena House and Don Castro recreate an ancient fight between Vietnamese woman warrior Trung Nhi and her Chinese foes

Criena House and Don Castro recreate an ancient fight between warrior Trung Nhi and a foe. (Photo: Godwell Chan)

In the first act of Don Nguyen’s new Vietnam-set play Red Flamboyant, feisty and unrepentantly forthright know-it-all Mrs Sau (Karen Huie) compares her young landlord, fellow HIV/AIDS sufferer Mrs. Hue (Nancy Sun), to a jackdaw. A jackdaw, Mrs. Sau informs Mrs. Hue in a voice dripping with judgment, is a type of crow that lives its life silently but lets out a scream before it dies. It is a pointed accusation, coming from a woman who is proud she supported American soldiers during the Vietnam war; she may have lost, but she fought. Continue reading

THOUGHTS: Head of Passes

Head of Passes 2

Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

Head of Passes is the place at the southernmost tip of Louisiana where the mouth of the Mississippi River branches off into the Gulf of Mexico. It is remote and unpredictable, making it an apt setting for this emotional play about faith and family.

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THOUGHTS: Nirbhaya

Poorna Jagannathan,Rukhsar Kabir, Priyanka, Bose and Japjit Kaur (as Nirbhaya). Credit: Timmy Blupe

Poorna Jagannathan,Rukhsar Kabir, Priyanka Bose and Japjit Kaur as “Nirbhaya”. (Photo: Timmy Blupe)

Nirbhaya, we are told at the beginning of this play, means fearless. It was a pseudonym given by the Indian press to Jyoti Singh Pandey, a bright, ambitious, 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who, on the night of December 16th in 2012, boarded a private New Delhi bus to return home to her parents after attending a movie. She never made it back.

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THEATRE TO SEE: April

Credit: I love generator

Credit: I love generator

Hello spring! It’s been rough, but we made it through winter and now we are all ready to welcome the sunny blue skies that April will bring. While you’re taking in a little Vitamin D from Mother Nature, why not check out the diversity that theatre has to offer? Continue reading

THOUGHTS: Comida de Puta

Marcos Sotomayor as Elegua and Mariana Parma as Laluz. Credit: Photo provided by KampfireFilmsPr

Alex R. Hernandez as Elegua and Mariana Parma as Laluz. (Photo: John Quilty)

The poetic new play Comida de Puta (F%&king Lousy Food) is a magic, media, and rhythm-infused retelling of the Greek myth Phaedra set in the present-day, gentrifying Bronx. Continue reading

THOUGHTS: Buzzer

Tessa Ferrer and Grantham Coleman (Photo Tammy Shell)

Tessa Ferrer and Grantham Coleman (Photo Tammy Shell)

Playwright Tracey Scott Wilson (The Good Negro, The Story) returns to The Public with BUZZER, a three character drama.

Jackson (Grantham Coleman), an upwardly mobile black attorney, has just bought an apartment in a transitioning neighborhood in Brooklyn. He sees the potential of his old neighborhood, as does his white girlfriend Suzy (Tessa Ferrer), at first. When Jackson’s childhood friend Don (Michael Stahl-David) leaves rehab to crash with them, the trio quickly becomes trapped between the tensions inside their own home and the dangers that may lurk outside.

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TALKS: Ito Aghayere on The Liquid Plain (Off-Broadway)

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Ito Aghayere

The Liquid Plain runs until March 29th at the Signature Theatre.  Set on the docks of late 18th century Rhode Island and based on the tales of true events, the narrative centers around runaway slaves Adjua and Dembi. Winner of the 2012 Horton Foote Prize for Promising New American Play, The Liquid Plain brings to life a group of people whose stories have been erased from history. Ito Aghayere portrays one of those people, Dembi, in this play.

Ito is absolutely brilliant in the role of Dembi. Her portrayal of the cross dressing runaway slave is truly transcendent. Continue reading

THOUGHTS: The Liquid Plain

Kristolyn Lloyd, Ito Aghayere and Michael Izquierdo (Photo: Joan Marcus)

This weekend I saw The Liquid Plain, a play by Naomi Wallace, at the Signature Theatre Off-Broadway. After attending an inspiring talk with the director, Kwame Kwei-Armah, I was eager to see this piece. Complex and thought provoking, The Liquid Plain offers a narrative based on true events. Billed as a story about 2 runaway slaves, Adjua and Dembi, on the docks of late 18th century Rhode Island, the play offers polished performances and high production values. Continue reading