THOUGHTS: Disgraced at Berkeley Rep

Dinner party - Disgraced

(l to r) Bernard White (Amir), Nisi Sturgis (Emily), Zakiya Young (Jory), and J. Anthony Crane (Isaac) in Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, an engrossing and combustible drama that probes the complexity of identity, at Berkeley Rep.
Photo credit: Liz Lauren

It seems Pakistani-American Amir Kapoor (Bernard White) is living the American Dream. He has an Upper East Side apartment complete with a balcony; a beautiful, blonde, artist wife Emily (Nisi Sturgis); and he is poised to make partner at his corporate law firm. But one New York Times story, and an explosive dinner party with his co-worker Jory (Zakiya Young) and her husband Isaac (J. Anthony Crane) threatens to shatter everything that he has worked for.

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THOUGHTS: Monstress at A.C.T.

Checkers Rosario (Sean San Jose), a horror film screenwriter, and his leading lady and girlfriend, Reva Gogo (Melody Butiu), plan their next film in Presenting...the Monstress!, a one-act play by Sean San Jose adapted from Monstress, Lysley Tenorio's collection of short stories. Monstress is performing at A.C.T.'s Strand Theater through November 22, 2015. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Checkers Rosario (Sean San Jose) and his leading lady and girlfriend, Reva Gogo (Melody Butiu) in Presenting…Monstress. Photo by Kevin Berne.

San Francisco’s A.C.T. (American Conservatory Theater) has inaugurated its new Strand Theater on Market Street with a pair of one-act plays based on the short stories of Bay Area author Lysley Tenorio. The first play, Remember the I-Hotel, begins in 1977 during the historically infamous evictions of long-time elderly residents from Manilatown’s I-Hotel. In a flashback to the 1930s the play reveals the backstory of two of these long-time residents, Vincente (played with believable magnetism by Philip Estrera) and Fortunado (played by the versatile Jomar Tagatac). The flashback introduces the pair as recent immigrants from the Philippines who meet for the first time in a San Francisco dance hall. Vicente and ‘Nado bond quickly and become the closest of companions at work, out on the town, and at home at the I-Hotel. They are inseparable until Vincente falls for the fresh from Wisconsin 18-year -old aspiring journalist Althea (Danielle Frimer), and embarks on an illegal interracial relationship with disastrous consequences.

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THOUGHTS: Othello The Moor of Venice

Debrah Ann Byrd as Othello Photo Credit: © Hubert Williams 2015

Debra Ann Byrd as Othello Photo Credit: © Hubert Williams 2015

Audacity [ôˈdasədē] NOUN: the willingness to take bold risks. Take Wings and Soar (TWAS) and New Heritage Theatre Group (NHTG) has audacity! These two theatre groups collaborated to produce an all women version of William Shakespeare’s Othello. The play was first performed in 1604 in England with the title, “The Moor of Venice.” This time the basement of the St. James church at 141st street and St. Nicholas Avenue (The Dorothy Maynor Theatre) is 17th century Venice and Cyprus. TWAS and NHTG’S 2015 version, most of the time, hits the mark that any successful production might hope for. In addition, #DiversityOnStage is apparent in this production, which is what we love to see here on Arts In Color!


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THOUGHTS: Barbecue at The Public Theater

Playbill for Barbecue at The Public TheaterThis weekend I made my way downtown to check out the new play at The Public Theater that everyone is buzzing about, Barbecue by Robert O’ Hara. I am happy to give this unique evening of theatre the Arts in Color seal of approval.


Choir Boy Ensemble

Pharus (Jelani Alladin), Junior (Rotimi Agbabiaka), David (Forest Van Dyke), Bobby (Dimitri Woods) and AJ (Jaysen Wright) performing. Photo credit: Kevin Berne

It seems fitting to see a play that deals homosexuality on the day the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. Like Loving v. Virginia almost a half-century ago, Obergefell v. Hodge is poised to change history.

Tarell Alvin McCraney originally debuted Choir Boy in September 2012, but with the Supreme Court decision and the recent attacks on African-American congregations in the South, it feels like it was written specifically for the audience of June 2015.

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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

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

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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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