THOUGHTS: Red Velvet at the San Francisco Playhouse

Ira Aldridge (Carl Lumbly*) and Ellen Tree (Susi Damilano*) perform as Othello and Desdemona at the Covent Garden theatre.

Ira Aldridge (Carl Lumbly) and Ellen Tree (Susi Damilano) perform as Othello and Desdemona at the Covent Garden theatre. Photo Credit: Ken Levin

It is difficult to adequately portray in words the magnitude of the moment African-American actor Ira Aldridge appeared on stage at Covent Garden in the title role of Othello in 1833 London. Aldridge took over the role over from a dying Edmund Kean (who played Othello in brownface), an actor considered at the time to be the greatest interpreter of Shakespearean tragedy on the British stage. While Aldridge had already made a name for himself in smaller theatres and regional theatre, an actor of African descent on the most noted stage of early 19th century London, playing a dramatic lead role, moreover a romantic lead role opposite a famous white actress, was groundbreaking. Continue reading

THOUGHTS: aubergine at Berkeley Rep

Ray and Lucien

(l to r) Tyrone Mitchell Henderson (Lucien) and Tim Kang (Ray) in Julia Cho’s Aubergine at Berkeley Rep.
Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

aubergine opens with a single character, Diane (Safiya Fredericks), on a bare stage. Her appearance, and her monologue, could represent the next two hours: lean, contemplative, and full of food and familial relationships.

Ray (Tim Kang) is a chef whose relationship with his immigrant father (Sab Shimono) could be described as strained at best. But now his father is dying, and Ray is his primary caregiver.

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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.

TALKS: Actress Heather Alicia Simms on Barbecue at The Public

Heather Alicia SimmsBarbecue is the highly anticipated new Robert O’Hara play now in previews downtown at The Public Theater. The show boasts a bevy of distinguished performers and is set to open October 8th. Arts in Color had the privilege of interviewing a Public regular, actress Heather Alicia Simms.  Continue reading

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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TALKS: Arpita Mukherjee, Co-Founder of Hypokrit Theatre Company

Romeo and Juliet - Hypokrit

Credit: Kabir Chopra Photography

Last fall, Arpita Mukherjee teamed up with Shubhra Prakash to found Hypokrit Theatre Company. Their goal is to provide minority artists with opportunities to showcase and market their work. This month, Hypokrit’s inaugural production Romeo and Juliet opened at the Access Theater in NYC. AIC spoke to Arpita about founding a theater company, Romeo and Juliet, and what’s next for Hypokrit.

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THOUGHTS: Ma-Yi Theater’s Chairs and a Long Table

Ron Domingo, Jeena Yi, Julienne Hanzelka Kim, Moses Villarama

Ron Domingo, Jeena Yi, Julienne Hanzelka Kim, Moses Villarama (Photo Credit: Web Begole)

How would you feel if you attended a play that included yellow face? Now imagine being an Asian actor constantly auditioning in New York City (struggling to come across casting calls that fit your type) and finding out that a major theater company went with white actors for the roles of the Emperor and Empress of China. Han Ong’s latest play Chairs and a Long Table addresses this very issue. As a part of the Ma-Yi Theater Company’s “Breaking the Myth” series, Ong’s new play is making it’s world premier in rep alongside  Carlos Celdron’s Livin’ La Vida Imelda at The Clurman Theater. Yellow face, black face, brown face, white washing characters that were written to be of color – these are all problems that are still going strong today, and the timing of this play could not be more appropriate.
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THOUGHTS: Carnaval at The National Black Theatre

Carnaval Pix 3 72p

W. Tre’ Davis, Bjorn DuPaty, and Gabriel Lawrence (Photo Credit: Christine Jean Chambers)

The National Black Theatre invites you to a private room inside Raheem Monroe’s Club Carnaval, a Brazilian themed night club. The lights, pumping music and the fog machines create an ambiance of a place where good, albeit debauched, times are had.  Projections are used on the back wall and the room panels to show video recordings and visuals of Brazilian beach and night life. The very clean, minimal set easily transforms from the Brooklyn club, to JFK, to the 3 bedroom condo in Rio, to another location that I’ll leave undisclosed to avoid spoiling the show. Continue reading

TALKS: Father Comes Home from the Wars (Part 1, 2 & 3)’s Jacob Ming-Trent

Jacob Ming-TrentJacob Ming-Trent is a household name across Broadway stages, regional theaters and even in London! State side you might have seen him compete to win a new truck in Hands on a Hardbody or perhaps you recognize him from the fairytale world of Shrek the Musical. This month Jacob can be found on stage in the new play by Pulitzer Prize & Tony Award winner Suzan-Lori Parks, Father Comes Home From the Wars (Part 1, 2 & 3) at The Public Theater. Check out the Q&A below to find out more about the show, Jacob’s experience in the play, working with Suzan-Lori Parks and more! Continue reading

THOUGHTS: I Like To Be Here: Jackson Heights Revisited, or, This Is a Mango

poster-I Like To Be Here-wThere are so many plays about life in New York, but most of them seem to be about Manhattan or Brooklyn. Well, Theatre 167 is giving us a glimpse into the world of Queens in their latest play I Like to Be Here: Jackson Heights Revisited, or, This is a Mango where we spend a night with 21 characters in Jackson Heights. New York is the ultimate melting pot (although you’d never know it if you only saw Broadway shows), and I Like to Be Here brilliantly reflects the diversity and blending of lives in this city.

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THOUGHTS: The Story of Yu-Huan

Ashley Liang as the title character in "The Story of Yu-Huan"

Ashley Liang as the title character in “The Story of Yu-Huan”

Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America was founded in 1992 and has become New York’s most significant entry point for dramatic works by Asian artists. Friday night I travelled to NYC’s East Village to see their latest production, “The Story of Yu-Huan” presented by Theatre for the New City. Written and directed by the theatre’s Artistic Director of 22 years Joanna Chan, “The Story of Yu-Huan” centers on a woman born of royal lineage during the Tang Dynasty who trained as an artist. The play tells the story of her remarkable life and the tragic death that marked the end of 130 years of unprecedented prosperity in the Middle Kingdom. Continue reading