Tonight, I am meeting up with groundbreaking Asian-North American playwright, teacher, and taiko troupe leader, Rick Shiomi, who is making a rare NYC appearance to discuss and present readings from the new anthology “Asian American Plays for a New Generation” (Temple University Press, June 2011), which he co-edited with Josephine Lee and Don Eitel. Hosted by Julie Azuma and Tamio Spiegel, the event begins at 6:30pm at 12 West 18th Street, #3E in New York.
“Asian American Plays for a New Generation” features seven plays. Six of those were developed and produced by Mu Performing Arts, the Midwest’s foremost pan-Asian performing arts organization, founded in Minneapolis in 1992.
“Bahala Na” by Clarence Coo is about the relationship between a grandmother and her grandson who is gay. “Happy Valley,” by Aurorae Khoo, focuses on the plight of the Chinese in Hong Kong when the former British colony comes under Communist Chinese rule. “Asiamnesia,” by Sun Mee Chomet examines the issues facing Asian American women in theater and society. “Sia(b),” by May Lee Yang, is about a young Hmong woman understanding her own identity. “Walleye Kid, The Musical,” by Sundraya Kase, R.A. Shiomi and Kurt Miyashiro is based on the Japanese folktale, “The Peach Boy.” “Ching Chong Chinaman,” by Lauren Yee, is a comedy that explores the stereotype of Asians as “the model minority.” “Indian Cowboy,” by Zaraawar Mistry, focuses on pre- and post-9/11 life in America’s South Asian communities.
I shared the stage with Shiomi on Wednesday, July 27, at the Mary Pickford Theater in the James Madison Building in Washington D.C., during an event sponsored by the Library of Congress’Asian Division celebrating the release of “Asian American Plays for a New Generation”, where I got to be Queen for the day, when he handed me a monologue in the character of Queen Elizabeth II from “Happy Valley,” by Aurorae Khoo. Fun, fun fun!
We headed back to the Asian Reading Room in the Jefferson Building where a display of my photographs titled “In Rehearsal” is on view through Aug. 2.
Drawn from the Lia Chang Theater Portfolio, the 36 photographs on display feature Thom Sesma’s Makeup Transformation as Scar in Disney’s “The Lion King Las Vegas”; rehearsals of a staged concert of Robert Lee and Leon Ko’s musical “Heading East” starring BD Wong at the Asia Society in New York; of David Henry Hwang’s play, “ChingLish,” which premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago this summer and is bound for Broadway this fall; and of “Bakwas Bumbug!,” a pop opera by Samrat Chakrabarti and Sanjiv Jhaveri, which recently made its off-Broadway debut.
The photos are part of a display drawn from the Performing Arts Playwrights Series in the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection, celebrating works by Asian American playwrights, which includes original scripts by Velina Hasu Houston, Christine Toy Johnson, Lani Montreal, Edgar Mendoza, Jeanne Sakata, as well as published scripts by Frank Chin, Philip Kan Gotanda, David Henry Hwang, Genny Lim, Chay Yew and others.
The Asian Division Reading Room is located in Room 150 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The hours are 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m.
The Library of Congress is a central repository for all types of Asian publications that are not broadly available at other locations in the United States. Initiated in 1869 with a gift of 10 works in 934 volumes offered to the United States by the Emperor of China, the Library’s Asian collection of more than 2 million items is the largest and most comprehensive outside of Asia. For more information about the division and its holdings, go to www.loc.gov/rr/asian/.
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.
Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multimedia journalist.