Ma-Yi Theater Brings Leight's No Foreigners Beyond This Point to NYC

News   Ma-Yi Theater Brings Leight's No Foreigners Beyond This Point to NYC Tony Award winning playwright Warren Leight — of Side Man fame — will see his No Foreigners Beyond This Point begin its Off-Broadway run Sept. 17. The Ma-Yi Theater Company is presenting the new work at The Culture Project's 45 Bleecker Theatre.
From Left: Laura Kai Chen and Karen Tsen Lee in No Foreigners Beyond This Point.
From Left: Laura Kai Chen and Karen Tsen Lee in No Foreigners Beyond This Point. Photo by Brian Barenio

Loy Arcenas (The Romance of Magno Rubio) directs the work, which will open Sept. 25 and play through Oct. 16.

Leight again mines personal experiences for his latest work, which had its debut in 2002 at Baltimore's Center Stage. No Foreigners concerns two American teachers who find themselves in a remote Chinese village where "the Beatles are as unknown as personal privacy."

The ensemble includes Laura Kai Chen, Ron Domingo, Wai Ching Ho, Francis Jue, Karen Tsen Lee, Abby Royle, Ean Sheehy and Henry Yuk.

The design team features Arcenas (scenic), Carol Bailey (costumes), Japhy Weideman (lighting) and Fabian Obispo (sound).

Leight himself taught English in Guangdong (Canton), China in 1980 and 1981 when he was 23. "I had the chance so I took it," Leight told Playbill.com. He added: "Also, I had a crush on someone I knew would be teaching over there. "Like in Side Man, I'm trying to capture a world I knew well. Of course, one of the points of the play is how hard a world it is to know. The other teachers, students and one other foreigner, are my usual composites."

His work on the play technically began 20 years ago. During his tenure as a foreign instructor, he kept diaries and wrote letters, which he then packed away until Irene Lewis, the artistic director of the Maryland not-for-profit theatre, offered him a commission to write what became No Foreigners Beyond This Point. The show was workshopped in January and scheduled for the 2002-03 season soon after.

"I knew of Center Stage because two of my close friends, Eric Bogosian and Michael Mayer, had had productions down there," said Leight, "and a third friend, Jill Rachel Morris, was their dramaturg. I liked the theatre on both trips down, and liked the city. Jill introduced me to Irene.

"Irene has begun to commission new plays. And as you know, not many places do that these days. I had two plays I was interested in writing, and she responded to this one. She said she hasn't seen that world on stage before. And she liked the themes that I said I'd be working with. She has strong interest in China, because her father spent time there during World War II."

Aside from his Tony winner Side Man (which also was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama), Leight's other plays include Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine, seen at Manhattan Theatre Club, Mayor, The Musical and The Final Investigation of Ceaucescu's Dog. He is currently head writer on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."

Tickets to No Foreigners Beyond This Point at The Culture Project, 45 Bleecker Street, are available by calling (212) 352-3101. For more information, visit www.ma-yitheatre.org.