On September 16, the autumn events of Mark Taper Forum's Asian Theatre Workshop will commence, consisting of the Black Box Series-- one night performances by Asian-American artists, and the Lounge Series-- salon setting forums with Asian-American artists and performers.
These evenings provide windows into the creative voices of today's Asian American artists, and they are all free.
The workshops have been held twice a year since June 1995. Artistic director and award-winning playwright Chay Yew (A Language of Their Own), developed the program in order to give Asian-American artists a home, and to let new Asian voices be heard. He also intends to increase the Asian-American theatre going audience. Yew's "Asia" includes both Southern and Eastern Asia.
The Black Box performances all take place at East West Players in Silverlake, beginning on September 16, with I Remember Mapa chronicling the hilarious true life experiences of actor/comedian Alec Mapa in the mainstream entertainment industry. Yew refers to Mapa as "one of America's leading Asian- American male comics."
Not on the Menu, on Oc. 14, is by Karen Huie. In her one-woman show, Huie tells the story of growing up in the 1960s in Manhattan's Chinatown. Her tale includes the many characters she encountered, including a sixteen-year-old junkie and a Chinese psychic immigrant. On November 25, A Family of Men, by Dennis Dunn, reveals the tragicomic tale of Dunn's relative who leaped to death from a Disneyland hotel room, where three Chinese men drive to from the Northern coast of California in search of answers, family, and self. Finally, The Rice Room: Scenes From a Bar by Noel Alumit on December 9, takes audiences inside a West Hollywood nightclub, where a group of Asian people work and socialize. Characters range from an aspiring Miss Saigon chorus boy to an overbearing AIDS educator. The Lounge Series is held at the Mark Taper Forum Annex. Yew refers to these evenings , "as my salon, really, " admitting "I ask typical questions the Opera Winfrey way." The Making of East West Players "Cabaret", takes audiences on a tour of the creative process from rehearsal to opening night, featuring the director, cast, choreographer, and others (Sept. 30).
Yew is a close friend of East West's Artistic Director Tim Dang. Some of the pieces at the workshops that may not be suitable for the Taper subscribing audiences may be further developed at East West Players.
Second in the series, on November 11, is Non-Asians Writing for Asians and features playwrights Robert Barnett, Shem Bitterman, Jean Colonomos and Peter Mellencamp, all who have written powerful plays about Asian lives. These playwrights will read their work and discuss their process and the issues they encounter.
Finally, on December 2, A Conversation with Loy Arcenas, award winning Broadway and off-Broadway set designer talks about his process, his ideas and thoughts and on theatre design and his work. Yew has never worked with Arcenas, who will be in town designing the Geffen production of Love! Valor! Compassion! but has met him at several theatrical events. Yew intends to expose the elements of set design to everyone, and is inviting conservatory students of other disciplines.
All Black Box Performances begin at 8 PM. Lounge series show begin at 7 PM. Reservations are necessary. Call the Asian Theatre Workshop Hotline at (213) 972-7267.
-- By Blair Glaser