Playwright Velina Hasu Houston will have a regional triple threat in 2000-2001. Three of her newest plays are getting world premieres, including the Sacramento production of Shedding the Tiger and a 2001-02 New Jersey mounting of Waiting for Tadashi. But the first of her plays to take a bow will be Ikebana (Living Flowers), debuting Sept. 8-22 at Pasadena Playhouse. Opening night is Sept. 17.
Houston had a hit in Los Angeles with her play, Tea. The Kennedy Center honored her for her pieces Asa Ga Kimashita (Morning Has Broken) and The Matsuyama Mirror. Other credits include Kokoro (True Heart), American Dreams, Cultural Lives and Hula Heart.
Set in 1957's Tokyo, Ikebana brings obsession to the lives of a prominent doctor, his daughter and her two suitors, destroying their lives as they come under the influence of a beautiful stranger. Around their disintegration, Japan struggles to move from the devastation of World War II to the prosperity the country is known for in the modern world. The term "Ikebana" refers to the art of creating floral arrangements in Oriental style, working with the natural beauty of branches, leaves and seasonal flowers.
Jefferson Award-winning director Shirley Jo Finney heads up the production. She has staged three Regina Taylor pieces, Ties that Bind, Escape from Paradise and Between the Lines along with the premieres of Denise Nicholas' Buses, the Bill Cosby-commissioned Mothers and the Crossroads Theatre's 20th anniversary production of Crumbs from the Table of Joy.
Ikebana stars June Angela (Ayama), Lina Patel (Hanako), Sab Shimono (Itamura), Francisco Viana (Kitayama) and Gedde Watanabe (Nakamura). Shimono has appeared many films including "Paradise Road," "Waterworld," "Presumed Innocent" and "Come See The Paradise." Watanabe made his film debut as Long Duk Dong in John Hughes' teen classic, "Sixteen Candles," continuing in film with roles in "EdTV," "Mulan" and "Guinevere." Tickets are $42.50-$15. The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue. For reservations, call (800) 233-3123. The Pasadena Playhouse is on the web at http://www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
-- By Christine Ehren