Pan Asian Repertory Theatre founder Ernest Abuba passed away June 21. He was 74.
Mr. Abuba was born in Honolulu, HI, on August 25, 1947 and raised in Texas and San Diego. An actor, director, playwright, performance artist, and teacher, his career spanned more than 50 years, and Mr. Abuba appeared in more than 100 productions on stage, in film and on television.
He received an Obie Award for his portrayal of Kenji Kadota in Yellow Fever, and was a prolific member of the Off-Broadway community. He met his ex-wife and co-founder of Pan Asian Rep, Tisa Chang, in the 1972 Off-Broadway production of Widow’s House, which was soon followed by a bilingual adaptation of A Midsummers Night’s Dream for Ellen Stewart at LaMama. The pair married in 1976, and went on to found their dream theater company, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, which is the oldest and first company of its kind on the East Coast.
The Pan Asian Repertory Theatre is the oldest and first all Asian American theatre company on the East Coast. Founded with the vision to promote equity and access for Asian Americans artists, the company has nurtured thousands of artists, including David Henry Hwang, Daniel Dae Kim, and Lucy Liu.
The company was founded while Mr. Abuba was appearing in the Broadway premiere of Pacific Overtures, which marked his Broadway debut. On Broadway, he also appeared in Shimada, with Ben Gazzara, Estelle Parsons, Ellen Burstyn, and Mako, Loose Ends, with Kevin Kline, Zoya’s Apartment, as directed by Boris Morozov of the Maly Theatre in Moscow, and the 1997 national tour of The King and I.
For 37 years, Mr. Abuba was a member on the Board of Directors of the HT Chen & Dancer’s, a multi-racial modern dance company. Mr. Abuba was also a prolific writer. He was the playwright behind Kwatz! The Tibetan Project, Eat A Bowl of Tea, An American Story, The Dowager, Dojoji: The Man Inside the Bell, Cambodia Agonistes, Papa-Boy, Nightstalker, and Lier Rex. He also co-created Baudelaire: La Mort with Shigeko Suga. He was the author and co-director of six Educational Short Screenplays that were aired and produced by WING Productions CBS/PBS. and was the voice of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama for the audiobook "The Art of Happiness".
This past fall, Mr. Abuba appeared at the Chinatown Arts Week: Chinatown in Door Jam where he performed and read selections from his original play Poetry & Excerpt from his memoir's addressing the “flight” of the first Filipino Sojourners to America and the Universal issue of Global Cultural Persons and Immigration. His last performance was in The Oldest Boy at Lincoln Center Theatre.
He is survived by his ex-wife Tisa Chang and their son Auric Abuba. A memorial service will take place later this summer or early fall.