NAAP Broadway Community Chorus -An Evening of Jerry Herman with Special Guests Cindy Cheung and John D. Haggerty

The NAAP Broadway Community Chorus presented an evening of Jerry Herman with special guests Cindy Cheung and John D. Haggerty at the Gibney Dance Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center on May 23, 2017. Photo courtesy of Brian Jose/Facebook

Last night, the NAAP Broadway Community Chorus presented an evening of Jerry Herman with special guests Cindy Cheung and John D. Haggerty at the Gibney Dance Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center in New York.

The Chorus included Amy Ashley
, Ben Bartels
, Kiet Cao
, Ya Han Chang
, Amanda Chin
, Peggy Chin
,Shan Chuang,

 Eric Elizaga
, David Eng
, Angelita Esperanza
, Francine Espiritu
, Shino Frances, 
Alyssa Ishihara, 
Karin Kawamoto
, Yuko Kudo, 
Makiko Kuri
, Sandra W. Lee, 
Rina Maejima, 
Mio Nakanishi
, Seira Nakanishi
, Carla Ogden, 
Charles Pang, 
Lloyd Mario Prian
, Jeremy Rafal
, Lil Rhee
, Melissa Rivera
, Keiko Tomita
, Hiroko Uchino, 
Viet Vo, 
Sayaka Wada
, Tomo Watanabe
, Katie Wei
, Mandarin Wu
, Jing Zhang and 
Ying Zhang.

The NAAP Broadway Community Chorus presented an evening of Jerry Herman with special guests Cindy Cheung and John D. Haggerty at the Gibney Dance Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center on May 23, 2017. Photo courtesy of Brian Jose/Facebook
The NAAP Broadway Community Chorus presented an evening of Jerry Herman with special guests Cindy Cheung and John D. Haggerty at the Gibney Dance Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center on May 23, 2017. Photo courtesy of Brian Jose/Facebook

With musical director Sean Cameron at the helm, the evening featured selections from Hello Dolly!, Mame, Mack & Mabel and La Cage Aux Folles.

Set List:
Hello, Dolly!
Put On Your Sunday Clothes
Ribbons Down My Back
It Only Takes a Moment
Before the Parade Passes By
I am what I am
Song on the Sand
The Best of Times
Look what happened to Mabel
I Won’t Send Roses
Time Heals Everything
Tap Your Troubles Away
It’s Today
Moon Song
Bosom Buddies
That’s how Young I Feel

Baayork Lee. Photo by Lia Chang
Baayork Lee. Photo by Lia Chang

Special congratulations to director, actress and choreographer Baayork Lee who will receive the 2017 Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for her outstanding dedication to social service in the global theatre landscape.

The Isabelle Stevenson Award is presented annually to a member of the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations. Ms. Lee will be presented the Award for her commitment to future generations of artists through her work with the National Asian Artists Project and theatre education programs around the world.

“Baayork works tirelessly to break down cultural walls that often build up around what theatre goers consider ‘traditional’ musicals, and her dedication to fostering the next generation of performers and theatre professionals to do the same is exemplary. We are thrilled to honor her this year,” Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing, said.

Nina Zoie Lam, Baayork Lee and Steven Eng, the founders of NAAP, onstage before the performance of Oliver! at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre 
inside The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on June 7, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang
Nina Zoie Lam, Baayork Lee and Steven Eng, the founders of NAAP, onstage before the performance of Oliver! at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre 
inside The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on June 7, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Baayork Lee is the Founder of National Asian Artists Project (NAAP), which is a community of artists, educators, administrators, community leaders, and professionals who work to showcase the work of Asian-American theater artists through performance, educational programming and community outreach.

Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Raul Aranas, Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, Scott Watanabe, Cindy Cheung, Virginia Wing and John Haggerty at the curtain call of NAAP’s Oliver! at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre inside The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on June 7, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang
Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Raul Aranas, Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, Scott Watanabe, Cindy Cheung, Virginia Wing and John Haggerty at the curtain call of NAAP’s Oliver! at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre inside The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on June 7, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Through NAAP, Lee orchestrates her vision of educating, cultivating, and stimulating audiences and artists of Asian descent. The organization has produced productions of musical theatre staples like Oklahoma!, Carousel, Hello Dolly!, Oliver! and Honor with all Asian-American casts. By turning a spot light onto the high-caliber talent of theatre artists of Asian descent, NAAP asserts, given the opportunity, the theater and its audiences will embrace diverse American voices who strive to claim both new and classic American works as their own.

Karl Josef Co, Jaygee Macapugay, Raul Aranas, Christine Toy Johnson and the company of NAAP's Hello Dolly! at The Pershing Square Signature Center on April 30, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang
Karl Josef Co, Jaygee Macapugay, Raul Aranas, Christine Toy Johnson and the company of NAAP’s Hello Dolly! at The Pershing Square Signature Center on April 30, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Lee has made it a large part of her mission to educate aspiring artists in musical theatre. She created musical theater schools in Seoul, Korea; Tokyo, Japan; and the Theater Club at the Yung Wing Elementary School (PS124) in Chinatown, NY.

Click below to read more about Baayork.

Baayork Lee to be Honored with 2017 Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award

Website: http://www.naaproject.org

Baayork Lee to be Honored with 2017 Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award

Robert Fairchild, Mara Davi, Jason Tam, J. Elaine Marcos, Sabrina Bryan & More Set for Baayork Lee Helmed A CHORUS LINE at The Hollywood Bowl

Baayork Lee to Helm ‘ALICE IN WONDERLAND’ Musical at Madison Theatre at Molloy College

Photos: Tommy Tune, Bob Avian, Lee Roy Reams, Christine Toy Johnson, Orville Mendoza, Lori Tan Chinn, Raul Aranas, Virginia Wing and More Celebrate 2014 Paul Robeson Citation Award Recipient Baayork Lee

National Asian Artists Project To Present All-Asian Production of OLIVER! Featuring Raul Aranas, Anthea Neri, Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, Cindy Cheung, Scott Watanabe, Virginia Wing, David Shih and More 

Photos: Christine Toy Johnson, Baayork Lee, Jose Llana, Ann Harada, Dodie Pettit and More at Charles Randolph-Wright’s “Three Voices” concert series at Stage 72

Christine Toy Johnson and Raul Aranas Lead the Cast of the National Asian Artists Project’s (NAAP) Benefit Presentation of Hello Dolly!, at The Pershing Square Signature Center

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Jane Bruce, Daniel K. Isaac, Eric William Morris, Teal Wicks and More Set for THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO at Two River Theater, June 3-25

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, concludes its 2016/17 Season with The Ballad of Little Jo, a musical by Mike Reid (composer, co-bookwriter), Sarah Schlesinger (lyricist, co-bookwriter), and John Dias (co-bookwriter). Dias, the theater’s Artistic Director, is also making his Two River directorial debut with this production. The choreography is by Marc Kimelman, with music direction and dance and incidental arrangements by John O’Neill. The Ballad of Little Jo is based on the film of the same name by Maggie Greenwald.

Performances will begin in Two River’s Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, on Saturday, June 3 and continue through Sunday, June 25. The opening night performance is Friday, June 9 at 8pm. Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or tworivertheater.org. The production is supported by The Roy Cockrum Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The lead production sponsor is Monmouth University.

The score, which evokes the folk ballads of pioneer America, is by Grammy Award-winning Nashville songwriter Mike Reid (whose many hits include “I Can’t Make You Love Me”) and lyricist Sarah Schlesinger. Together, Reid and Schlesinger have received the Kleban Prize, Richard Rodgers Award, Gilman & Gonzalez Falla Theatre Foundation Award, and Chicago’s Jeff Award for Best Original Musical.

Set in the late 19th century, The Ballad of Little Jo is inspired by the remarkable real-life story of a woman named Josephine Monaghan. Originally from Boston, Josephine lived in a tough Idaho mining town for nearly 20 years, disguised as a man called “Jo.”

The Ballad of Little Jo will feature Jane Bruce (Elf, Missed Connections: A Craigslist Musical) as Sara Stewart Ellis, Daniel K. Isaac (“According to My Mother,” “Billions”) as Tin Man Wong, Eric William Morris (Be More Chill, Mamma Mia!) as Jordan Ellis, and Teal Wicks (Wicked, Finding Neverland) as Josephine Monaghan/Jo Monaghan.

Daniel K. Isaac Talks “Billions” and “According to My Mother” Screenings at Outfest and CAAMfest 

The company also includes Cole Burden, Brian Flores, Leenya Rideout, Christopher Russo, Perry Sherman, Kristin Stokes, Ian Michael Stuart, and Barbara Tirrell.

The band will consist of John O’Neill (conductor/piano) and Pauline Bradshaw (violin), Troy Chang (cello), Philip Coiro (drums/percussion), Simon Hutchings (reeds), Justin Rothberg (guitar), and Joseph Wallace (bass).

The creative team for The Ballad of Little Jo includes music supervisor Patrick Vaccariello, orchestrator Danny Larsen, scenic designer Michael Carnahan, costume designer Jess Goldstein, lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, sound designer Drew Levy, wig designer Leah J. Loukas, and fight director Thomas Schall. The casting is by Jack Doulin + Sharky. The production stage manager is Amanda Michaels and the assistant stage manager is Denise Cardarelli.

The Ballad of Little Jo had its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 2000, in a production that prompted John Lahr to call it “the best piece of musical storytelling I have seen in a decade” in The New Yorker. But Lahr also called it “unfinished.” It was presented at the Bridewell Theatre in London in 2003 and had a reading at The Public Theater in 2008. Subsequent to becoming Two River’s Artistic Director in 2010, John Dias joined the creative team as co-bookwriter and director, and has been helping to further develop the piece through workshops and readings.

“The Ballad of Little Jo is a beautiful musical that I watched take shape even before its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago,” says Dias. “It represents something that, to my mind, is vastly underserved in the American theater: there are many great new works that have had a first production, but are worthy of further attention and additional cultivation. Two River Theater and Red Bank audiences have embraced Mike and Sarah since we premiered their chamber musical In This House in 2012, and we have been developing Little Jo since then.”

Ticket prices range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets is available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from tworivertheater.org or 732.345.1400.

Inside Two River:
Film Screening: The Ballad of Little Jo (1993) – From Screen to Stage
Friday, May 5 at 7pm in the Rechnitz Theater
Two River will screen Maggie Greenwald’s 1993 film The Ballad of Little Jo, free and open to the public. Members of the musical’s creative team will introduce the film and discuss how they translated the story from screen to stage. To reserve a spot, interested patrons should call 732.345.1400 or visit www.tworivertheater.org.

Open Rehearsal
Tuesday, May 9 at 7pm in the Rechnitz Theater
Audiences are invited to join Two River Theater to watch an open rehearsal in the Rechnitz Theater with director John Dias and members of the cast as they work on select scenes and songs from the production. The rehearsal will include a short Q&A session, and will be followed by dessert and coffee in the lobby. To reserve a spot, interested patrons should call 732.345.1400 or visit www.tworivertheater.org.

TEDxNavesink Conference: “Identity”
Saturday, May 20 from 9am-5pm at the Paramount Theatre on the Boardwalk at Asbury Park
John Dias will introduce the song “Unbuttoning the Buttons” from The Ballad of Little Jo at this year’s annual TEDxNavesink Conference, which is exploring the theme of Identity. TEDxNavesink is offering a 20% per ticket discount to the all-day conference for Two River Theater patrons, members, colleagues, and their families. For information or to purchase tickets, patrons should visit http://tedxnavesink.com/ and use the code TRTheaterTEDx17.

Book Club: True Grit by Charles Portis
Monday, June 19 at 6:30pm in the Victoria Mastrobuono Library
Literary Manager Anika Chapin will lead a discussion of True Grit by Charles Portis, the story of a young girl in the American West. In conjunction with The Ballad of Little Jo, the Two River Book Club will discuss the Western as a genre, the changing portrayal of men and women, and the dangerous allure of the frontier in art and life. This event is free and open to the public. To reserve a spot, interested patrons should call 732.345.1400 or visit www.tworivertheater.org.

Audience Extras:
Before Play and Lobby Display
Audiences will learn about The Ballad of Little Jo in Two River’s Before Play lecture series, which takes place 45 minutes prior to every performance, and Lobby Display.

Post-Play Conversations
Discussions with members of the cast and a member of Two River Theater’s Artistic staff will take place following the performances on Wednesday, June 14 at 7pm; Sunday, June 18 at 3pm; and Wednesday, June 21 at 1pm.

Accessibility:
Working with Google, Two River has created and launched a virtual tour of its facility, which lives on Google Maps and tworivertheater.org. This virtual tour provides an additional level of support and benefit for patrons who use wheelchairs or require other assistance by allowing them to virtually come through the theater’s front doors and view the space in detail in advance of their visit.

An audio-described performance is scheduled for Wednesday, June 21 at 1pm, and an open-captioned performance is scheduled for Saturday, June 24 at 3pm. Tickets are available at a discounted rate of $25 for patrons using these services. To reserve wheelchair-accessible seating or tickets to a performance listed above, patrons should call 732.345.1400 or e-mail boxoffice@trtc.org.

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, produces American and world masterpieces, and new plays and musicals. Two River Theater offers new-play commissions and artistic development activities that support the most adventurous artists in the American theater, and cultivates a new generation of theatergoers through innovative arts education programs that introduce young people to the theater and create opportunities for them to engage with renowned theater artists. Two River Theater was founded by Joan and Robert Rechnitz in 1994. Visit tworivertheater.org for more.

CLASSIX Reading Series Featuring Plays by Alice Childress, Kathleen Collins, Bill Gunn, and Ron Milner at Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, May 22-23

CLASSIX, a reading series of plays curated by director Awoye Timpo, features plays by Alice Childress, Kathleen Collins, Bill Gunn, and Ron Milner, just four out of a long line of writers whose extraordinary plays were produced in the 20th century, on Monday, May 22 and Tuesday, May 23 at 4:30pm + 6:30pm at The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, located at The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 5th Avenue (between 34th and 35th Streets), NYC. All tickets are FREE. First come, first served. Please arrive early.

MONDAY, MAY 22
4:30pm
Wine in the Wilderness by Alice Childress (1969)
Directed by Jade King Carroll
Featuring Miriam Hyman, Ruffin Prentiss, Jillian Walker, Charles Weldon, Zenzi Williams

In the midst of a Harlem riot is Wine in the Wilderness, a relentlessly truthful play about a black woman factory worker named Tommy and her new artist friend, Bill. When Bill invites Tommy into his home to become the newest subject of his triptych on black womanhood, race, sex, and class tensions arise. Childress paints a courageous portrait of black life, love, and longing through the voice of a woman misunderstood not only by white society, but by her own people.

6:30pm
What the Wine-Sellers Buy by Ron Milner (1974)
Directed by Nicole A. Watson
Featuring MaameYaa Boafo, Chakeefe Gordon, Brian D. Coats, Medina Senghore Collie, Suzzanne Douglas, Trey Santiago, Adam McNulty, Melanie Nichols-King, Keith Randolph Smith, Count Stovall

Written in 1974, What the Wine-Sellers Buy was originally produced by Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival at Lincoln Center. Poverty, crime, and corruption run rampant in Detroit’s inner city during the 1950s and 1960s. The play centers around Steve Carlton, a carefree high school student, who wrestles between his dream to become a professional basketball player and the other possibilities in his life. In Ron Milner’s moral and musical play, Steve must figure out if he will follow his sly neighbor, Rico, down a path of drug-dealing, exploitation, and pimping, or forge his own way through the world.

Followed by a brief discussion with Woodie King, Jr., Artistic Director of the New Federal Theater.

TUESDAY, MAY 23
4:30pm
The Forbidden City by Bill Gunn
Directed by Awoye Timpo
Featuring Guy Davis, Marchant Davis, Bjorn DuPaty, Rachel Leslie, Doron Mitchell, Lee Aaron Rosen, Allie Woods

Bill Gunn’s final play, The Forbidden City, premiered at New York’s Public Theater in 1989. The bonds of a middle class Black family in Philadelphia circa 1936 are tested by the specter of a tragedy that occurred years ago in the Jim Crow south. Poetic, yet haunting “The Forbidden City” is a timely depiction a family struggling to emerge from the psychological trauma and violence inflicted on African Americans in the early 20th century that continues to the present.

6:30pm
The Brothers by Kathleen Collins (1982)
Directed by Seret Scott
Featuring Crystal Dickinson, Chalia La Tour, Margaret Odette, Carra Patterson, Tiffany Rachelle Stewart, Lizan Mitchell, Elizabeth Van Dyke

In this memory-drama Collins weaves together a series of scenes and monologues about black men who “should have been born white’’ because they “spent their entire lives trying to jump out of their skins.’’ The Brothers (1982) was originally produced by the Women’s Project at the American Place Theater.

Followed by a brief discussion with Seret Scott, original cast member, moderated by Crystal A. Dickinson.

Taylor Barfield, Zoey Martinson, A.J. Muhammad and Jillian Walker serve as dramaturgs for the series.

Playwright, novelist, actor, and screenwriter Alice Childress was a visionary artist. Born was in Charleston, South Carolina in 1916 she later moved to Harlem where she began writing and immersing herself in the vibrant arts scene. Ms. Childress wrote over a dozen plays over the course of her career including Florence, Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White, Trouble in MindMojo: A Black Love Story, and Wine in the Wilderness. She also wrote the novels Like One of the Family and A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich which was later turned into a film. A Tony Award nominee for her performance in Anna Lucasta, Ms. Childress was also a tireless advocate for actor union rights.

Photo by Mark Reid
Photo by Mark Reid

Born in 1942, raised in Jersey City, and educated at Skidmore and the Sorbonne, Kathy Collins was an activist with SNCC during the Civil Rights Movement who went on to carve out a career for herself as a playwright and filmmaker during a time when black women were rarely seen in those roles. She was married twice, and had two children who she raised in Piermont, New York. She died young, at age 46, from breast cancer. Her most known work is the film Losing Ground, followed perhaps by two plays, In the Midnight Hour, and The Brothers. A never-before released collection of short fiction, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, was published by Ecco Press in Fall 2016. kathleencollins.org

Bill Gunn was an extraordinary artistic force with an exceptional body of work across various mediums. He began his career as an actor and appeared on Broadway in The Immoralist and off-Broadway in the classic play Take A Giant Step by Louis Peterson. Several of his plays were produced at the New York Shakespeare Festival under the leadership of Joseph Papp and include masterpieces such as Black Picture Show, Johnnas, and The Forbidden City. In addition to his extensive work in the theater, Mr. Gunn wrote and directed films including his best-known work Ganja and Hess as well as the film Stop. He is also the author of two novels, All the Rest Have Died and Rhinestone Sharecropping. Bold, inventive, and surprising the work of Bill Gunn is impressively resonant and dynamic as ever.

Ron Milner was a legendary playwright with an extraordinary body of work including the plays Who’s Got His Own, Season’s ReasonsThe Warning—A Theme for LindaJazz Set, and Roads to the Mountaintop which was a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Born and raised in Detroit, his work is infused with a rhythmic and regional authenticity and an uncompromising depth of character. His play Checkmates appeared on Broadway in a production directed by Woodie King Jr. and featuring extraordinary an exceptional cast including Denzel Washington, Ruby Dee, Paul Winfield and Marsha Jackson. Mr. Milner is also the author of the book for the musical Don’t Get God Started, written in collaboration with the Winans family.

Awoye Timpo is a New York-based director. Credits include Sister Son/ji (Billie Holiday Theater), Carnaval (National Black Theatre), Ndebele Funeral (59E59; South African tour; Edinburgh Festival), The Libation Bearers (Shakespeare Theatre NJ), Chasing the Bird (Joyce Theater), Children of the Road (NYU Grad Acting), In the Continuum(Juilliard), Tears of Anatolia (Columbia), Araby (La Mama), Clybourne Park (Farmers Alley), Ruined (WMU), The Vanished (Novisi, site-specific), Rhinoceros (Novisi). Broadway: Assistant Director, Shuffle Along; Associate Director, Jitney. Segal Center: PEN World Voices, Feast (Fall 2016), Other: Page 73, TerraNOVA, Ma-Yi, Royal Shakespeare Company, WNYC, ABC/Disney, Soho Rep Writer/ Director Lab, Cherry Lane Mentor Project, Lincoln Center Directors Lab.

Arian Moayed, Sherie Rene Scott, Micah Stock, Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte and More in Waterwell’s Dual-Language HAMLET, Opens May 21

Abraham Makany and Arian Moayed. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson

Waterwell is presenting a new dual language (English/Farsi) version of Hamlet at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture (18 Bleecker Street). Starring Tony Award nominees Arian Moayed as Hamlet, Sherie Rene Scott as Gertrude, and Micah Stock as Horatio, with direction by Drama Desk nominee Tom Ridgely, Hamlet is currently in previews for a May 21st opening. It will play through June 3.

Arash Mokhtar, Micah Stock, and Abraham Makany. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Arash Mokhtar, Micah Stock, and Abraham Makany. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson

The complete cast includes Barzin Akhavan, Amir Arison (“The Blacklist”), Maryam Ataei, Brendan Averett, Cary Donaldson, Andrew Guilarte, Abraham Makany, Arash Mokhtar, Ajay Naidu, Sathya Sridharan and Sheila Vand (“24: Legacy”). Original music will be composed and performed live by singer-songwriter Mohsen Namjoo, “the Bob Dylan of Iran” (New York Times).

Abraham Makany and Arian Moayed. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Abraham Makany and Arian Moayed. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson

Set in Persia a hundred years ago, on the eve of World War I, Waterwell’s Hamlet weaves passages of Farsi translation into the English of Shakespeare’s masterpiece of crisis and identity. In it, a traditional way of life is being threatened by an evolving world, the land is being threatened by encroaching foreign interests, and a young man finds himself uprooted and torn between opposing customs, values and codes. Featuring a vibrant score that seamlessly blends traditional Persian and modern western elements, this is a bold re-imagining of most renowned play in any language.

Amir Arison and Sheila Vand. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Amir Arison and Sheila Vand. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson

Tickets are $30-$75 with a limited number of $20 same-day rush. Please visit sheencenter.org/shows/hamlet for more information and to purchase.

Written by William Shakespeare, the creative team for Hamlet includes Direction by Tom Ridgely, Original Music by Mohsen Namjoo, Scenic Design by Jason Simms, Costume Design by Nina Vartanian, Lighting Design by Reza Behjat, and Sound Design by Sinan Zafar.

Arian Moayed and Barzin Akhavan. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Arian Moayed and Barzin Akhavan. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
ARIAN MOAYED (Hamlet) Broadway: The Humans (Drama Desk), Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (Tony, Drama League nom, Theatre World Award), Off-Broadway: Guards at the Taj (Obie, Atlantic), Masked (Drama Desk nom), King Lear (Public), and Homebody/Kabul (Steppenwolf, BAM) Film/TV: “Madam Secretary,” Rock the KasbahRosewater and Appropriate Behavior. Co-founder and Artistic Director of Waterwell, devised 13 productions, administers the Waterwell Drama Program at Professional Performing Arts School; and with Waterwell Films, has written/directed films including the upcoming thriller series “The Accidental Wolf” starring Kelli O’Hara.

Arian Moayed and Barzin Akhavan. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Arian Moayed and Barzin Akhavan. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson

SHERIE RENE SCOTT (Gertrude). Actor: The Front Page; co-author/actor 2015’s critically acclaimed Off-Broadway play Whorl Inside a Loop ; co-author/actor Everyday Rapture (Tony Award Actress and Book nominations, Drama Desk and Lortel Award Musical, Actress and Book nominations) Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Drama Desk nomination); John Guare’s Landscape of the Body (Obie Award, Lortel Award); Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Jack O’Brien dir; Tony Award, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle nominations); Disney’sThe Little Mermaid (OCC nomination); Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida (Derwent Award); The Last Five Years (Drama Desk nomination); Randy Newman’s Faust; Kander & Ebb’s Over and Over (Helen Hayes nomination), can be heard on numerous recordings, co-founder of the multiple Grammy-winning Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight records from 2000-2014, authored Piece of Meat performed with Todd Almond; producer 2015 film The Last Five Years; Advisory Board Neighborhood Playhouse.

Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte and Sherie Rene Scott. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte and Sherie Rene Scott. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson

MICAH STOCK (Horatio) just wrapped Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s The Front Page, opposite Nathan Lane, John Goodman and John Slattery for director Jack O’Brien. Micah was nominated for a Tony for his Broadway debut in the Jack O’Brien-directed hit revival of Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play starring opposite Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, F. Murray Abraham, Stockard Channing, Rupert Grint, and Megan Mullally. Previously, he starred Off-Broadway in the world premiere of McNally’s And Away We Go at The Pearl Theatre Company directed by Jack Cummings III. Regional work includes stints at Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival (dir. Kip Fagan), Long Wharf Theatre (dir. Eric Ting), and Williamstown Theatre Festival. He has developed new work by the likes of Annie Baker, Erin Courtney, Greg Kotis, Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson, Diana Stahl, Justin Kuritzkes and Max Posner at places like The Public, NYTW, The Atlantic, Rattlestick, Clubbed Thumb, The LARK, Ars Nova, Rising Phoenix Rep and the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in Utah. TV credits include “Pan Am,” “Law & Order: SVU” and a recurring role on NBC’s “Deception.” He had a supporting role in the SXSW and PiFan-selected award-winning indie King Kelly directed by Andrew Neel. Micah received his BFA in Acting from the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film.

Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson

TOM RIDGELY (Director) is a Drama Desk-nominated director and co-founder of Waterwell. For Waterwell he’s directed/co-directed Blueprint Specials, GOODBAR and #9, among others. In New York, he’s directed at Ars Nova, FringeNYC, the Public and more. Nationally he’s developed/presented work at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Old Globe and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, as well as Yale, Johns Hopkins and Indiana Universities. His productions have won DFW Theater Critics Forum and ECNY Awards and been nominated for CT Critics Circle, IT and New York Magazine Culture Awards. He won a finalist award for the 2016 TCG Leadership U: One-on-One and was the 2014 Killian Directing Fellow. He has assisted/associate directed with Joe Mantello, Tony Taccone, Daniel Sullivan and Barry Edelstein. With Waterwell, he also oversees the Drama Program at the Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS), providing world-class training to exceptional 6-12th graders absolutely free of charge.

Sherie Rene Scott and Ajay Naidu. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Sherie Rene Scott and Ajay Naidu. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson

WATERWELL (Arian Moayed & Tom Ridgely, Artistic Directors) is a unique ensemble of theater artists dedicated to the creation of new work and the bold re-interpretation of classics. The company’s special blend of music, theater and social dialog has been nominated for three IT awards, a Drama Desk, a New York Magazine Culture Award and a Village Voice Best of NYC.

Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Arian Moayed. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Arian Moayed. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Micah Stock and Arian Moayed. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson
Micah Stock and Arian Moayed. Photo Credit: Eric Michael Pearson

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL Opens at IFC Center

The latest documentary from celebrated filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, Life Itself), ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL played to critical acclaim at the Toronto and New York film festivals and, following screenings at dozens of additional festivals, including Opening Night of the Full Frame Documentary Festival, it will open in New York on Friday, May 19 at the IFC Center, 323 Avenue of the Americas.

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces Thomas Sung and his formidable daughters to defend themselves—and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community—over the course of a five-year legal battle. Tracking the many twists and turns of the case, Oscar-nominated James creates a moving portrait of a family, a community, and a way of life.

IN PERSON EVENTS

  • Fri May 19: Q&A with dir. Steve James and the Sung family following the 6:20pm show, moderated by Heidi Ewing, plus intro at the 8:25pm show!

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  • Sat May 20: Q&As with dir. Steve James and the Sung family following the 6:20pm show, moderated by Morgan Spurlock! Q&A with James and Sung family following the 8:25pm show, moderated by Ursula Liang!

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  • Sun May 21: Q&A with the Sung family following the 4:15pm show, moderated by Ti-Hua Chang!

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SHOWTIMES

  • Fri, May 19 at:

    •  10:40 AM
    •  12:25 PM
    •  2:15 PM
    •  4:15 PM
    •  6:20 PM
    •  8:25 PM
    •  10:30 PM

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  • Sat, May 20 at:

    •  10:40 AM
    •  12:25 PM
    •  2:15 PM
    •  4:15 PM
    •  6:20 PM
    •  8:25 PM
    •  10:30 PM

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  • Sun, May 21 at:

    •  10:40 AM
    •  12:25 PM
    •  2:15 PM
    •  4:15 PM
    •  6:20 PM
    •  8:25 PM
    •  10:30 PM

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  • Mon, May 22 at:

    •  10:40 AM
    •  12:25 PM
    •  2:15 PM
    •  4:15 PM
    •  6:20 PM
    •  8:25 PM
    •  10:30 PM

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  • Tue, May 23 at:

    •  10:40 AM
    •  12:25 PM
    •  2:15 PM
    •  4:15 PM
    •  6:20 PM
    •  8:25 PM
    •  10:30 PM

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  • Wed, May 24 at:

    •  10:40 AM
    •  12:25 PM
    •  2:15 PM
    •  4:15 PM
    •  6:20 PM
    •  8:25 PM
    •  10:30 PM

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  • Thu, May 25 at:

    •  10:40 AM
    •  12:25 PM
    •  2:15 PM
    •  4:15 PM
    •  6:20 PM
    •  8:25 PM
    •  10:30 PM

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Troy Iwata and Jonathan Raviv Lead New York Premiere of THE BOY WHO DANCED ON AIR at Abingdon through June 11

Jonathan Raviv and Troy Iwata. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

Abingdon Theatre Company is presenting the New York premiere of THE BOY WHO DANCED ON AIR, with music by Tim Rosser and book and lyrics by Charlie Sohne, winners of 2015 Jonathan Larson and Mary Rodgers/Lorenz Hartawards. Directed by Abingdon Theatre Company Artistic Director Tony Speciale, THE BOY WHO DANCED ON AIR plays four weeks only, now through June 11, at the June Havoc Theatre (312 West 36th Street). Opening night is Thursday, May 25 at 7PM. Click here for tickets.

Jonathan Raviv and Troy Iwata. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova
Jonathan Raviv and Troy Iwata. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

THE BOY WHO DANCED ON AIR is a modern-day love story set in rural Afghanistan. Paiman and Feda have spent their young lives as dancers in the world of bacha bazi, where wealthy men take in boys from poor families, train them to dance at parties, and often abuse them. The two boys’ chance meeting changes the course of their lives and sets them on a journey to find their independence in this musical fable about love, tradition, morality, and the strength of the human spirit.

Nikhil Saboo and Troy Iwata. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova
Nikhil Saboo and Troy Iwata. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

Troy Iwata (The Lightning Thief, TheatreWorksUSA) and Jonathan Raviv (The Band’s Visit, My Name Is Asher Lev) reprise their roles from the musical’s world premiere in San Diego. Completing the cast are Osh Ghanimah, Deven Kolluri, and Nikhil Saboo (The Transposed Heads, Public Theater).

Osh Ghanimah and Nikhil Saboo. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova
Osh Ghanimah and Nikhil Saboo. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

THE BOY WHO DANCED ON AIR features music direction by David Gardos and choreography by Nejla Yatkin. The production has scenic design by Christopher Swader and Justin Swader; costume design by Andrea Lauer; lighting design by Wen-Ling Liao; sound design by Justin Graziani, props by Jerry Marsini; casting by Karie Koppel; and fight direction by Dan Renkin. Associate Director is Zi Alikhan and production consultant is Mejgan Afshan. Christopher Flores is Production Stage Manager. Michelle Viteri is Assistant Stage Manager.

A scene from The Boy Who Danced On Air at Abingdon. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova
A scene from The Boy Who Danced On Air at Abingdon. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

THE BOY WHO DANCED ON AIR was presented at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) festival in 2013 and received a Writers Residency Grant at New York Theatre Barn. In 2016, the musical had its world premiere at Diversionary Theatre in San Diego where it received the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Score. Pam Kragen, in the San Diego Union Times, called THE BOY WHO DANCED ON AIR “a solid, subtle, sad and often inspiring work that’s smartly staged by director Tony Speciale with a first-rate cast.”

Troy Iwata and Deven Kolluri. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova
Troy Iwata and Deven Kolluri. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Osh Ghanimah (Zemar) Select stage: Vagabond Trilogy Wkshp (The Public, NY), Refugia (The Guthrie), Sama, directed by Daniel Goldstein (Davenport Theater), Scheherazade: A New Musical (Prospect Theatre Co.), Made In The USA (Garis & Hahn), Mud (Dramanauts), Hansel & Gretel (ART),  (Moscow Art Theatre). TV: “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “The Blacklist,” “Happyish,” “Deadbeat,” “Sneaky Pete,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” and “Law & Order: SVU”. Film: All We Had, starring and directed by Katie Holmes. Training: BA in Theatre and English Lit., BS in Secondary Ed, Loyola University Chicago; MFA in Acting, Harvard/ART. Osh is the recipient of a Harvard University Presidential Fellowship and served as a Guest Lecturer of Acting at the university’s Office of the Arts. He is a 2015 TEDxBroadway speaker and the Founder/CEO of Broadway For All. Gratitude for his rocks, Cyd and Harold at Cyd LeVin & Associates–and Harden-Curtis. All the love in the world to his mentor, Fred Zollo. oshghanimah.com / IG: @therealnycog

Troy Iwata. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova
Troy Iwata. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

Troy Iwata (Paiman). Off-Broadway debut! National tour: The Lightning Thief. Regional: The Boy Who Danced On Air, The Taming of the Shrew, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Ordinary Days. TV: “Quantico” (ABC), “Time After Time” (ABC), “Orange Is The New Black” (Netflix), “Truth Slash Fiction” pilot. Cast recordings: Island Song (Carner & Gregor). Love to Mom, Melissa & Trevor. Thanks to Innovative Artists & Chelsea. “Special” thanks to Tim & Charlie for creating this beautifully important and powerful show. http://www.troyiwata.com @mrtroyiwata

Troy Iwata. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova
Troy Iwata. Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

Deven Kolluri (Unknown Man) is thrilled to join ATC with this unique and challenging piece. Recent companies include: John Engeman Theatre, NY Theatre Barn, American Classical Orchestra and Bronx Opera. Proud Oklahoma City University Alum. So much gratitude to the team and many thanks to the family and Sonny for you endless support.

Jonathan Raviv (Jahandar) is pleased to reprise his role as Jahandar after the world premiere in San Diego’s Diversionary Theatre. New York work includes: The Lightning Thief – The Percy Jackson Musical at the Lucille Lortel, The Band’s Visit at The Atlantic Theater (World Premiere), Martyrs Street at Theater For The New City (World Premiere), The Ragged Claws at Cherry Lane (World Premiere), Lies My Father Told Me with NYTF (New York Premiere) and My Name Is Asher Lev at the Westside Theatre (Outer Critics Circle award for Best Play). Other regional credits include: Love’s Labour’s Lost at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Fiddler On The Roof with the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Oklahoma! at Portland Center Stage, Homebody/Kabul with Curious Theatre Company, Arabian Nights at Berkeley Rep., The Chosen at Chicago’s Writers’ Theatre, Lady Madeline at Steppenwolf Theatre (World Premiere) and The Light In The Piazza at both Arena Stage & Goodman Theatre. Television credits include: “The Blacklist,” “Zero Hour” and “Pan Am”. @JonathanRaviv

Nikhil Saboo (Feda). Credits include: A Christmas Story: The Musical (Male Ensemble – National Tour), The Secret Garden (Fakir – Arden Theatre Co.) Bollywood & Vine (Bhuvan Bannerji), Resident Alien (Keith – APAC), Junie B. Jones (Sheldon), Beatsville (Claude – written by Glenn Slater and Wendy Leigh Wilf), The Little Mermaid (Flotsam), Sweet Smell of Success (Club Zanzibar Singer), Les Miserables (Courferac). NYU Steinhardt. CTG. Many thanks to family and friends! @niksaboo

Tim Rosser (Music) and Charlie Sohne (Book & Lyrics) are winners of the 2015 Jonathan Larson Award, ASCAP’s 2015 Mary Rodgers/Lorenz HartAward and the 2016 San Diego Critics Circle Award for Best Original Score. Their pilot, “Truth Slash Fiction,” won best comedy at SeriesFest and ITVFest. Their new song cycle will make its premiere with the Oakland Symphony Orchestra in February of 2018. Tim and Charlie were also 2014-15 Dramatists Guild Fellows, members of The Civilians’ Research & Development Group, and writers in the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat and ASCAP’s Johnny MercerSongwriters Project. Their songs have been heard at their sold-out 54 Below show, Symphony Space, Birdland, Contemporary Classics at Seattle Rep, Cutting Edge Composers at Joe’s Pub, ALNM at Rockwell in Los Angeles, Above The Arts in London, a sold-out show at Broadway au Carre in Paris, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. They are currently working on a commission for New York City Children’s Theatre.

Tony Speciale (Director) joined Abingdon Theatre Company as its Artistic Director in October 2015. For Abingdon, he recently directed The Mother of Invention, written by James Lecesne, Jason O’Connell’s The Dork Knight, and Stet, which he conceived with playwright Kim Davies and actress Jocelyn Kuritsky. He is also the founder of Plastic Theatre-conceiving, co-authoring and directing the world premiere of Unnatural Acts (Classic Stage Company-Drama Desk Award nominee, GLAAD Media Award nominee). NYC directing credits: The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey (Dixon Place/Westside Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring Bebe Neuwirth, Christina Ricci and Taylor Mac (Classic Stage Company) and Matthew-Lee Erlbach’s Handbook for an American Revolutionary (The Gym at Judson). Regional: The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey (Kirk Douglas Theatre/Bay Street Theater, Hartford Stage), Barry Manilow’s Harmony (ALLIANCE THEATRE/Ahmanson Theatre) and Romeo and Juliet (Actors Theatre of Louisville). Tony served four seasons as Associate Artistic Director of Classic Stage Company, where he helped found and administered The Young Company, CSC’s premiere Education and Outreach Program for public high school students. He studied musical theatre at The Boston Conservatory and holds an M.F.A. in Directing from Columbia University. He is also the proud recipient of a Princess Grace Theatre Honorarium and a Suzi Bass Award.

ABINGDON THEATRE COMPANY is dedicated to developing and producing new work by emerging and established American artists. Under the artistic direction of Tony Speciale, who joined Abingdon in October 2016, the company provides a safe home where playwrights, directors and actors can collaborate within a supportive and nurturing environment. Abingdon Theatre Company searches for stories about the human experience that reflect our social, political, historical and cultural diversity. To date, the company has collaborated with more than 200 playwrights, produced 89 New York and world-premiere plays, presented more than 700 readings, staged over 175 ten-minute plays, and commissioned 6 one-act plays. Notable artists who have worked with Abingdon Theatre Company include Carl Andress, Bryan Batt, Reed Birney, Anne Bogart, Robert Brustein, Mario Cantone, Maxwell Caulfield, Dick Cavett, John Epperson, Jane Greenwood, Arthur Kopit, James Lecesne, Ralph Macchio, Roberta Maxwell, Charles L. Mee, Iddo Netanyahu, Jason O’Connell, Nancy Opel, Austin Pendleton, Sam Pinkleton, Marcia Rodd and Michael Weller. Abingdon’s 2014 production of Brian Richard Mori’s Hellman v. McCarthy, directed by founding artistic director Jan Buttram, was filmed and presented by WNET as part of its inaugural Theatre Close-Up series. www.AbingdonTheatre.org

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Primitive Grace Presents QUOTIDIAN at The Alchemical Theatre Laboratory, May 19-21

Primitive Grace Theatre Ensemble, under the leadership of co-artistic directors Paul Calderon (Bosh, Fear the Walking Dead, Pulp Fiction) and David Zayas (Bloodline, Dexter, Oz), presents Quotidian, May 19th – May 21st at The Alchemical Theatre Laboratory at 104 W.14th St, 3rd FL Studio A Theater. For tickets ($18) click here.

Creator and director Bruce Baek developed Quotidian after being moved and inspired by David Deblinger’s show Lucky Penny to illustrate the psychological warfare between the passing of time and identity. Through 12 original stories crafted by the ensemble about some of the most defining and pivotal moments of their lives, Quotidian invites the audience to examine their own lives with simple questions – “How are you defining your own identity? How much is your present is influenced by the past? How are you cultivating your soul to step into a better tomorrow?” These stories have shaped our everyday lives – they are Quotidian. 

The cast features Sandra Biano, Nixon Cesar, Jessica Damouni, David Deblinger, Ylfa Edelstein, Morgan Lynch, Montgomery Mauro, Sebastian Mitre, Rebecca Nyahay, Wilemina Olivia-Garcia, Greg Prosser, Feliz Ramirez, Delissa Reynolds, Robert Tamburino and Laura Vogels.

David Deblinger shepherds the audience through the past, present and future with his usual clever sensitivity and extraordinary skill. The show playfully interweaves sight and soundscapes with projections and live music to create a fully immersive experience for the audience.

http://www.primitivegrace.org

A Few Words from Primitive Grace’s Artistic Directors

Quotidian follows the goals of Primitive Grace: that we, as artists, need to discard the habitual blinders of programmed existence and surrender to the raw/chaotic/frightening nature of existence and thus draw from it the transformative pearls of creativity.” (Paul Calderon, Co-Artistic Director)

“Primitive Grace is an amazing safe place to explore creative, courageous expression representing various cultures and stories that encourages artists from all parts of the world to risk the unknown with total commitment.  Quotidian exemplifies those goals and exploration.” (David Zayas, Co-Artistic Director).

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Celebrating my mom – AN ACTIVE VISION: BEVERLY UMEHARA…LABOR ACTIVIST…1945-1999

My mother, far left with her mother, Nancy Chang and her sister, Pauline Chang in San Francisco (circa 1956).
(l-r) Bev Umehara with daughters Tami Chang, Karina Umehara, Lia Chang and Marissa Chang-Flores in San Francisco c1998.
(l-r) Bev Umehara with daughters Tami Chang, Karina Umehara, Lia Chang and Marissa Chang-Flores in San Francisco c1998.

updated 5/14/17

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

It’s been eighteen years since my mother died and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her. I wrote this article shortly after her death, highlighting her achievements as an Asian American Union Activist.

Fun in the sun with mom and sister Tami in Lake Tahoe in 1970. Photo by Russell Chang
Fun in the sun with mom and sister Tami in Lake Tahoe in 1970. Photo by Russell Chang

When the paramedics brought my mother to UC-California Medical Center on October 2 with a brain aneurysm, the doctors said she wouldn’t make it through the night. They didn’t know my mother. She hung on while my sister Tami and I rushed from New York to the hospital, and we were able to hold her hands when she finally slipped away.  That was our mom, Beverly Umehara, a women warrior holding court even in the last hours of her 53 years of life.

Beverly Chang and Russell Chang, my mom and dad at the prom in San Francisco. circa 1963
Beverly Chang and Russell Chang, my mom and dad at the prom in San Francisco. circa 1963

My mother was a remarkable woman with an indomitable spirit and movie star looks. A social butterfly, she was the embodiment of energy, warmth, and vitality. Born in San Francisco on December 18, 1945, Bev (as her friends and family called her) was the eldest daughter of Nancy Chang, a beautician and Harry Kai Chong Chang, a merchant seaman. She grew up very poor in the vibrant SF Chinatown community.

My mom with her parents Nancy Chang and Harry Kai Chong Chang.
My mom with her parents Nancy Chang and Harry Kai Chong Chang.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about her career was that calling came relatively late in life, at 47, when she made a sudden transformation from a humble, hardworking secretary and mother of four, into a labor activist, a respected union leader, and a role model for rank-and-file workers, women of color, and for all Asian Pacific Americans.

My mother, far left with her mother, Nancy Chang and her sister, Pauline Chang in San Francisco (circa 1956).
My mother, far left with her mother, Nancy Chang and her sister, Pauline Chang in San Francisco (circa 1956).

I was fortunate enough to sit down with my mother in 1998, to hear her share the roots of her activist drive: “In 1992, as a secretary and assistant to the head of the California Labor Federation, I attended a reception announcing the formation of the first organization of Asian American trade unionists, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO,” she said. “There was a steering committee composed of over 40 Asian Americans of different unions from all over the United States, some rank-and-file,  and some in leadership positions within their unions.  APALA’s emerging mission was to increase the number of Asian American leaders in the labor movement, to advance the rights of immigrants, and to help Asian Pacific Americans who were trying to organize into unions and gain a voice in the workplace. I didn’t know anything like this existed and was impressed.  I had waited over 20 years for direction like this; I knew I had to be at APALA’s Founding Convention in Washington, D.C.”

Against all odds she made her way to that convention.  She described how enthralling it was for her to be with so many Asian American union activists, like steering committee chair Katie Quan, a leading organizer of garment workers; Kent Wong, a brilliant young labor activist at UCLA; Guy Fujimura, Secretary-Treasurer of the powerful International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local in Hawaii; and Gloria Caoile, a leading Filipina activist and assistant to the head of AFSCME, a million-member union of government workers.

Bev returned to SF committed to APALA’s agenda, and helped establish the San Francisco chapter of APALA where she was elected Chapter Secretary. She told me her knees were knocking when she made her first speech to the California Workers Assistant Program, but her passion drove her on, pushing her to continue to take on leadership roles.

In 1995, she was elected to APALA’s National Executive Board, and was appointed as president of the San Francisco Chapter.  As president, she led the San Francisco Chapter of APALA in forming lasting community-labor coalitions that worked against anti-labor, anti-affirmative action and anti-immigrant ballot initiatives on the  California ballot.  Under her leadership, the chapter recruited new Asian Pacific American union organizers, assisted workers seeking to form unions, participated in local community struggles, and engaged in non-partisan voter registration and “get out the vote” efforts.

Her colleagues on the National Executive Board were aware of Bev’s powerful work, and her evolution as a leader.  At the APALA national convention in August, 1999, she was  awarded the ART Takei Leadership Award, named after the pioneering Nisei activist who first became a union organizer in the 1950’s after learning about injustice in the internment camps.

As she stepped up to the podium to accept the award, she held the audience spellbound as she spoke from the heart saying, “I believe that I am currently living the vision.  While growing up as a third-generation Chinese American, Chinese daughters were not taught to have vision. This award is proof that progress has been made.  Not only am I a woman but I am an Asian American woman activist, and proud of it!”

Chatting with U.S. Representative Patsy Mink at the end of the evening, the congresswoman told my mother she should run for office; that she had what it took to be a true leader.  I believe that Congresswoman Mink was right: whatever the future would have held for my mother, it would have been bright.  And it would have involved workers, especially immigrants, who are exploited in the workplace.  I have lost my mother but she enriched so many lives that the Asian American community and the labor movement lost one of its leading voices and spirits.

(Originally published in the March, 2000 edition of A Magazine.)

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in FebOne1960.com Blog, Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2017 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

 

Photos: Martín Zimmerman’s SEVEN SPOTS ON THE SUN opens at Rattlestick

SEVEN SPOTS ON THE SUN castmembers Rey Lucas, Claudia Acosta, Flora Diaz, Peter Jay Fernandez, Cesar Rosado, Flor De Liz Perez and Socorro Santiago (not pictured- Sean Carvajal). Photo by Lia Chang

The New York premiere of Martín Zimmerman’s meditation on mourning, redemption and revenge, Seven Spots On The Sun, directed by 2016 Dora Award winner Weyni Mengesha, opened at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, on May 10th. I caught up with the cast and creative team after the show at Macondo West, where the opening night party was in full salsa mode.

Playwright Martin Zimmerman, Peter Jay Fernandez and director Weyni Mengesha. Photo by Lia Chang
Playwright Martin Zimmerman, Peter Jay Fernandez and director Weyni Mengesha. Photo by Lia Chang

Presented in collaboration with The Sol Project, Seven Spots on the Sun features an 8 member all Latinx cast including Sean Carvajal as Luis,  Flora Diaz as Belén, Peter Jay Fernandez as Eugenio, Rey Lucas as Moisés, Flor De Liz Perez as Mónica, with Claudia Acosta, Cesar Rosado and Socorro Santiago rounding out the ensemble as The Town.

SEVEN SPOTS ON THE SUN castmembers Rey Lucas, Claudia Acosta, Flora Diaz, Peter Jay Fernandez, Cesar Rosado, Flor De Liz Perez and Socorro Santiago (not pictured- Sean Carvajal). Photo by Lia Chang
SEVEN SPOTS ON THE SUN castmembers Rey Lucas, Claudia Acosta, Flora Diaz, Peter Jay Fernandez, Cesar Rosado, Flor De Liz Perez and Socorro Santiago (not pictured- Sean Carvajal). Photo by Lia Chang

In Seven Spots On The Sun, a Latin-American village has been without its doctor for 18 months. A recluse, he has refused to look at any patients since the army took his wife away during the country’s civil war. Yet, when a mysterious plague ravages the countryside, he discovers he has the miraculous power to heal with the touch of his hand.

Seven Spots On The Sun performs Wednesday to Saturday evenings and Monday evenings at 8pm with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm, through June 4, at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (224 Waverly Place). Running time is approximately 85 minutes.

Director Weyni Mengesha, Playwright Martin Zimmerman, Flora Diaz, Peter Jay Fernandez, Flora De Liz Perez, Cesar Rosado, Claudia Acosta and Rey Lucas. Photo by Lia Chang
Director Weyni Mengesha, Playwright Martin Zimmerman, Flora Diaz, Peter Jay Fernandez, Flora De Liz Perez, Cesar Rosado, Claudia Acosta and Rey Lucas. Photo by Lia Chang

Tickets are $50 (General), $25 (Artist), $15 (Student). Tickets can be bought at www.Rattlestick.org or via phone at 212-627-2556.

Peter Jay Fernandez and Flor De Liz Perez. Photo by Lia Chang
Peter Jay Fernandez and Flor De Liz Perez. Photo by Lia Chang

Photos: Peter Jay Fernandez, Flor De Liz Perez, Sean Carvajal, Rey Lucas and More in New York Premiere of Martin Zimmerman’s SEVEN SPOTS ON THE SUN at Rattlestick, Opens May 10 

A Visit with the Cast of Martin Zimmerman’s SEVEN SPOTS ON THE SUN at Rattlestick, Opens May 10

Peter Jay Fernandez, Flora Diaz and Flor De Liz Perez Lead Cast of New York Premiere of Martin Zimmerman’s SEVEN SPOTS ON THE SUN at Rattlestick, April 26 – June 4 

Peter Jay Fernandez, Alex Breaux, Lucas Caleb Rooney and Zoë Winters Celebrate Opening Night of NYTW’s RED SPEEDO by Lucas Hnath 

Click here for more articles on Peter Jay Fernandez.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

VIETGONE’S Raymond Lee, MISS SAIGON’S Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada Among 2017 Theatre World Award Winners

Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada. Photo by Lia Chang
Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada. Photo by Lia Chang
Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada. Photo by Lia Chang

The 2017 Theatre World Award honorees for Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway Debut Performance include Miss Saigon stars Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada and Raymond Lee, who appeared in MTC’s production of Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone. 

Raymond Lee and Jon Hoche in VIETGONE. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Raymond Lee and Jon Hoche in VIETGONE. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Other winners include Denée Benton, Amber Gray and Josh Groban (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812),  Carlo Albán (Sweat), Christy Altomare (Anastasia), Barrett Doss (Groundhog Day), Lucas Hedges (Yen), Jeremy Secomb (Sweeney Todd), and Cobie Smulders (Present Laughter).

Barrett Doss and Cast. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Barrett Doss and Cast. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk in THE BAND's VISIT (Photo: Ahron R. Foster)
Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk in THE BAND’s VISIT (Photo: Ahron R. Foster)

Katrina Lenk (Indecent, The Band’s Visit) will receive the 9th Annual Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater.

Glenn Close (Sunset Boulevard) will receive the 5th Annual John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

Josh Groban and Denée Benton in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 Photo by: Chad Botka
Josh Groban and Denée Benton in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 Photo by: Chad Botka

Dave Molloy (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) will be honored with a Special Theatre World Award in recognition for his Broadway debut as composer, writer, lyricist, orchestrator, and actor.

The 73rd Annual Theatre World Awards Ceremony will be held on Monday evening, June 5, 2017 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at The Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street), current home of The Great Comet, recipient of 12 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical. Hosted annually by well-known theater journalist, Peter Filichia, the 73rd Annual Theatre World Awards ceremony is produced by Theatre World Awards, Inc. Board of Directors.

Previous winners who have won the prestigious Theatre World Award most at the beginning of their careers include Meryl Streep, RoseMary Harris, Marlon Brando, Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Anne Bancroft, James Earl Jones, Liza Minnelli, Alan Alda, Zoe Caldwell, Christopher Walken, Alec Baldwin, Bernadette Peters, Audra McDonald, Al Pacino, Grace Kelly, Tom Hanks, Bryan Cranston, and so many more.

www.theatreworldawards.org

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang_photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang_photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.