East West Players Honors Tzi Ma, Lily Mariye and Dwight Stuart Youth Fund At 52nd Anniversary Visionary Awards on April 30

Lily Mariye and Tzi Ma

East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest-running professional theater of color and the largest producing organization of Asian Pacific American artistic work, celebrates THE COMPANY WE KEEP, its 52nd Anniversary season with the Annual Visionary Awards Dinner & Silent Auction. Recognizing the achievements of individuals who have raised the visibility of the Asian Pacific American (APA) community through their craft, the gala fundraiser takes place on Monday, April 30, 2018 at the Hilton Universal City. Proceeds benefit East West Players’ educational and artistic programs.

The three honorees are:

Tzi Ma
Tzi Ma

Tzi Ma, actor and director. Having started his acting career in theatre in New York City in 1973, Ma has an impressive number of theatre credits and has worked with some of America’s most gifted playwrights. He has had numerous works written specifically for him, such as The Dance and the Railroad by David Henry Hwang, for which Ma won a CINE Golden Eagle Award, a Dramalogue Award for Best Director, and a Dramalogue Award for Best Choreographer (at EWP); and In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe by Eric Overmyer. Ma also collaborated with Mr. Hwang on FOB, Flower Drum Song (Garland Award nomination for Best Actor and Los Angeles City Council Citation), Yellow Face, and the film Golden Gate. His most recent films include Arrival, Sky Scraper, Mediation Park (Best Actor nomination from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television), and Pali Road (Jury Award on outstanding contribution to diversity in film).

Lily Mariye
Lily Mariye

Lily Mariye, actor and director, is a 2018 Outstanding Directorial Achievement nominee for the 70th Annual DGA Awards for her episode of Amazon’s “Just Add Magic.” She is a television and film director, best known for CBS’ “Criminal Minds” and “NCIS: Los Angeles,” NBC’s “Chicago PD,” Freeform’s “The Fosters,” and CMT’s “Nashville.” Model Minority (modelminoritymovie.com) is Mariye’s feature writing and directorial debut and has won 11 Film Festival Awards around the world, including Best Film, Best Director, Best New Actress and Best Cinematography. As an actor, Mariye is best known for her role as nurse Lily Jarvik on the award-winning TV series “ER” for 15 seasons, for which she won the SAG Award for Best Ensemble in a Drama Series four times.

Dwight Stuart Youth Fund. Originally established as an independent foundation in 2001, the Dwight Stuart Youth Fund (DSYF) was endowed by Dwight L. Stuart, Sr. (1924-1998) to benefit and serve the needs of children and youth in Los Angeles County. Since 2010, DSYF has been a grantmaking arm of the San Francisco-based Stuart Foundation. The Foundation is a programmatic funder of public and private institutions and organizations, whose goal is the improvement of life outcomes for young people in the K-12 education systems in California and Washington State. Mr. Stuart was raised in the Pacific Northwest and lived for many years in Los Angeles. He was president of the Carnation Company from 1973-1983 and was the grandson of its founder, E.A. Stuart. A life-long supporter of youth mentoring and sports programs, he was also a board member of the Stuart Foundation.

“East West Players is thrilled to recognize the incredible work of Tzi, Lily, and the Dwight Stuart Youth Fund,” says EWP Producing Artistic Director Snehal Desai. “The accomplishments of Tzi and Lily as actors and directors have been pivotal in raising the visibility of Asian Americans on stage-including the EWP stage-as well as in television and film. They are both fearless and outspoken advocates for Asian Americans in Hollywood. The Dwight Stuart Youth Fund isa groundbreaking supporter of underserved children and youth, whose work has left an indelible mark in our community and whose support has enabled EWP’s Theater For Youth program to empower our youth through storytelling. We are honored to be recognizing them and their efforts. ?”

Current major sponsors (as of February 12, 2018) of the gala include: TITANIUM: Dwight Stuart Youth Fund. GOLD: Aratani Foundation. BRONZE: Randall & Mari Tamura, Lynn Waggoner. COPPER CIRCLE: Snehal Desai, Pia Palomo & Jerry A. Gonzales II; Asian Pacific American Friends of the Theatre. More honorees and additional information will be released shortly.

Gala Committee Members include: Co-Chair Daniel Mayeda, Co-Chair Peter Shimamoto, Ed Lew, Jay Kim, Judy Sasaki, David Lee and Carrie, Ken Katsumoto, Al Aubin, Sally Pai Unruh, Reggie Lee, Jason M. Blackwell, Jeff Yang, Kin Cheng, Nora DeVeau-Rosen, Snehal Desai, and Carolina San Juan.

East West Players’ 52nd Anniversary Visionary Awards Dinner & Silent Auction will be held on Monday, April 30, 2018 at the Hilton Universal City, 555 Universal Hollywood Drive, Universal City, CA 91608. VIP Reception for Premium Table Circle sponsors, silent auction, and no-host cocktails starts at 5:30pm. The dinner and awards show begins at 7pm.

Individual tickets are $200- $1,500. Full table sponsorship packages are also available. For more information please contact East West Players at (213) 625-7000 or galaguests@eastwestplayers.org. For more information about East West Players, please visit www.eastwestplayers.org.

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Sahr Ngaujah, Jojo Gonzalez, Kevin Mambo and Ito Aghayer Set for World Premiere of Lynn Nottage’s MLIMA’S TALE at The Public, March 27 – May 20

Lynn Nottage. Photo by Lia Chang
Lynn Nottage. Photo by Lia Chang

The Public Theater (Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis; Executive Director, Patrick Willingham) is presenting the world premiere of MLIMA’S TALE, written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage. Directed by Obie Award winner Jo Bonney, MLIMA’S TALE continues The Public’s Astor Anniversary Season at their landmark downtown home on Lafayette Street, celebrating 50 years of new work and the 50th Anniversary of HAIR. MLIMA’S TALE begins performances on Tuesday, March 27 and runs through Sunday, May 20 in The Public’s Martinson Hall, with an official press opening on Sunday, April 15.

The complete cast of MLIMA’S TALE features Ito Aghayere (Player 3), Jojo Gonzalez (Player 2), Kevin Mambo (Player 1), and Sahr Ngaujah (Mlima).

Public Theater Partner, Supporter, and Member tickets are available now. Full price tickets, starting at $65, can be accessed by calling (212) 967-7555, visiting www.publictheater.org, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street.

This season, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage returns to The Public with a new drama as moving and incisive as her Broadway debut play Sweat. Taking us on a journey that starts in a game park in Kenya and goes around the world, MLIMA’S TALE is the story of Mlima, a magnificent elephant trapped in the clandestine international ivory market. Following a trail of greed and desire as old as trade itself, Mlima leads us through memory and fear, history and tradition, and want and need. Obie Award winner Jo Bonney directs this poignant new play that reveals the surprising and complicated deals that connect us all.

MLIMA’S TALE features scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez, costume design by Jennifer Moeller, lighting design by Lap Chi Chu, sound design by Darron L West, original music by Justin Hicks and movement direction by Chris Walker.

Lynn Nottage (Playwright) is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and a screenwriter whose work has been produced widely in the U.S. and throughout the world. Most recently, her play Sweat (Susan Smith Blackburn Award, OSF American Revolution Cycle Commission) appeared at The Public Theater and Broadway, winning the Pulitzer Prize. Her other plays include By The Way, Meet Vera Stark (Lilly Award, Drama Desk nom.); Ruined (Pulitzer Prize, OBIE, Lortel, NY Drama Critics’ Circle, Audelco, Drama Desk, and OCC Award); Intimate Apparel (American Theatre Critics and NYDCC Awards); Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine (OBIE); Crumbs from the Table of Joy. She recently produced and conceived of This Is Reading, a multi-media performance installation at the Franklin Street Railroad Station in Reading, PA. Nottage was a producer/director on the Netflix series, “She’s Gotta Have It” and co-founder of Market Road Films. Nottage is the recipient of a PEN/Laura Pels Master Dramatist Award, Doris Duke Artist Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, Steinberg “Mimi” Distinguished Playwright Award, Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, the inaugural Horton Foote Prize and Lee Reynolds Award. Her other honors include the National Black Theatre Fest’s August Wilson Playwriting Award, a Guggenheim Grant, Lucille Lortel Fellowship and Visiting Research Fellowship at Princeton University. She is an Associate Professor at Columbia School of the Arts. She is an artist-in-residence at the Park Avenue Armory, a member of the Dramatists Guild and The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Jo Bonney (Director) has directed the Public Lab and main stage productions of Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), as well as Danny Hoch’s Some People, Diana Son’s Stop Kiss, Anna Deavere Smith’s House Arrest, Jose Rivera’s References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot, and Naomi Wallace’s Fever Chart at The Public. She has directed premieres of plays by Alan Ball, Eric Bogosian, Hammaad Chaudry, Culture Clash, Eve Ensler, Jessica Goldberg, Neil LaBute, Warren Leight, Martyna Majok, Lynn Nottage, Dael Orlandersmith, Darci Picoult, Will Power, John Pollono, David Rabe, Universes, and Michael Weller. She has also directed productions of plays by Caryl Churchill, Nilo Cruz, Charles Fuller, Lisa Loomer, John Osborne and Lanford Wilson. She is the recipient of the 1998 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Direction; Lucille Lortel Best Revival, Audelco Award for Father Comes Home, Lilly Award and is the editor of Extreme Exposure: An Anthology of Solo Performance Texts from the Twentieth Century (TCG).

Ito Aghayere
Ito Aghayere

Ito Aghayere (Player 3) has appeared on Broadway in Junk and Off-Broadway in Familiar (Playwrights Horizons), The Liquid Plain (Signature Theatre), Three Days To See (New York Theatre Workshop/Transport Group), The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth (Classic Stage Company). Her film and television credits include Logan Lucky, Goldie, “Instinct,” “Blacklist,” “Elementary,” “Doubt,” “Master Of None,” “Braindead,” “The Knick,” “Orange Is The New Black,” “Unforgettable,” “Forever.” Education: MFA, Columbia University; BA, Duke University. A 2016 Lucille Lortel Nominee for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play (Familiar).

JoJo Gonzalez
JoJo Gonzalez

Jojo Gonzalez (Player 2) has appeared at The Public in 365 Days/365 Plays, Richard III, F**king A, and Dogeaters. His additional Off-Broadway credits include Small Mouth Sounds (Ars Nova); House Rules, The Romance Of Magno Rubio (Ma-Yi); A Dream Play (Naatco). Regionally he has appeared in Our Town (Long Wharf), Silence Of God (Catf), and Dogeaters (La Jolla). His film and television credits include The Pirates Of Somalia (with Al Pacino), Going In Style (with Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine), The Smurfs Movie, “The Path,” “Seven Seconds,” “Madam Secretary,” “Blindspot,” “The Blacklist,” “Deadbeat.” He is the recipient of an Obie Award.

Kevin Mambo
Kevin Mambo

Kevin Mambo (Player 1) has appeared at The Public in The Fortress of Solitude and on Broadway in Fela! and The Color Purple. His additional Off-Broadway credits include Ruined, Hoodoo Love, Jailbait, The Last Detail, The Memory of Love’s Refrain, and The Convert. His select film and television credits include Cadillac Records, Nina, Rebel in the Rye, The Firing Squad, One of Us Tripped, “Luke Cage,” “Blacklist,” High Maintenance,” “Soul Food,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Deadline,” “Criminal Intent,” “Spin City,” “Happyish.” He has received three consecutive Daytime Emmy nominations, two Daytime Emmy Awards, and a Helen Hayes nomination.

Sahr Ngaujah
Sahr Ngaujah

Sahr Ngaujah (Mlima) originated the title role in Fela! Off-Broadway, Broadway and the in West End, earning Obie and Theater World Awards; Olivier, Tony, Grammy, Drama Desk, Lortel and Drama League nominations. His Off-Broadway credits include Master Harold and the Boys, The Signature Theater One-Acts, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek. His film and television credits include “Deception,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “The Good Wife,” “The Blacklist,” “Last Resort,” “The Accidental Wolf,” Patti Cake$, Money Monster, Freeheld, Kensho at the Bedfellow, Blood Done Sign My Name, The Signal, and Stomp the Yard. He holds a Masters of Theatre from DasArts – Netherlands. His music credits include Fela aKUsTIc, Chop and Quench, Directors Band.

ABOUT The Public Theater:

THE PUBLIC is theater of, by, and for the people. Artist-driven, radically inclusive, and fundamentally democratic, The Public continues the work of its visionary founder Joe Papp as a civic institution engaging, both on-stage and off, with some of the most important ideas and social issues of today. Conceived over 60 years ago as one of the nation’s first nonprofit theaters, The Public has long operated on the principles that theater is an essential cultural force and that art and culture belong to everyone. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Executive Director Patrick Willingham, The Public’s wide breadth of programming includes an annual season of new work at its landmark home at Astor Place, Free Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, The Mobile Unit touring throughout New York City’s five boroughs, Public Forum, Under the Radar, Public Studio, Public Works, Public Shakespeare Initiative, and Joe’s Pub. Since premiering HAIR in 1967, The Public continues to create the canon of American Theater and is currently represented on Broadway by the Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda and John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons. Their programs and productions can also be seen regionally across the country and around the world. The Public has received 59 Tony Awards, 169 Obie Awards, 53 Drama Desk Awards, 54 Lortel Awards, 32 Outer Critic Circle Awards, 13 New York Drama Desk Awards, and 6 Pulitzer Prizes. ww.publictheater.org

TICKET INFORMATION

MLIMA’S TALE begins performances in The Public’s Martinson Hall on Tuesday, March 27 and runs through Sunday, May 20 with an official press opening on Sunday, April 15. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. (There is no 2:00 p.m.performance on Saturday, March 31 and no 8:00 p.m. performance on Tuesday, April 10 or Sunday, April 29. There is an added performance on Monday, April 9 at 7:00 p.m.)

Public Theater Partner, Supporter, and Member tickets are available now. Full price tickets, starting at $65, can be accessed by calling (212) 967-7555, visiting www.publictheater.org, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street.

Lainie Sakakura and Alex Sanchez Usher in Year of the Dog at P.S. 87 with Ali Ewoldt, Telly Leung, Rika Nishikawa, Kelvin Moon Loh, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Belinda Allyn, Sam Tatsuo Tanabe, YoonJeong Seong, Hansel Tan, Adam Rogers, Tommy Scrivens, Kai Rivera

(Back Row) Tommy Scrivens, Kelvin Moon Loh, Ali Ewoldt, Sam Tanabe, Daniel May, Lainie Sakakura, Telly Leung, YoonJeong Seong, Adam Rogers. (Front Row) Hansel Tan, Rika Nishikawa, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Kai Rivera. Photo by Lia Chang
Chinese Lion Dance by Kwan's Kung Fu, with Sam Tanabe, YoonJeong Seong, Hansel Tan. Photo by Lia Chang
Chinese Lion Dance by Kwan’s Kung Fu, with Sam Tanabe, YoonJeong Seong, Hansel Tan. Photo by Lia Chang

Broadway vets Lainie Sakakura and Alex Sanchez ushered in the Year of the Dog at P.S. 87 – William T. Sherman School’s Annual Pan Asian Lunar New Year celebration, with a little help from their Asian American Broadway friends on February 9, 2018.

Alex Sanchez, Avelina Sanchez, Isabela Sanchez and Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang
Alex Sanchez, Avelina Sanchez, Isabela Sanchez and Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang

The evening, highlighting a variety of Pan Asian cultures, is a labor of love for Sakakura and her husband, award-winning choreographer Alex Sanchez, who has served as her P.S. 87 Culture & Community Committee co-chair for eight years – in bringing multicultural awareness and arts to a New York City public school through contemporary and cultural music, dance, and personal stories.

Lainie Sakakura, with her husband, Alex Sanchez. Photo by Lia Chang
Lainie Sakakura, with her husband, Alex Sanchez. Photo by Lia Chang

“Growing up, I didn’t have any Asian American role models to look up to,” shared Sakakura. “I only saw Asian people portrayed as buck tooth, thick glasses wearing nerds. I didn’t have any positive influences to counter the racial prejudices I felt towards me. The PAN ASIAN LUNAR NEW YEAR event is what I wish I had as a kid. An evening filled with amazing, talented, beautiful Asian American performers celebrating everything that we are.”

(Back Row) Tommy Scrivens, Kelvin Moon Loh, Ali Ewoldt, Sam Tanabe, Daniel May, Lainie Sakakura, Telly Leung, YoonJeong Seong, Adam Rogers. (Front Row) Hansel Tan, Rika Nishikawa, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Kai Rivera. Photo by Lia Chang
(Back Row) Tommy Scrivens, Kelvin Moon Loh, Ali Ewoldt, Sam Tanabe, Daniel May, Lainie Sakakura, Telly Leung, YoonJeong Seong, Adam Rogers. (Front Row) Hansel Tan, Rika Nishikawa, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Kai Rivera. Photo by Lia Chang

The 90 minute set, which was free to the public, kicked off with Japanese Taiko Drumming by New York Taiko Aiko Kai. The stellar lineup included performances by Telly Leung, currently starring as Aladdin in ALADDIN, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA’s Ali Ewoldt, who plays Christine, THE LION KING’s Rika Nishikawa, who portrays Young Nala, and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS’ Kelvin Moon Loh, who is featured as Perch Perkins. Jason Garcia Ignacio (M BUTTERFLY), Belinda Allyn (ALLEGIANCE), Sam Tanabe (ALLEGIANCE), YoonJeong Seong (THE KING & I, Dallas Summer Musicals), Hansel Tan (PING PONG, The Public Theater), dancers Adam Rogers (AMERICAN IN PARIS) and Tommy Scrivens (ROMAN HOLIDAY), Kai Rivera (SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE NEXT GENERATION), and students of UWSDance with Lainie Sakakura, rounded out the lineup. The evening closed with the Chinese Lion Dance by Kwan’s Kung Fu, and was followed by a potluck of Asian cuisine.

New York Taiko Aiko Kai. Photo by Lia Chang
New York Taiko Aiko Kai. Photo by Lia Chang

NEW YORK TAIKO AIKO KAI “Isamigoma” & “Enjin Daiko”
Taiko was originally a battlefield instrument to intimidate and scare the enemy in the 1500’s. NYTAK born from PS 87 families practicing Taiko in hopes of passing Japanese culture to their children.
*Mayur Baruah, Nina Briggs, Jackson Pietsch, Nobuko Sato, **Rie Taniguchi, **Kyoko Toyama-Baruah, Keiko Yamamoto (*PS87 alumni, **PS87 former parents) nytak.blogspot.com

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TELLY LEUNG “Proud of Your Boy”
Chinese-American, born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Telly is currently playing the title role in Disney’s ALADDIN on Broadway. Other Broadway & National Tour credits: In Transit, Allegiance (with George Takei and Lea Salonga), Godspell, Rent (final Broadway company), Wicked (Boq, Chicago company), Pacific Overtures, & Flower Drum Song. Off Broadway: MTC’s THE WORLD OF EXTREME HAPPINESS. Television: “Wes, the Warbler” on “Glee” (Fox), “Instinct” (CBS), “Odd Mom Out” (Bravo), “Deadbeat” (Hulu), “Law and Order: Criminal Intent’ (NBC). He has released two solo albums – I’ll Cover You (2012) and Songs for You (2016) and can be heard on many original Broadway cast recordings. BFA Carnegie Mellon University. Website: www.tellyleung.com. Follow @tellyleung

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ALI EWOLDT “Pakiusap”
Half-Filipino, half-“Midwestern”, currently starring as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut as Cosette in Les Miserables, appeared in Lincoln Center’s recent Tony Award Winning revival of The King and I and has played Maria in numerous productions of West Side Story across the nation and the world. Her other credits include: The Fantasticks (Luisa) Off-Broadway, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Philia) at The Muny in St. Louis, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s The King and I (Tuptim), McCarter Theatre’s A Christmas Carol (Fan/Mrs. Bonds) and concerts at Feinstein’s/54 Below, Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall and The Town Hall. TV/Film: The Michael J. Fox Show, Yield and Drama: The Web Series. Ali has a BA in psychology from Yale University. www.aliewoldt.com Follow @aliewoldt

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JASON GARCIA IGNACIO “Nasa Iyo Na Ang Lahat”
Born and raised in Manila, Philippines. His love for dance brought him to NYC and recently had his broadway debut in M. BUTTERFLY. www.jasonignacio.com

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RIKA NISHIKAWA “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”
Age 11 Nisei (2nd generation Japanese American) but lived in Japan for 3 years. She’s currently playing Young Nala in THE LION KING on Broadway. Her professional stage career started with the role of Princess Ying Yaowalak in Marriott Theatre’s 2014 production of The King and I. Other local credits include her appearance in Lyric Opera’s The King and I, Theatre at the Center’s Annie Warbucks, and Griffin Theatre’s Balm in the Gilead. Rika is a former member of Lookingglass Theatre’s Young Ensemble. She has also appeared in Ruth Page Civic Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.

Kelvin Moon Loh. Photo by Lia Chang
Kelvin Moon Loh. Photo by Lia Chang

KELVIN MOON LOH “Go The Distance”
Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but grew up in Queens & Long Island.  He is currently playing a rainbow suited fish, Perch Perkins in SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS on Broadway. Kelvin most recently appeared in Classic Stage Company’s revival of Pacific Overtures (dir. John Doyle). On Broadway, Kelvin appeared in revivals of The King and I (Lincoln Center) and Side Show. He created the role of the DJ in the critically acclaimed Here Lies Love (Public Theater) and toured with the 1st National Tour of Green Day’s American Idiot. www.KelvinMoon.com Follow @KelvinMoonLoh

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UWS DANCE “Grant Avenue”
Lainie Sakakura’s tap students ages 4 to 13 yrs old. A playful song about SF Chinatown from the 1958 Rogers & Hammerstein musical, FLOWER DRUM SONG about Chinese immigrants and their American born children’s inter-generational struggle between their Chinese roots and American culture. www.uwsdance.com

YoonJeong Seong. Photo by Lia Chang
YoonJeong Seong. Photo by Lia Chang

YOONJEONG SEONG “I Feel Pretty”
Born in South Korea. Moved to New York 15 years ago. YoonJeong appeared in 10 productions of THE KING AND I as Tuptim. One of her favorite roles was playing Amahl in AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITOR.

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HANSEL TAN “Bunga Sayang” with Adam Rogers & Tommy Scrivens
Hails from the sunny Southeast Asian isle of Singapore (which by the way is not in China). Hansel spent 2 years in the Singapore Armed Forces, so don’t mess with him. Graduate of Wesleyan and Oxford University. www.hanseltan.com

Sam Tanabe and Belinda Allyn. Photo by Lia Chang
Sam Tanabe and Belinda Allyn. Photo by Lia Chang

BELINDA ALLYN and SAM TANABE “Breaking Free”
Belinda Allyn is Filipino-American Hapa (first generation). Broadway performer, proud doggy mama, and third time performer at PS 87’s Pan Asian Lunar New Year celebration! www.belindaallyn.com
Sam Tanabe is half Japanese and half Swiss, making him Hapa (half Asian)! He loves musicals and was a part of Japanese-American history in ALLEGIANCE on Broadway. www.samtanabe.com

Avelina Sanchez, Isabela Sanchez and Sabrina Green. Photo by Lia Chang
Avelina Sanchez, Isabela Sanchez and Sabrina Green. Photo by Lia Chang

AVELINA SANCHEZ*, SABRINA GREEN*, ISABELA SANCHEZ** “How Far I’ll Go”
*13 year old PS 87 Alumni, ** PS 87 5th Grade

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KAI RIVERA “God’s plan/Fever/Special Delivery” Mix
14 years old, Hapa – half Japanese and half Puerto Rican. A member of Brooklyn Nets Kids dance team. Appeared on So You Think You Can Dance S13 and many commercials including Black Panther toy (currently playing). Performed with celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots.

The production team included Musical Director/Pianist Tom Conroy and Percussionist/ Drummer Kory Grossman.

Tom Conroy. Photo by Lia Chang
Tom Conroy. Photo by Lia Chang

TOM CONROY, Musical Director – Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition – Rice University, MM Composition – San Francisco Conservatory of Music, MA Liberal Arts & Homeric Greek Studies – St John’s College. Work ranging from Pokemon Live! to Betty Buckley. Actor and teacher of English to speakers of other languages.

Lainie Sakakura and Percussionist Kory Grossman. Photo by Lia Chang
Lainie Sakakura and Percussionist Kory Grossman. Photo by Lia Chang

KORY GROSSMAN, Percussion/Drums – has played well over 35 Broadway shows, is a member of the American Symphony Orchestra, currently working on the new Broadway revival, MY FAIR LADY. PS 87 Alumni.

Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang
Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang

Lainie Sakakura is a 26+ year Broadway veteran, choreographer, director, writer and teaching artist. She was awarded the 2015 Joe A. Callaway Award – Best Choreography for the Off Broadway show, RED EYE OF LOVE in collaboration with co-choreographer Alex Sanchez, directed by Ted Sperling and the 2002 Joseph Jefferson Award – Best Choreography for DAMN YANKEES, Marriott Theatre in collaboration with director/co-choreographer David H. Bell. Nominated for the 2003 Joseph Jefferson Award – Best Choreography for HOT MIKADO, directed by David H. Bell.

Lainie Sakakura, Lia Chang and Alex Sanchez. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lainie Sakakura, Lia Chang and Alex Sanchez. Photo by Garth Kravits

Sakakura is currently co-writing the musical adaptation of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, the New York Times best seller by Jamie Ford.

Broadwayworld.com: Photo Flash: Lainie Sakakura Ushers In The Year of the Dog at P.S. 87 With Broadway Pals Ali Ewoldt, Telly Leung and More

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

Lia Chang. Photo by Lori Tan Chinn
Lia Chang. Photo by Lori Tan Chinn

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

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The League Of Professional Theatre Women Presents Baayork Lee in Conversation with Robert Viagas on February 12

Baayork Lee. Photo by Lia Chang

On Monday, February 12 at 6:00 pm, the League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW), dedicated to championing women in theatre since its inception and an authority at the forefront of the conversation about gender parity in American theatre for 35 years, is presenting Broadway Performer, Director, and Choreographer, Baayork Lee.

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

A recipient of the 2017 Isabelle Stevenson TONY Award, Lee was honored for her commitment to future generations of artists through her work with National Asian Artists Project and theatre education programs around the world.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Jonathan Groff and Brian d'Arcy James present Baayork Lee with the Isabelle Stevenson Award award onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 11: Jonathan Groff and Brian d’Arcy James present Baayork Lee with the Isabelle Stevenson Award award onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Multimedia: Baayork Lee Accepts The Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award At The 71st Annual Tony Awards

Lee, who originated the role of Connie in A Chorus Line, will be discussing her extensive life and work in the theatre with theatre writer Robert Viagas, her collaborator and biographer on their book, “On the Line: the Creation of A Chorus Line”.The event will take place in the Bruno Walter Auditorium of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on 65th Street & Amsterdam Avenue. Admission is free, seats are available on a first-come-first-seated basis. Doors open at 5:30PM, and it is recommended that members of the public arrive at the Bruno Walter Auditorium by 5PM to secure a seat.

“I first met Baayork in 1975 when the Library videotaped Michael Bennett’s original A CHORUS LINE at The Public Theatre,” says producer Betty Corwin. “Baayork had become Michael’s closest collaborator and since he died in 1987 she has directed or choreographed 35 International productions of the musical. In addition, Baayork is acknowledged and appreciated for committing herself to the National Asian Artists Project and theatre eduction programs around the world. I am so proud to know her.”

The League has major support from the Edith Meiser Foundation covering interviews with such notables as Billie Allen, Mercedes Ruehl, Tyne Daly, Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole, Kia Corthron, Donna Murphy, Frances McDormand, Laura Linney and many others. The ongoing Oral History Project chronicles and documents the contributions of significant theatre women in all fields. The interviews are videotaped and preserved for posterity in the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

This program is made possible, in part, with public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and with funds from the NYS Council on the Arts, a state agency, with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

BIOGRAPHIES

Baayork Lee has performed in a dozen Broadway shows and created the role of Connie in A Chorus Line. As Michael Bennett’s assistant choreographer on A Chorus Line, she has directed and choreographed many national and international companies in Klagenfurt, Austria, Santiago, Chile, Hollywood Bowl and Pace University. Her directing and choreography credits also include: The King and I and Bombay Dreams (National tours), R&H’s Cinderella (NYC Opera), Barnum (Australia), Carmen Jones (Kennedy Center), Porgy and Bess and Jesus Christ Superstar (European tours), Gypsy and A New Brain. She has also choreographed shows including; Miss Saigon (KC Starlight), Mack and Mabel (Shaw Festival), Animal Crackers, South Pacific (Helen Hayes nominations,) Coconuts, Camelot, and Damn Yankees all at Arena Stage in Washington, DC.

Through her nonprofit organization, National Asian Artists Project, Baayork’s vision includes educating, cultivating, and stimulating audiences and artists of Asian descent through the many programs the company offers. The organization has produced classical musical theatre shows such as Oklahoma!, Carousel, Hello Dolly!, and OLIVER! with all Asian-American casts. NAAP has made audiences more aware that talent goes beyond ethnicity.

Robert Viagas transformed theatre journalism as the architect and founding editor (1994) of the first and still biggest theatre site on the web, Playbill.com. He enjoyed the rare honor of serving on the nominating committee for the Tonys (2012-2014). He hosted the Tony Awards webcasts from 2002 to 2008, and was editor of the special Tony Awards Playbill from 2002 to 2010. The New York Times’ CyberTimes described him as “encyclopedic” in his knowledge of Broadway.

Among his other books, he was chosen by the creators of the original The Fantasticks to tell their story in The Amazing Story of “The Fantasticks” (Citadel). On the Line was translated into Japanese and published in Japan and his 2012 book Scales to Scalpels (with Lisa Wong) was translated into Chinese and published in China.

When it comes to the challenging but fruitful area of collaboration he literally wrote the book on it-The Alchemy of Theatre (Applause Books), in which he worked with the likes of Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, Hal Prince, Chita Rivera and others to codify how one collaborates in the world of theatre. His 2009 book I’m the Greatest Star!

Brooke Ishibashi, Abraham Kim, Raymond Lee, Jane Lui, Joe Ngo and Daisuke Tsuji set for World Premiere of Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band at South Coast Repertory, March 4-25

Abraham Kim, Daisuke Tsuji, Brooke Ishibashi, Raymond Lee and Jane Lui in South Coast Repertory's world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Danielle Bliss/SCR.
Lauren Yee
Lauren Yee
Chay Yew. Photo by Lia Chang
Chay Yew. Photo by Lia Chang

Part comedy, part mystery and part rock concert, playwright Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band explores an overlooked chapter of history-1970s Cambodia with its vibrant surf-rock music scene and then under the Khmer Rouge regime. The play features songs by the Long Beach-based band Dengue Fever. The world premiere of this South Coast Repertory commission is directed by Chay Yew on the Julianne Argyros Stage, March 4-25. Tickets are available at www.scr.org.

“Since I first heard Dengue Fever’s music, I’ve been obsessed with the history of Cambodia’s surf-rock scene and the country’s dark Khmer Rouge years, when so many people, including those in the arts, perished,” Yee said. “I never knew quite how to write about it in a way that celebrated the individuals behind the music. Until now.”

From the first rehearsal: actors Brooke Ishibashi, Jane Lui, Abraham Kim, Joseph Ngo, Daisuke Tsuji and Raymond Lee with playwright Lauren Yee (center). Courtesy of Facebook
From the first rehearsal: actors Brooke Ishibashi, Jane Lui, Abraham Kim, Joseph Ngo, Daisuke Tsuji and Raymond Lee with playwright Lauren Yee (center). Courtesy of Facebook

Cambodian Rock Band is set in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and moves back and forth in time. It’s the story of a young Cambodian American who has found evidence that could finally put away one of the Khmer Rouge’s chief henchman, a man who oversaw the country’s most notorious prison. But her work is far from done. Her Dad shows up unannounced-his first time back in Cambodia since fleeing 30 years ago- and it’s clear that this isn’t just a pleasure trip for him.

Yee is a finalist for the 2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play The Great Leap (world premiere through March 11, Denver Center for the Performing Arts). Her other plays include King of the Yees (Goodman Theatre, Center Theatre Group), Ching Chong Chinaman, The Hatmaker’s Wife, Hookman, In a Word, Samsara and The Tiger Among Us. She was a Dramatists Guild Fellow, a MacDowell Fellow, a MAP Fund grantee, a member of The Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group, a Time Warner Fellow at the Women’s Project Playwrights Lab, the Shank Playwright-in-Residence at Second StageTheatre, a Playwrights’ Center Core Writer and held the Page One Residency at Playwrights Realm. In a Word won the Francesca Primus Prize and was a finalist for the American Theatre Critics Association/Harold and Mimi Steinberg Award. The Hatmaker’s Wife was an Outer Critics Circle nominee for the John Gassner Award for best play by a new American playwright. She earned a BA from Yale University and an MFA from the University of California, San Diego.

Yee wrote Cambodian Rock Band on commission through SCR’s CrossRoads program, which develops plays that explore the cultural diversity of Orange County through artist residencies. For Cambodian Rock Band, Yee’s residency cast a wider net, including Long Beach. CrossRoads is supported by a grant from the Time Warner Foundation.

Abraham Kim, Daisuke Tsuji, Brooke Ishibashi, Raymond Lee and Jane Lui in South Coast Repertory's world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Danielle Bliss/SCR.
Abraham Kim, Daisuke Tsuji, Brooke Ishibashi, Raymond Lee and Jane Lui in South Coast Repertory’s world premiere production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Photo by Danielle Bliss/SCR.

The cast includes Brooke Ishibashi, Abraham Kim, Raymond Lee, Jane Lui, Joe Ngo and Daisuke Tsuji.

The design and creative team includes Takeshi Kata and Se Oh, scenic design; Sara Ryung Clement, costume design; David Weiner, lighting design; Mikhail Fiksel, sound design; Matthew MacNelly, music director; and Joanne DeNaut, CSA, casting. The production manager is Joshua Marchesi and the stage manager is Bryan Sommer. Andy Knight is the dramaturg.

Cambodian Rock Band has generous support from Honorary Producers Carolyn and Bill Klein and Samuel and Tammy Tang. The media partners are KCRW, Orange Coast Magazine and the Orange County Business Journal. This play is a recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award.

Tickets start at $23. Discounts are available for full-time students, patrons 25 years of age and under, fulltime educators, seniors and groups of 10 or more. For complete information, visit: www.scr.org.

Tickets: May be purchased online at www.scr.org, by phone at (714) 708-5555 or by visiting the Box Office at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. Performances run March 4-25. Ticket prices start at $23. Low-priced previews run March 4-8. SCR’s performances run Tuesdays-Sundays; there are no performances on Mondays.

Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP, is among 10 Finalists Selected for the 2017-2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize

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

Lia Chang. Photo by Lori Tan Chinn
Lia Chang. Photo by Lori Tan Chinn

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.

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Karen Tsen Lee, Shigeko Sara Suga, Leanne Cabrera, Dinh James Doan, Chris Doi, Eric Elizaga, David Huynh, Scott Kitajima, Claro de los Reyes and Tony Vo in Pan Asian Rep’s NO-NO BOY at The Studio Theatre through February 18

Pan Asian Repertory Theatre (Tisa Chang, Artistic Producing Director), in tandem with “Day of Remembrance”, opens its 41st season on themes of social justice and historic amnesia with the special return engagement of the acclaimed play NO-NO BOY by Ken Narasaki, based on the groundbreaking novel byJohn Okada. Directed by Ron Nakahara, the cast will feature Leanne Cabrera, Dinh James Doan, Chris Doi, Eric Elizaga, David Huynh, Scott Kitajima, Karen Tsen Lee, Claro de los Reyes, Shigeko Sara Suga, and Tony Vo.

NO-NO BOY began previews on February 7, 2018 and will play through  February 18, 2018 at The Studio Theatre at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street). Opening Night is Sunday afternoon, February 11, 2018 at 2:30 p.m.

Set after World War II as Japanese Americans return to the West Coast, NO-NO BOY follows Ichiro Yamada, who struggles to reconnect with the Seattle community, after taking a bold stance on questions of allegiance. NO-NO BOY received critical acclaimed when it was presented in 2014 by Pan Asian Rep, and returned to NYC in 2016 prior to embarking on a national tour where the play received rave reviews in Washington, D.C.

The limited run of NO-NO BOY is running in tandem with the Day of Remembrance (DOR), a day commemorating the Japanese American internment during World War II. Events in numerous U.S. States are held on or near February 19, the day in 1942 that Executive Order 9066 was signed, requiring internment of all Americans of Japanese ancestry.

Ken Narasaki stated, “Even today, the term [“No-No Boy”] can spark bitter explosions amongst people who remain angry about the kinds of real life-or-death decisions they and their generation were forced to make.”

John Stoltenberg of DC Metro Theater Arts says: “No-No Boy is an extraordinary and essential play. It’s about what happened to innocent people when this country demonized and incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II. To witness it now-as anti-Muslim rumblings are being trumped up to a roar…I can only urge everyone who cares about how theater connects to this country’s past and future to catch Pan Asian Rep’s No-No Boy wherever whenever you can.”

The creative team includes sets by Sheryl Liu (Sayonara, Film Chinois), costumes by Hyun Sook Kim (A Dream of Red Pavilions), lights by Leslie Smith (Acquittal), and sound by Ian Wehrle (Fishing For Wives). The Production Stage Manager is Elis C. Arroyo with Sabrina Morabito.

NO-NO BOY will play the following performance schedule: Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday & Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets NOW ON SALE are priced at $43.25 for all performances and may be purchased through Telecharge at www.telecharge.com, or by calling 212-239-6200. For information on Group, Senior, or Student Discounts, please email info@panasianrep.org, or call (212) 868-4030.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Ken Narasaki (Playwright). His plays include the recent adaptation of NO-NO BOY and the award-winning plays Innocent When You Dream (2006 Kuma Kahua Pacific Rim Award), The Mikado Project (co-written with Doris Baizley – 2008 Kuma Kahua Pacific Rim Award), and Ghosts and Baggage. As an actor, he starred in “Zwei Profis” for German television, and appeared in Lane Nishikawa’s Only The Brave. He has also appeared in nearly 60 plays, including Po Boy Tango, A Winter People, and Theory of Everything, in Chicago, Los Angeles, Singapore, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Sacramento, and elsewhere.

Ron Nakahara (Director) has been an actor/director in New York City since 1979 and was designated a Senior Artist with Pan Asian Repertory Theatre in 1987 and is an Artistic Associate. Ron has directed one-woman shows at Don’t Tell Mama and The Duplex, and has worked extensively with and directed the Asian-American performance group SLANT at La MaMa ETC, and NYSF Public Theatre. His other directing credits in New York include NAATCO, and Ensemble Studio Theatre. His regional credits include The Studio Theatre (Washington, DC), Hartford Stage Co., Fulton Opera House (Lancaster, PA) where his production of Miss Ever’s Boys won him a best director award, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, New York State Theatre Institute, Hangar Theatre (Ithaca,) Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Virginia Stage Company (Norfolk,) and Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. In addition, Ron has also directed for New York University and Virginia Commonwealth University. He has served on several NEA panels and was one of the first recipients of an NEA/TCG Directing Fellowship. He is a member of SDC, SAG-AFTRA, and AEA.

Tisa Chang (Pan Asian Rep Founding Artistic Producing Director) has led the company since its inception promoting stories seldom told and voices seldom heard. She has been a theatre professional for 5 decades as actor, dancer director. Highlights include: Sayonara (2015); The Joy Luck Club (2007); intercultural epic Cambodia Agonistes which toured nationally and to Cairo and Johannesburg; Kwatz! The Tibetan Project; and Rashomon (2003) which was invited to Havana Theatre Festival. She innovated premieres in English and Mandarin Chinese of the Peking opera, Return of the Phoenix, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, founded 41 years ago, is the East Coast’s most veteran producer of Asian American theatre dedicated to providing a professional forum to Asian American and minority artists. Led by Tisa Chang, Pan Asian Rep has opened doors for many who enjoy careers in film, television and on Broadway. Daniel Dae Kim, Lucy Liu,Tina Chen, David Henry Hwang and Philip Kan Gotanda are some of the alumni artists who have collaborated with Pan Asian Rep over the years. The company has been invited to many international theater festivals including Edinburgh, Singapore, Cairo and Johannesburg. It was the first professional theater from the United States to be invited to the Havana Theatre Festival in 2003. As noted by Variety Magazine, “….the aesthetic mission and professional chops of the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre are admirable.” The 41st Season will begin the company’s multi-year process for growth and transition to embrace expanded leadership towards a visionary new future with national and international collaborations.

Pan Asian Theatre Programs are made possible, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; City Council member Margaret Chin and major support from the Ford, Shubert, Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels, and Lucille Lortel Foundations; 21st Century Heritage Fund, and many Individual donors.

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Life Imitates Art for THE CULT PLAY’s Ariel Estrada

Ariel Estrada on the set of THE CULT PLAY. Photo by Lia Chang

Life imitates art for Ariel Estrada, who is currently starring as Charlie Bear in Phoenix Theatre Ensemble’s world premiere of Topher Cusumano’s The Cult Play, currently playing at The Paradise Factory Theatre at 64 East 4th Street (next door to La Mama) in NYC through February 17th.

Ariel Estrada and Lori Parquet. Photo by Gerry Goodstein
Ariel Estrada and Lori Parquet. Photo by Gerry Goodstein

The Cult Play follows Mama Pearl, an enigmatic woman with alleged powers and leader of a secretive Goddess worshiping religious group, The Soul Scouts. As Mama attempts to retain control of her followers after the defection of a longtime member, the Scouts each find themselves exploring the boundaries of their faith. When Mae, a rebellious new recruit, introduces The Soul Scouts to social media, she inadvertently triggers a series of events that could end Mama Pearl’s great vision of the future.

Elise Stone and Ariel Estrada. Photo by Gerry Goodstein
Elise Stone and Ariel Estrada. Photo by Gerry Goodstein

Irene Lazaridis directs the 8-member cast headed by Lori Parquet as Mama Pearl with Layan Elwazaini, Ariel Estrada, Oscar Klausner, John Lenartz, Josh Moser, Stacey Raymond, and Elise Stone. The directing and design team includes Aiden Dreskin, sound design, Attilio Rigotti, projection and video design, Debbi Hobson, costume design, JB Douglas, environmental design, Kevin McGuire, fight director, Madelyn Sher, choreography, Mason Delman, light design, Yeritza Madera, Production intern, and Meghan McVann is production stage manager.

Lori Parquet, Ariel Estrada, Layan Elwazaini, Oscar Klausner, John Lenartz, Josh Moser, Stacey Raymond, and Elise Stone in Phoenix Theatre Ensemble’s world premiere of Topher Cusumano’s The Cult Play through February 17 

After the show, Estrada revealed that he was 20 + years cult survivor. Naturally I had a few questions.

Ariel Estrada on the set of THE CULT PLAY. Photo by Lia Chang
Ariel Estrada on the set of THE CULT PLAY. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: What drew you to being in a cult?
Ariel: I was a young gay kid from an extremely rural town in Alaska, in my second year of college in Portland, OR in 1988. I was just coming out at the height of the AIDS crisis, and I was longing for a place where I could be welcomed, feel safe, and be part of a family. I had always too, thanks to my own internalized homophobia and anti-Asian racism, wanted to train martial arts because I thought I needed to toughen myself up. A women-owned martial arts school had classes in both co-ed martial arts and women’s self defense on my campus, and I decided to check it out.

The very first day I walked into the school, they had a picture up of a handsome man, one of their black belts, with a candle next to it. When I asked who it was, they said he was dying of AIDS and they didn’t think he’d make it through the week. I found out more about the man later – that he was openly gay in a time when it was dangerous to be so, and that he was instrumental in getting martial arts included as a competition in the International Gay Games. I knew when I saw that picture, I was hooked. When I wasn’t doing shows, I would travel the hour and half bus ride to Portland from my college campus to train. When I went to grad school in Seattle, I would travel down every 3 or 4 months to take classes and private lessons, much to the chagrin of my movement teachers in my acting program. When I moved to NYC, I helped to open up a branch of the school here, even giving up acting for a while. I was in it for 20 years before I realized it was a harmful and dangerous cult that capitalized on the worst excesses of my trauma as a gay, Asian American man struggling against violent and hostile world.

Lia: What did it provide for you?
Ariel: Like most cults, it sounded good on paper: a LGBT-owned martial arts and self-defense system dedicated to empowering women, children, and men. Many of the students were survivors of rape and abuse. There was some decent self defense training, and it was a place where I could be an openly gay man while doing something decidedly not seen as something gay people do. As you got deeper in (and paid more and more money as part of its pyramid scheme), you got to feel special, like you were learning something magical that no one else knew or could do. And by magical, I really do mean magical – it was some wacky, ridiculous, clearly-not-true crap, like mind control, speaking to the dead, or the belief that illness is all in your head. It seems like such an obvious scam when you’re outside of it – but when you’ve drank the metaphorical Kool-Aid, you believe – or at least, convince yourself that you believe – every word.

Lia: How did being in a cult inform your work in the play?
Ariel: I’ve been involved in the play since its early development process two years ago, with Topher interviewing me about my experiences, as well as being involved in developmental readings. When my character Charlie Bear, who is a dissenting voice against Mama Pearl, the play’s cult leader, fights against the excesses of the play’s cult, I am definitely drawing from my own feelings and experiences about my time in a real world cult and its consequences. My body is a mess because of all that hard-core fighting, with a hip replacement, and reconstructions of both knees and both shoulders, to say nothing of my mind and its 20-years of memories of my time in the cult. It’s not hard to draw from those painful experiences and have it inform my work in the play.

There were times in the rehearsal process when I would walk into the room and see something that we used to do in my real world cult – trance dancing – and I would be floored, completely triggered with flashbacks. Being a pro, I used it, but man, those were not easy memories to re-experience. One of the movement pieces in the show, beautifully choreographed by Butoh dancer Madelyn Sher, is backed by an Enya song. During the segment the other night I started to weep: we used to do full-contact fights to Enya (a strange juxtaposition I know, but this cult was totally insane), and I was unexpectedly taken back to not just horrible memories, but good ones too: like feeling I truly belonged to something bigger than myself. The rehearsal process was at times painful and disturbing, yet cathartic and ultimately positive. The director, Irene Lazardis, is a genius who juggled just a monster of a complex play, making a beautiful, entertaining audience experience

Lia: What do you hope audiences will take away from the experience?
Ariel: Our producer, Craig Smith, Producing Artistic Director of Phoenix Theatre Ensemble said that the play was like Jacobean tragedy, cleverly disguised as an episodic dramedy for Netflix binge-watchers. Like any Jacobean tragedy, it has some crazy, over-the-top shit happening – things that almost strain the suspension of disbelief. However, speaking as someone who has lived through a real-world cult experience? The things we were asked to do in the cult I was in were COMPLETELY INSANE. For example, one of my black belt tests was 64 hours long with no sleep and a small handful of rice and a little rubbery steamed chicken once a day for food; or, being taught that energy healing could cure addiction, depression, or disease (it most decidedly doesn’t) – but when you’re in a cult, you do any crazy thing the leader asks. Worse, you actually believe, or pretend to believe what you’re told for fear of being thrown out of your surrogate family. These were not dumb people in the cult I was in – yet the members who were really deep in it? They all were extremely damaged on some level, which was roundly taken advantage of, physically, mentally, and financially, by the cult’s leader.

This is all to say, I hope that people will explore this question from seeing THE CULT PLAY, as part of PTE’s season about the nature of “The Charismatics”: Why do seemingly sensible people end up buying into cult leaders who tell them what they want to hear, and do not have their best interests in mind? I’m sure that many of those in the 70% majority of people in the country who disapprove of our current U.S. leadership are asking themselves this question. Get your tickets for THE CULT PLAY here!
Standing: Laurie Kilmartin, Morgan Rosse, John Lenartz, Josh Tyson, Elise Stone, Director Craig Smith, Ariel Estrada, Eileen Glenn, Alicia Marie Beatty, Wesli Spencer; Reclining: Matt Baguth. Photo by Lia Chang
The cast of TARTUFFE – Standing: Laurie Kilmartin, Morgan Rosse, John Lenartz, Josh Tyson, Elise Stone, Director Craig Smith, Ariel Estrada, Eileen Glenn, Alicia Marie Beatty, Wesli Spencer; Reclining: Matt Baguth. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: How long have your worked with Theatre Ensemble?
Ariel: I love PTE. I’ve worked as one of their ensemble of artists for 10 years, and I also work as their grant writer and occasional graphic designer. One of my favorite projects with them was a reading of a non-traditionally cast THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, directed by Asian American director Jesse Jou, with Cecily and Gwendolyn cast African American, and Algy and Jack cast Asian American. So fun, and it added a fascinating dimension to the play that was distinctly American. In their first show of PTE’s “The Charismatics” season, TARTUFFE, I got to play Cleante. These are characters I would rarely get to play in any other professional setting. They are really committed to doing intersectional work and it shows. Plus, the artistic leadership, Craig, with Co-Artistic Director Elise Stone, are just fantastic people – terrific friends and artistic collaborators.

Broadwayworld.com: Freeze Frame: Ariel Estrada, Josh Tyson, Morgan Rosse, and More in Phoenix Theatre Ensemble’s TARTUFFE At The Wild Project

Elise Stone, Lori Parquet, Ariel Estrada and Craig Smith, Producing Artistic Director of Phoenix Theatre Ensemble. Photo by Lia Chang
Elise Stone, Lori Parquet, Ariel Estrada and Craig Smith, Producing Artistic Director of Phoenix Theatre Ensemble. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: What’s next for you?
Ariel: I’ll be producing the next show in the same space, Leviathan Lab’s production of TRIGGER by Sam Chanse, directed by Flordelino Lagundino at IATI Theater, running February 23 through March 11. After that, I’ll be acting for PTE again in the last show of their “The Charismatics” season in a show featuring someone who is arguably the world’s most significant charismatic, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and his disciple, the titular JUDAS by Robert Patrick. I’ll also be continuing my work in arts advocacy at the Asian American Arts Alliance – come to our Lunar New Year Town Hall on February 22nd and wish our outgoing Executive Director Andrea Louie well! Finally, you can always keep up on my latest goings on at my website, www.arielestrada.com.

Executive Director Andrea Louie to Step Down From Asian American Arts Alliance

The performance schedule is Wednesday – Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $25.00; Call 212-352-3101 or visit www.PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org. The Paradise Factory @ 64 East 4th Street Street (Bowery & 2nd Avenue).

Transportation: By Subway: 4,5,6 Train to Astor Place; F train to 2nd Avenue; N & R Train at Broadway & 8th Street. Bus 3rd Ave M103 to 4th Street; 2nd Ave M15 to 4th Street.

Phoenix Theatre Ensemble is a non-profit theatre company now in its 14th season of presenting new and classical works. The 2017-18 season includes American Moor by Keith Hamilton Cobb (July/August @ Boston Center for the Arts); Tartuffe by Moliere (October/November in NYC), The Cult Play, world premiere of a serialized drama by Topher Cusumano (January/February in NYC); and a play to be announced (April/May in NYC). The reading series for 2017-18 will be rarely performed plays by Pirandello. www.PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org

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

Lia Chang. Photo by Lori Tan Chinn
Lia Chang. Photo by Lori Tan Chinn

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.

Executive Director Andrea Louie to Step Down From Asian American Arts Alliance 

Andrea Louie
Andrea Louie
Andrea Louie

Andrea Louie, executive director of the Asian American Arts Alliance, has announced she will step down from her leadership role from the organization after more than seven years of service. Louie’s last day will be March 9, 2018. A pioneer in the field, the Alliance has established itself as a leader in providing services to Asian American artists and organizations through professional development workshops, regrants, networking opportunities, and advocacy.

“It’s been such a joy and privilege to work with the Alliance and this incredible community of cultural workers,” Louie said. “It’s been an honor to serve with so many passionate and dedicated board and staff members, and I have learned a great deal from each one. I will continue to work in the arts and culture sector here in New York City and look forward to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion in the field. There has never been a greater need for this work.”

Louie joined the Alliance on August 10, 2010. During her tenure, she helped raise the profile of the Alliance across the city and expanded the organization’s reach into immigrant communities in Queens and Brooklyn through such initiatives as the Locating the Sacred Festival. With a strong team of colleagues, she increased public programs and fellowships to support individual artists across disciplines; positioned the Alliance as a steadfast advocacy partner in the field, seeking increased public funding for arts and culture and more equitable arts policies; and expanded support for the Alliance through increased government relations and partnerships with Asian American and arts organizations throughout the five boroughs. Anjali Goyal, who has served as Development Manager at the Alliance, will serve as Acting Executive Director.

“We thank Andrea for her years of service and thoughtful leadership in guiding the Alliance as a creative force and in its social impact. Many in the field have recognized Andrea’s unwavering commitment to civic engagement. The community has benefited from her many contributions,” said Athena Robles, president of the board. The Alliance board is conducting an executive director search, and the job description may be found here.

The Alliance board invites the community to celebrate Louie’s tenure with the Alliance at the next Town Hall, which will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 22, at 384 Broadway community art space. You may RSVP to attend here.

Asian American Arts Alliance is dedicated to strengthening Asian American arts and cultural groups through resource sharing, promotion, and community building. Since 1983, the Alliance has sought to unify, promote and represent the artistic and cultural producers of one of New York City’s fastest-growing ethnic populations. The organization is a diverse alliance of artists, organizations, and arts supporters who believe that working together as a pan­ethnic, multidisciplinary community is essential to nurturing the development of artists and arts organizations and to providing meaningful and innovative ways for civic engagement in society. www.aaartsalliance.org.

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Telly Leung, Ali Ewoldt, Rika Nishikawa, Kelvin Moon Loh, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Belinda Allyn, Sam Tanabe, YoonJeong Seong, Hansel Tan, Kai Rivera and More Set for Pan Asian Lunar New Year Celebration at the P.S. 87 – William T. Sherman School on February 9

LAINIE SAKAKURA
LAINIE SAKAKURA

Lainie Sakakura will usher in the Year of the Dog with a Pan Asian Lunar New Year celebration at the P.S. 87 – William T. Sherman School ( 160 W. 78th Street) on Friday, February 9, 2018, with a little help from her Asian American Broadway friends including Telly Leung, starring in ALADDIN as Aladdin, Ali Ewoldt starring in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as Christine, Rika Nishikawa in THE LION KING as Young Nala, Kelvin Moon Loh in SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, Jason Garcia Ignacio (M BUTTERFLY), Belinda Allyn (ALLEGIANCE), Sam Tanabe (ALLEGIANCE), YoonJeong Seong (THE KING & I, Dallas Summer Musicals). Hansel Tan (PING PONG, The Public Theater) will be joined by his backup dancers Adam Rogers (AMERICAN IN PARIS) and Tommy Scrivens (ROMAN HOLIDAY), Kai Rivera (SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE NEXT GENERATION), Japanese Taiko Drumming by New York Taiko Aiko Kai, Chinese Lion Dance by Kwan’s Kung Fu, and students of UWSDance Lainie Sakakura, will round out the evening’s performances.

The evening, highlighting a variety of Pan Asian cultures is a labor of love for Sakakura and her P.S. 87 Culture & Community Committee co-chair, her husband Alex Sanchez – in bringing multicultural awareness and arts to a New York City public school through contemporary and cultural music, dance, and personal stories.

Alex Sanchez and Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang
Alex Sanchez and Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang

The production team included Musical Director/Pianist Tom Conroy and Percussionist/ Drummer Kory Grossman.

The 90 minute performance, which is free to the public, begins at 5:30pm and will be followed a community Asian themed potluck dinner.

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André De Shields, Murray Horwitz, Johmaalya Adelekan, Zurin Villanueva, Rheaume Crenshaw, David Samuel, Borris York Celebrate Opening of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ at NJPAC

Murray Horwitz, André De Shields, Zurin Villanueva, Borris York, Johmaalya Adelekan, Rheaume Crenshaw, David Samuel. Photo by Lia Chang

NJPAC and Crossroads Theatre Company celebrated the opening night performance of their encore production of Ain’t Misbehavin’, starring Johmaalya Adelekan as Armelia (Ragtime), Zurin Villanueva as Charlaine (Mean Girls and Shuffle Along), Rheaume Crenshaw as Nell (Groundhog Day), David Samuel as Ken (Ruined, Arena Stage), Borris York as Andre (Holiday Inn; Love Never Dies, U.S. tour), with musical direction from David Alan Bunn, in NJPAC’s Victoria Theatre on February 2, 2018.

Borris York, Zurin Villanueva, Rheaume Crenshaw, David Samuel, Johmaalya Adelekan, André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Borris York, Zurin Villanueva, Rheaume Crenshaw, David Samuel, Johmaalya Adelekan, André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Two-time Tony Award nominee and Emmy-winning actor André De Shields was an original cast member of Ain’t Misbehavin‘ when it opened on Broadway in 1978 and swept up a few Tonys, including best musical. De Shields returned to direct and choreograph this acclaimed production of the Fats Waller award-winning musical, which premiered during Crossroads Theatre Company’s 2011-2012 season. The show was conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horwitz.

Murray Horwitz and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Murray Horwitz and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

The creative team includes costume design by Deborah Caney, sound design by Joshua D. Reid, scenic and lighting design by Burke Wilmore, assistant choreographer Camille Moten and Production Stage Manager Brian Westmoreland.

Crossroads Board President Anthony P. Carter, Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones, III, Borris York, Zurin Villanueva, Rheaume Crenshaw, David Samuel, Johmaalya Adelekan, Director/Choreographer André De Shields, Co-creator Murray Horwitz and Musical Director David Alan Bunn. Photo by Lia Chang
Crossroads Board President Anthony P. Carter, Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones, III, Borris York, Zurin Villanueva, Rheaume Crenshaw, David Samuel, Johmaalya Adelekan, Director/Choreographer André De Shields, Co-creator Murray Horwitz and Musical Director David Alan Bunn. Photo by Lia Chang

The band includes Kenneth Crutchfield (drums), George Grier (bass), Irwin Hall (clarinet/tenor sax), Robert Stringer (trombone) and Donald Malloy (trumpet).

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The limited run ends on February 4, 2018. Crossroads is also currently On The Road! While Crossroads Theatre Company awaits Fall 2019 for the arrival of the state-of-the-art New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, the Company will take their productions on the road in New Jersey. After their stop at NJPAC, they will present the world premiere of the cutting-edge satire Back to the Real, by Pia Wilson, at Rutgers University on May 28.

Crossroads Theatre Company continues to lead the nation with its commitment to literary works that examine the African American experience so that it may be understood and appreciated by all people. When co-founders Ricardo Khan and L. Kenneth Richardson envisioned a space where, as actors, the two young men could work on substantive, non-stereotypical roles, little did they realize that their vision would grow into the major institution that it is today. Crossroads has filled an otherwise empty space on the cultural canvas of the country and the world, with a collective body of work that remains unparalleled by any other of culturally-specific theater in the nation by presenting over 50 world premieres. Crossroads forged its vision into reality through the development, production and touring of new works from throughout the African Diaspora where positive images of African American life, history and culture is celebrated. These honest theatrical portrayals helped move the consciousness of the nation forward. Crossroads continues to lead twenty-first century story-telling by building bridges of understanding and veracity between people of all backgrounds in this society and the world. Find out more at CrossroadsTheatreCompany.org.

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

Lia Chang. Photo by Lori Tan Chinn
Lia Chang. Photo by Lori Tan Chinn

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.

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