Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer-Winning Drama DISGRACED Featuring Fajer Kaisi, Rachel Leslie, Ariel Shafir, Samip Raval and Ivy Vahanian Set to Tour Universities, High Schools in China, April 3-30

The most produced play in America in 2015-16, Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer-winning drama Disgraced will tour universities and high schools in China under the direction of Timothy Douglas from April 3 to 30, produced by Ping Pong Productions with grants from the Henry Luce Foundation and the U.S. Embassy in China as well as major support from Chinese hosts and other local partners.

Ayad Akhtar. Photo by Lia Chang
Ayad Akhtar. Photo by Lia Chang

The American cast will perform the play in English with projected Mandarin subtitles. The set and technical requirements of the performance have been changed to adapt to non-traditional performance settings such as classrooms and lecture halls on Chinese campuses.

Director Timothy Douglas with cast members Samip Raval, Rachel Leslie, Ivy Vahanian, Fajer Kaisi and Ariel Shafir. Photo courtesy of Timothy Douglas
Director Timothy Douglas with cast members Samip Raval, Rachel Leslie, Ivy Vahanian, Fajer Kaisi and Ariel Shafir. Photo courtesy of Timothy Douglas

In addition to the performances, specialists in US-Middle East Relations, American studies, Islamic studies and other experts will join the cast for post-performance panel discussions at each stop of the tour. The cast and director will lead students in acting workshops and close script-reading workshops of the text of Disgraced.

“The enthusiasm in China for this project has been overwhelming. People want to understand what has historically led America to this moment. Disgraced offers insight into complex and deeply fractious issues that our so-called ‘melting pot’ faces. Chinese academic institutions are profoundly interested in the discussions this play will raise. We easily could have extended the tour for three months to three times as many cities!” said tour executive producer, Ping Pong Productions founder Alison M. Friedman.

Cities include Beijing, Xiangtan (Hunan Province), Xi’an (Shaanxi Province), Nanjing (Jiangsu Province) and Shanghai. Schools include: Beijing No. 4 High School, Peking University, Tsinghua University, Hunan University of Science and Technology, Nanjing University, Xi’an International Studies University, Xi’an International University, Jiaotong University, Shanghai No. 3 Girls High School, Shanghai American School, YK Pao School, and other academic and cultural centers.

Disgraced is the story of a Pakistani-American lawyer living the American dream – an Upper East Side apartment, expensive suits, happy marriage, and the promise of becoming partner at his law firm. He and his wife, a Caucasian artist, invite his African American colleague and her Jewish husband for a dinner party. The heated discussion that erupts reveals hidden aspirations, fractured views on cultural assimilation, and the lies we tell ourselves and those we love to “fit into” the American Dream. Disgraced won the 2013 Obie Award for Extraordinary Achievement and was nominated for the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.

Ayad Akhtar is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, actor, and novelist. His plays The Invisible Hand and The Who and the What have both enjoyed successful runs off-Broadway and are currently being produced at theaters across the U.S. His 2012 novel American Dervish has been translated into more than 20 languages and was named the 2012 Best Book of the Year by numerous North American reviews.

The touring company comprises director Timothy Douglas (Associate Artist for Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), and cast members Fajer Kaisi (“Law and Order,” “30 Rock,” “Nurse Jackie”), Rachel Leslie (Seven Guitars, All The Way, The Crucible), Ariel Shafir (“Orange is the New Black,” “30 Rock,” “Law & Order”), and Samip Raval and Ivy Vahanian who both performed in Timothy Douglas’ 2016 production of Disgraced at Arena Stage in Washington D.C.

For more information about the Disgraced tour and cast members, visit the Ping Pong Productions website.

Ping Pong Productions (Producer) is a cultural exchange organization whose mission is to bring China and the world together through the performing arts. PPP toured the first two American theater companies ever to perform at China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, including Oscar-winner Tim Robbins and his Los Angeles-based theatre troupe The Actors’ Gang. With offices in China and the U.S., PPP brings dance, theatre, and music groups to China and Chinese groups abroad. Using the arts as a bridge to deepen mutual understanding, PPP has brought more than 600 performances, workshops, discussions, and residencies to audiences, students, corporate events, and communities in more than 50 countries on five continents, including Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Sydney Opera House, and Edinburgh International Festival. PPP runs a pioneering education program, bringing performances and workshops by American and other International Artists to schools and universities in more than 20 Chinese cities. PPP now is developing a mirror program to bring Chinese performers to schools, colleges, and community centers across the U.S. Visit www.pingpongarts.org for more.

Timothy Douglas (Director) previously directed King Hedley II at Arena Stage. D.C.-area credits include Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), Two Trains Running, The Trip to BountifulPermanent Collection and A Lesson Before Dying (Round House Theatre); Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea (2016 Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Director) and Insurrection: Holding History (Theater Alliance) ; The Last Orbit of Billy Mars (Woolly Mammoth); and Much Ado About Nothing (Folger Theatre) . Additional credits include The Lake Effect (Silk Road Rising), Off-Broadway ‘s Bronte: A Portrait of Charlotte and the world premiere of August Wilson’s Radio Golf (Yale Repertory Theatre) . Timothy is an associate artist at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and has directed more than 100 projects for American Conservatory Theater, Guthrie Theater , Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Center Theatre Group, South Coast Repertory, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, New Zealand ‘s Downstage Theatre and Norway’s National Theatre. He has served on the faculties of the University of Southern California, University of North Carolina, Emerson College, ACT and New Zealand Drama School.

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


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