The Playwrights Realm is presenting the world premiere of Don Nguyen’s Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth, at The Duke on 42nd Street, 229 W 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036, through Saturday, March 24th. Opening night is March 7th.
The cast features Jon Hoche, Olivia Oguma, Jeffrey Omura, Dana Berger and Kaaron Briscoe. Jade King Carroll directs.
The Playwrights Realm (Katherine Kovner, Founding Artistic Director; Roberta Pereira, Producing Director) continues its 2017-2018 season this Spring with Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth, a quirky, philosophical, and tender comedy from Queens-based playwright Don Nguyen. Split between the perspectives of a lesbian couple trying to conceive, and their potential-sperm-donor/aerospace engineer friend, Nguyen’s characters are stretched to contemplate the unknowns of their future. Nguyen was part of The Playwrights Realm’s Writing Fellowship in the 2012-13 Season, and the organization is thrilled to welcome him back in this fresh capacity, pairing him with director Jade King Carroll, who will bring Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth to life in her Playwrights Realm debut.
Betsy (Kaaron Briscoe) and Shoshana (Dana Berger) are looking for a sperm donor to participate in this emotionally confusing and intimate process. They contact a friend from Betsy’s past, William (Jeffrey Omura), an aerospace engineer tasked with tracking Voyager 1 as it journeys to the edge of our solar system. The idea of being responsible for a fragile object millions of miles away is dizzying-but it turns out, so is being asked to create an individual, and to wait, uncertain as to whether it will even work at all. Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth finds mystery and depth by juxtaposing the microscopic intimacies of creating life against the vastness of space. The highly unpredictable journeys of space exploration and conception provoke a raw whirlwind of emotion for all.
Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth sets its own precedent at The Playwrights Realm: it’s their first production by a former fellow that did not originate in the program-another opportunity for the organization to help actualize Nguyen’s work and be a continued champion of his exciting career. Nguyen’s play features characters brought forward in time from another of his works: William and Betsy’s high school friendship is explored in his earlier play The Commencement of William Tan (which premiered at Yale Cabaret in 2015). As he did with that work, about an Asian American high schooler in Nebraska in the ’80s (Nguyen was born in Vietnam, and moved to Nebraska with his family as refugees of the Vietnam War when he was three), Nguyen likewise laces Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth with questions from his own life. Nguyen was himself presented with the very adult experience of being asked by two friends to be a sperm donor, and he decided to evolve these characters along with him to get a more lucid understanding of his own situation -tracking their lives as career and family threaten to become mutually exclusive, as idealism starts giving way to realism. “I had to take stock of my entire life and ask myself questions I didn’t think I was ready to ask. What I found is artificial insemination is not an easy thing-there are complications involved that you really have to discuss,” says Nguyen.
From childhood to adulthood, Nguyen has consistently been a “space geek.” When he was young, he kept a scrapbook documenting the journeys of every Space Shuttle, until the explosion of the Challenger-then took to more fictional versions of space travel with Star Wars and Star Trek obsessions. Referencing the backdrop of space here, Nguyen adds, “I always like to take two disparate ideas and find connections between them – a lot of my plays are like that. I like the challenge of it. So the play became about surrogacy and space.”
Nguyen has channeled the sense of wonder children affiliate with space travel into this play, in a manner that’s sneakily philosophical, by setting it a few years back, when the Voyager I was on the cusp of reaching interstellar space. Nguyen wrote his character William as the person in charge of the spacecraft’s tracking software, which essentially gives Voyager 1 a “heartbeat,” evocative of an ultrasound, proving to people back on earth that this isolated object in the dark is still alive. Says Nguyen, “It’s fascinating to think of humans in 1977, when the Voyager I was launched, visualizing how, 40 years later, their space probe could survive and send back this signal.”
The creative team includes Kimie Nishikawa (Set Designer), Nicole Pearce (Lighting Designer), Elisheba Ittoop (Sound Designer), and Ari Fulton (Costume Designer). Kara Kaufman is Production Stage Manager, and Lily Perlmutter is Assistant Stage Manager.
Previews remaining: March 5 & 6 at 8pm
Opening: March 7 at 7:30pm
Performances: March 8 – 10, 12 – 17, 19 – 24 at 7:30pm
Click here for more information and tickets.
Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth will run from February 24 to March 24 (see above schedule) at The Duke on 42nd Street (229 W 42nd Street, Manhattan). General tickets will be priced at $30-$60; tickets for students with valid ID are $15, and group tickets are $25 per seat for groups of six or more. To purchase, please visit http://dukeon42.org/ or call 646-223-3010. For more details, please visit playwrightsrealm.org.
Don Nguyen’s full length plays include: Sound (Azeotrope/ACT Seattle), Red Flamboyant (Firebone Theatre Company), The Commencement of William Tan (Yale Cabaret), The Man From Saigon (ACT New Strands Festival), The Supreme Leader (Roundabout Underground Reading Series). Don is the recipient of the 2015 GAP Prize from the Aurora Theatre, a New York Stage & Film Founder’s award and has been a finalist for The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, The Princess Grace Award, and The Woodward International Playwriting Prize. Don is a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, an alumni of the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group and The Civilians R&D Group, and a co-founder of Mission to (dit)Mars, a Queens based theatre arts collective. More info at: thenuge.com
The daughter of the trumpeter and composer Baikida Carroll, Jade King Carroll accompanied her father to the Public Theater in Manhattan as a child, where he scored Lois Elaine Griffith’s White Sirens at the request of Joseph Papp, and to the McCarter Theater in Princeton, N.J., where he wrote, with Emily Mann and Ntozake Shange, and scored the musical Betsey Brown. After graduating from SUNY-New Paltz, where she majored in theater directing, she moved to New York City and quickly won an internship with the Women’s Project. Since then, she has compiled credits with the McCarter, New Dramatists, Primary Stages, Playwrights Realm, 24 Hour Plays, and New Jersey Rep. In 2010, she served as artistic associate at Second Stage Theater. Jade recently directed Emily Mann’s Having Our Say at the Long Wharf Theatre, and will be directing the development of Running on Fire by Aurin Squire at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Conference prior to her work with BAPF.