Award-winning theatre artists David Henry Hwang and Bartlett Sher engaged in a conversation about the current state of American musical theatre, through the lens of Asian and Asian American representation on Broadway at the Asia Society in New York on February 5th.
The Lunar New Year discussion was framed in the context of two recent productions, David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s Soft Power and the Bartlett Sher helmed revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I. They discussed how Asian representation throughout the history of musical theatre informs our present understanding of the art form, race relations, the current state of representation on- and backstage on Broadway, and more. Hwang and Sher shared their distinctive approaches with a segue of how to improve upon the status quo.
The conversation was moderated by Karen Shimakawa, associate professor of performance studies at the Tisch School of Art, New York University.
Soft Power cast members Jaygee Macapugay, Alyse Alan Louis, Austin Ku and Daniel May, Hwang’s Soft Power collaborator Jeanine Tesori, Tina Chen, Jim Dale, Nadine Wong, Alberta Arthurs, consultant in Arts and Humanities and Jacqueline Davis ( Executive Director of NY Performing Arts Library) were among the audience members.
Center Theatre Group’s world premiere production of Soft Power recently received six LA Ovation Awards – Best Production of a Musical (Large Theatre), Alyse Alan Louis won for Lead Actress in a Musical, Anita Yavich for Costume Design (Large Theatre), David O for Music Direction, David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori for Lyrics/Composition of an Original Musical and David Henry Hwang for Book for an Original Musical.
Check out the video of their compelling and fascinating conversation below.
The cast includes, in alphabetical order, Billy Bustamante, Kara Guy, Jon Hoche, Kendyl Ito, Francis Jue, Austin Ku, Raymond J. Lee, Alyse Alan Louis, Jaygee Macapugay, Daniel May, Paul HeeSang Miller, Kristen Faith Oei, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Geena Quintos, Conrad Ricamora, Trevor Salter and Emily Stillings.
A contemporary comedy explodes into a musical fantasia in the first collaboration between two of America’s great theatre artists: Tony Award winners David Henry Hwang (“M. Butterfly”) and Jeanine Tesori (“Fun Home”). “Soft Power” rewinds our recent political history and plays it back, a century later, through the Chinese lens of a future, beloved East-meets-West musical. In the musical, a Chinese executive who is visiting America finds himself falling in love with a good-hearted U.S. leader – Hillary Clinton – as the power balance between their two countries shifts following the 2016 election.
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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