Jaclyn Backhaus, Samantha Chanse, Mia Chung, Naomi Iizuka, and Anna Moench Receive NAATCO Commissions for OUT OF TIME

NAATCO has commissioned five Asian American Playwrights, all women, to write monologues for characters no younger than 60-years-old. Each monologue will be at least 30 minutes long, and all five will be performed together as a piece entitled Out of Time. The playwrights, Asian American women, are Jaclyn Backhaus, Samantha Chanse, Mia Chung, Naomi Iizuka, and Anna Moench.

The idea was conceived and will be directed by Les Waters for NAATCO. NAATCO will develop the monologues during this time of lockdown, with the goal of having them ready for live performance as soon as theatres re-open. Waters, who proposed the project, was inspired by Mitten wir im Leben sind/Bach6Cellosuiten, a dance piece by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker that featured solos by older dancers: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make a piece for older actors saying wonderful words and one wonderful actor following another, saying more wonderful things. Actors have all this experience and are up against the limitations of memory. How cruel it is. And how magnificent it is. And how underused older actors are.”

NAATCO Associate Producer Peter Kim and Artistic Director Mia Katigbak. Photo by Lia Chang
NAATCO Associate Producer Peter Kim and Artistic Director Mia Katigbak. Photo by Lia Chang

Katigbak, who began work in 2017 on a project she calls “Successful Aging for Asian American Theatre Artists,” agreed: “The pandemic’s imposition of isolation, an affliction generally thought to more devastatingly affect the elderly, was suddenly familiar to the population at large. The eruption of civil unrest brought about protests against racism, police brutality, and white supremacy. The accrual of these turbulent discontents has altered the state of our world.”

Les Waters is an Obie Award winning director. Most recently, he directed The Thin Place (Playwrights Horizons) and Dana H. (Vineyard Theatre), for which he recently won the Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Direction. He made his Broadway debut with In the Next Room, or the vibrator play. As Artistic Director of Actors Theatre of Louisville (2012-2018), he directed The Thin Place, Evocation to Visible Appearance, Little Bunny Foo Foo, Recent Alien Abductions, Macbeth, For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday, The Glory of the World, Luna Gale, At the Vanishing Point, The Christians, Our Town, Gnit, Girlfriends, Long Day’s Journey into Night, and Big Love. Prior to that, he served as Associate Artistic Director at Berkeley Rep. In New York his productions have been seen at Playwrights Horizons, Signature Theatre Company, The Public Theater, Second Stage Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Connelly Theater, Clubbed Thumb, Soho Rep, and Brooklyn Academy of Music; regionally at theaters such as Arena Stage, Huntington Theatre Company, Mark Taper Forum, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, and American Repertory Theater. He led the MFA directing program at University of California, San Diego from 1995-2003.

Jaclyn Backhaus is a playwright and screenwriter. Her plays include Wives (Playwrights Horizons), India Pale Ale (recipient of the 2018 Horton Foote Prize, MTC), Thank You Letter (Theatre for One), Men on Boats (Playwrights Horizons, Clubbed Thumb), You on the Moors Now (Theater Reconstruction Ensemble), and the collaboratively written piece You Across From Me (Humana Festival). Backhaus was the 2016 Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence at Clubbed Thumb and is currently a resident playwright at Lincoln Center and New Dramatists. In addition to her writing work, she is a co-creative director of arts facilitation group Fresh Ground Pepper and a member of The Kilroys. Backhaus holds a BFA in Drama from NYU Tisch, where she now teaches playwriting. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, she now resides in Ridgewood, Queens with her husband, director Andrew Scoville, and their son Ernie.

Sam Chanse is the author of plays including Trigger; Monument, or Four Sisters (A Sloth Play); What you are now; The Opportunities of Extinction; and Fruiting Bodies. Her work has recently been developed with the Lark, Civilians, New York Stage and Film, Ars Nova, Ensemble Studio Theater/Sloan Project, Magic Theatre, Ma-Yi, and 24 Hour Plays, and is published by Kaya Press (Lydia’s Funeral Video) and TCG (The Kilroys List). She is a resident playwright of New Dramatists, a Lark Venturous Fellow, a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and a participant in New York Stage and Film’s inaugural NYSAF NEXUS project. A past fellow at MacDowell, Cherry Lane, Sundance Theatre Institute, and Playwrights Realm, she has also received residencies and commissions from Djerassi, Hermitage, OPC, SPACE at Ryder Farm, and EST/Sloan. She is an alum of Ars Nova’s Play Group, The Civilians R&D Group, and the Lark’s NYSAF Vassar Retreat, and has taught at Columbia University, NYU, University of Rochester, and elsewhere. She is a member of Dramatist Guild and WGAE. She is currently based in Brooklyn.

Mia Chung’s Catch as Catch Can has been re-scheduled to premiere in Steppenwolf’s next on-stage season; Page 73 produced the world premiere (NYC, Fall 2018). Her play You for Me for You premiered at The Royal Court (London), the National Theatre Company of Korea (Seoul), and Woolly Mammoth Theatre (DC); and is published by Bloomsbury Methuen. Awards, commissions, fellowships, and residencies include: Clubbed Thumb, EST/Sloan, Frederick Loewe Award in Music-Theatre, Huntington Theatre, Ma-Yi Writers Lab, MTC/Sloan, NEA, NYTW, Playwrights’ Center, Playwrights Horizons, Playwrights Realm, South Coast Rep, SPACE at Ryder Farm, Stavis Award, TCG, and New Dramatists. She received a 2019 Helen Merrill Playwriting Award.

Naomi Iizuka’s plays include 36 Views, Polaroid Stories, Anon(ymous), Language of Angels, Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls, Tattoo Girl, Skin, At the Vanishing Point, Concerning Strange Devices From the Distant West, Last Firefly, Citizen 13559, (in collaboration with RipeTime), and What Happens Next (written in collaboration with USMC combat veterans and families). Her plays have been produced at theatres across the country including BAM’s Next Wave Festival, Berkeley Rep, the Goodman, Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, the Guthrie, Cornerstone, Children’s Theater Company, Seattle Children’s Theatre Company, the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, The Public Theater, and Campo Santo. Iizuka is an alumna of New Dramatists and the recipient of a PEN/Laura Pels Award, an Alpert Award, a Joyce Foundation Award, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Stavis Award from The National Theatre Conference, a PEN Center USA West Award for Drama, a Hodder Fellowship, and was Berlind Playwright-in-Residence at Princeton University. Her play Good Kids was commissioned by the Big Ten Consortium’s New Play Initiative and has been produced at universities nationwide. For television, she has written for “The Terror” on AMC and “Tokyo Vice” on HBO Max. Iizuka heads the MFA Playwriting program at the University of California, San Diego.

Anna Moench is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. Her plays have been produced at The Geffen Playhouse, the Playwrights Realm, East West Players, InterAct Theater, and many other theaters across the country and around the world. Anna is a 2020 Steinberg Award winner and the recipient of a Gerbode Special Award in the Arts commission for a new play that will be produced at Magic Theater in 2022. She has received fellowships from the New York Foundation of the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, and the Van Lier Foundation. In television and film, Anna has worked with Netflix, Apple TV+, HBO, UCP, eOne, PictureStart, and Universal. Anna lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Peter Kim is NAATCO’s associate producer. For the company he has produced Henry VI: Shakespeare‘s Trilogy in Two Parts (two Drama Desk nominations), Awake and Sing! (OBIE Award and Drama League Award nomination), [Veil Widow Conspiracy], Charles Francis Chan Jr.’s Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery and Sagittarius Ponderosa. He has acted in NAATCO’s Charles Francis Chan..., The Seagull, and He Who Says Yes/No, and on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional productions. He can currently be seen in the acclaimed, award-winning film, The Forty-Year-Old Version (Netflix). Other film/TV credits include: The God Committee (upcoming), Saturday Church (2017 Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award), The English Teacher, Margin Call, “Sex and the City,” “Hackers,” “After Forever” (Amazon), “Chicago Med,” “Louie,” “Mercy,” “Ugly Betty,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” He is a Steering Committee member of AAPAC (Asian American Performers Action Coalition); Lecturer in Theater at Princeton University; co-creator of the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway comedy, SIDES: The Fear is Real. He holds an MFA from Yale School of Drama and a BFA from New York University. He is a recipient of the Lilah Kan Red Socks Award.

NAATCO was founded in 1989 by Mia Katigbak and Richard Eng to assert the presence and significance of Asian American theatre in the United States, demonstrating its vital contributions to the fabric of American culture. NAATCO puts into service its total commitment to Asian American theatre artists to more accurately represent onstage the multi- and inter-cultural dynamics of our society. By doing so, they demonstrate a rich tapestry of cultural difference bound by the American experience. The enrichment accrues to each different culture as well as to America as a whole. NAATCO was the recipient of the Obies’ Ross Wetzsteon Award, the Lucille Lortel Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women for their work “highlighting the multi- and intercultural dynamics of our society” and the Rosetta LeNoire Award from Actors’ Equity Association in recognition of its contribution toward increasing diversity and non-traditional casting in American theatre. NAATCO was recently nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play, as well as Outstanding Costume Design for a Play for their acclaimed production of Henry VI: Shakespeare‘s Trilogy in Two Parts in 2018. Additionally, NAATCO founder and Artistic Producing Director Mia Katigbak was honored in 2019 by a Special Drama Desk Award: “the backbone of the Off-Broadway scene, we acclaim her for her performances this season in Henry VI: Shakespeare’s Trilogy in Two Parts, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, Peace for Mary Frances and Recent Alien Abductions. This award also recognizes her vital presence as the artistic director of NAATCO and her sustained excellence as a performer and mentor.” For more information about all of NAATCO’s programs, visit naatco.org.

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