First Look: Sagan Chen, Viet Vo, Priyanka Arya Krishnan, Amy Chang, and Rachel Yong in The Hearth’s World Premiere of Kathy Ng’s HAPPY LIFE

The Hearth Theater Company is presenting the World Premiere of Happy Life by Kathy Ng (Clubbed Thumb’s Early Career Writers’ Group; New Georges affiliated artist), directed by Kat Yen (Leah Winkler’s Two Mile Hollow; Noah Diaz’ The Juniors) through August 6 at Walkerspace (46 Walker St, New York, NY 10013). Opening night is Tuesday, July 26.

Sagan Chen, Priyanka Ayra Krishnan, Amy Chang, Director Kat Yen, Viet Vo and Rachel Yong after the first preview of Kathy Ng’s HAPPY LIFE at Walkerspace in New York on July 22, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

The cast features Sagan Chen* (Pomegrenade at IRT), Viet Vo* (NY Times Critics’ Pick, Romeo & Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona & Brooklyn; In the Soundless Ave with New Light Theatre Project), Priyanka Arya Krishnan* (The Shadowlands at La MaMa; Bhangin’ It at La Jolla Playhouse/Lincoln Center), Amy Chang (Ace the Case with Susan Sarandon; Five Women at Hudson Guild Theater), and Rachel Yong (A Small Breach in Protocol at Big Rick’s at Vineyard Theater; Low Key Free with Labyrinth Theater).

Priyanka Arya Krishnan and Sagan Chen. Photo by Julia Weinberg

The creative team includes Original Music and Sound Design by UptownWorks (Daniela Hart, Noel Nichols & Bailey Trierweiler), Lighting Design by Evan C. Anderson (The Plot at Yale Rep; The Juniors at Colgate University), Costume Design by Alicia J. Austin (The Swindlers at Baltimore Center Stage; Testmatch at Yale Rep), and Scenic and Props Design by Lily Guerin (Seven Spots on the Sun at Yale Rep; Hotel Sonder at the Davenport Theatre) with Production Stage Manager Kyra Bowie.

*Appearing courtesy of the Actors’ Equity Association.

Priyanka Arya Krishnan and Amy Chang. Photo by Julia Weinberg

A woman leaving behind a lying life tries to move into her new apartment, but the two ghosts living underneath the floorboards will not allow it. A real estate agent discusses the intricacies of the Human Sperm Lottery over a naughty phone chat line. A hot-shot porn editor searches for her dead brother in tree branches and empty McChicken wrappers. Happy Life is a play about the domestic efficiency of stacking the living on top of the dead; about jargon and vomit and the bureaucracy of second chances. What oozes out, when there’s no more room?

Priyanka Arya Krishnan and Viet Vo. Photo by Julia Weinberg

Loosely inspired by the horrific events of the Hello Kitty murder, a violent abduction and killing of a nightclub hostess in Hong Kong, Happy Life employs magical realism to explore what happens after murder and if agency in the next life can set a new course for the living. The play, set in a Hong Kong apartment haunted by its previous tenants and previous deaths, grapples with the harsh realities of loneliness and those who exist on the fringe of society.

Amy Chang, Viet Vo. Photo by Julia Weinberg
Rachel Yong. Photo by Julia Weinberg
Sagan Chen. Photo by Julia Weinberg
Rachel Yong and Sagan Chen. Photo by Julia Weinberg

Remaining performances are on Tuesday, July 26 at 8pm, Wednesday, July 27 at 8pm, Thursday, July 28 at 8pm, Friday, July 29 at 8pm, Saturday, July 30 at 8pm, Sunday, July 31 at 2pm, Tuesday, August 2 at 8pm, Wednesday, August 3 at 8pm, Thursday, August 4 at 8pm, Friday August 5 at 8pm, and Saturday, August 6 at 8pm. Tickets ($10-$45) are available for advance purchase at www.thehearththeater.com. The performance will run 2 hours and 25 minutes with a 10 minute intermission.

Priyanka Arya Krishnan. Photo by Julia Weinberg
Amy Chang and Rachel Yong. Photo by Julia Weinberg

The Hearth nurtures and celebrates artists who are women, trans, nonbinary and people of underrepresented genders (playwrights, directors, actors, and designers) and develop plays that represent the complex and vast spectrum of womanhood. The Hearth produces plays that explore characters who pulse with emotional, intellectual, and psychological complexity. They seek to challenge stereotypes, advance and complicate the conversation about feminism, and expand perceptions of what it means to be a woman. They are committed to making room for the next generation of women artists in the landscape of the American theater. They’ve previously produced twice extended and once remounted Athena by Gracie Gardner at JACK, The Commons by Lily Akerman at 59E59 Theaters, For Annie by Beth Hyland at Lucid Body House, She Buried the Pistol by Lydia Blaisdell at WOW Festival at La Jolla Playhouse. Among many workshops and internal development we’ve hosted public readings of plays by Nissy Aya, Leila Teitelman, Lizzie Stern, and Rae Binstock. www.thehearththeater.com

Jason Ma, Viet Vo and Hyunmin Rhee. Photo by Lia Chang
Sagan Chen, Priyanka Krishnan, Amy Chang, Director Kat Yen, Viet Vo, Rachel Yong, Lia Chang after the first preview of Kathy Ng’s HAPPY LIFE at Walkerspace in New York on July 22, 2022. Photo by Ashley Ha.
Hyunmin Rhee and Viet Vo. Photo by Lia Chang
Hyunmin Rhee, Jason Ma, Ashley Ha, Viet Vo and Lia Chang. Photo by Amy Chang
Lia Chang

LIA CHANG is a Chinese-American actor, a multi-media content producer, an award-winning filmmaker, and a photo activist and documentarian, who lifts up and amplifies BIPOC communities and artists and the institutions that support them.

Lia moved to New York from her home in San Francisco when she was 17 years of age and made her stage debut as Liat in a national tour of South Pacific with Barbara Eden and Robert Goulet. She spent many years working extensively Off-Broadway, including Signature Theatre’s revival of Sam Shepard’s Chicago. Her film work includes Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon. The decades of being viewed by others through the narrow lens of “Asian actor” in the industry brought Lia to a turning point, and she picked up her camera, determined to create awareness by documenting the work and the lives of her BIPOC colleagues, resulting in the creation of thousands of photographs and pieces of video. Her photo archives are housed in the AAPI collection in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room under “Lia Chang Theater Portfolio collection,1989-2011” and in the “Lia Chang Photography Collection” in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library.

Lia’s awards include the 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award, the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media and the 2022 Prospect Muse Award. She is also an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate, a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age, a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media, and a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

More recently, Lia co-founded Bev’s Girl Films, which makes films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. She executive produced and starred in the indie films Hide and Seek (AA Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Best Actress Nomination), Rom-Com Gone Wrong, and When the World Was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative).

A retrospective of Lia’s photographs will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York later this year, documenting her BIPOC colleagues and contemporaries in the performing arts, which will include photos of Prospect Theater Company artists at work. www.liachang.com, www.liachangphotography.com

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