Sonnie Brown, Sasha Diamond, David Lee Huynh, Teresa Avia Lim, Jon Norman Schneider, David Shih, Jillian Sun and Sami Ma Set for Ma-Yi Theater Company’s World Premiere of Daniel K. Isaac’s ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, August 23-September 18

Ma-Yi Theater Company is presenting the world premiere of Daniel K. Isaac’s ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME. Directed by Obie-winner Ralph B. Peña, Isaac’s epic new play, which marks his playwriting debut, mixes traditional Korean fables with the horrors of the Korean War. ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME runs August 23-September 18, 2022, at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre (74 East 4th Street, Manhattan) with a press opening set for Wednesday, August 31. Tickets are $45 and are now on sale at

Daniel K. Isaac. Photo by Ralph B. Peña

ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME is a funny and deeply moving analog for the experiences of the Korean American diaspora. Isaac deftly moves his characters through time, tracing the legacies of trauma that are passed from one generation to the next, and the various coping mechanisms each one uses to soldier on.

“With ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME, I set out to write something unapologetically epic and explosively theatrical…aka expensive,” says playwright Daniel K. Isaac. “Frankly, I was tired of being expected to write small cast plays with single settings. Affordable and producible – I hated these limitations. I’m so thankful that Ralph and Ma-Yi have signed on and not backed down from this challenge. How fitting it is to have my world premiere of this play and as a playwright with a company that has a legacy in championing Asian American voices and centering the marginalized, making the seemingly impossible possible.”

“To put it plainly, ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME is insane,” says director Ralph B. Peña. “I’ve spent the better part of two years trying to figure out how to stage it, and I still don’t know exactly what to do. While it’s not the first impossible play that Ma-Yi has produced – I thinking about Sung Rno’s wAve, Lloyd Suh’s Wong Kids, and Hansol Jung’s Among the Dead, which were equally challenging. It’s notable how all of these were written by Korean American Playwrights. ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME further cements Ma-Yi Theater’s commitment to producing work that challenges both artists and audiences against ideas of what Asian American theater should be about.”

The cast for ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME includes Sonnie Brown, Sasha Diamond, David Lee Huynh, Teresa Avia Lim, Jon Norman Schneider, David Shih, and Jillian Sun with Daniel K. Isaac and Sami Ma serving as understudies.

The creative team for ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME includes Se Oh (scenic design), Phuong Nguyen (costume design), Oliver Wason (lighting design), Yee Eun Nam (projection design), Fabian Obispo (sound design), Alexander Wylie (props design), and AK Howard (production stage manager).

Twenty-eight performances of ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME will take place August 23-September 18, 2022, at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, located at 74 East 4th Street in Manhattan. Critics are welcome as of Saturday, August 27, for a press opening on Wednesday, August 31. Performances take place Tuesday-Sunday at 7pm with additional 1pm performances on Saturdays. The closing performance on September 18 will take place at 1pm. Tickets, starting at $45, are currently on sale at

Ma-Yi Theater Company is hosting two 99¢ performances of ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME for seniors, students, low income folks, and artists! Click here for tickets.

Ma-Yi Theater Company cares about the safety of its audiences, staff, and performers. Prior to entry, Ma-Yi will require proof of full vaccination. Masks will be required during the entire performance of ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME.

Since its founding in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company has distinguished itself as one of the country’s leading incubators of new work shaping the national discourse about what it means to be Asian American today. Please visit for more information.

Daniel K. Isaac
Daniel K. Isaac (Playwright) is an alumnus of SPACE on Ryder Farm, Page73’s Interstate 73, Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Youngblood, and a Lambda Literary Playwriting Fellow. As an actor, Isaac’s credits include The Chinese Lady (Ma-Yi/The Public/Barrington Stage), You Never Touched the Dirt (Clubbed Thumb), The Gentleman Caller (Abingdon), Sagittarius Ponderosa (NAATCO), Underland (59E59), La Divina Caricatura (La MaMa & St. Ann’s Warehouse), Anna Nicole the Opera (BAM). Regional: The Ballad of Little Jo (Two River), Miss Electricity (La Jolla Playhouse). Film/TV: Six seasons as ‘Ben Kim’ on “Billions” (Showtime); The Drummer (opposite Danny Glover); “The Expecting” (Quibi); “The Deuce;” “Crashing;” Too Big To Fail (HBO); Money Monster (dir. Jodie Foster); “The Jim Gaffigan Show” (TV LAND); “Person of Interest” (CBS); and ‘Jeremy’ on “The Other Two” (Comedy Central). Training: USCD, BADA.

Ralph B. Peña
Ralph B. Peña (Director) is the Producing Artistic Director of Ma-Yi Theater Company in New York. Recent directing projects include The Chinese Lady, Felix Starro, Among The Dead, ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME, and the short film Vancouver. His work has been seen on the stages of The Public Theater, Long Wharf Theater, Ensemble Studio Theater, Victory Gardens, La Jolla Playhouse, Laguna Playhouse, and The Children’s Theater Company, among others. He is the recipient of an Obie Award for his work on The Romance of Magno Rubio.

Sonnie Brown
Sonnie Brown was last seen in Ensemble Studio Theatre’s production of “what you are now,” for which she was nominated for a Drama Desk award. She can be seen in the upcoming Netflix show “Partner Track,” among many other tv shows. She’s excited to be working with Ma-Yi Theater Company and immediately after with the new Civilians Theater show.

Sasha Diamond
Sasha Diamond. Broadway: Significant Other. Select Off-Broadway: Teenage Dick (Ma-Yi & The Public), Bobbie Clearly (Roundabout), Kentucky (EST), The Wong Kids (Ma-Yi). Select Regional: A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Long Wharf), peerless (Barrington Stage Company). Select TV: “Bull” (CBS), “New Amsterdam” (NBC), “NCIS: New Orleans” (CBS), “Magnum: PI” (CBS), “Tommy” (CBS).

David Lee Huynh
David Lee Huynh was most recently seen in The Merchant of Venice at Theatre for a New Audience. Other credits include NAATCO, Gingold Theatrical Group, Transport Group, Target Margin Theatre, Pan Asian Rep, and others. TV/Film: Blue Bloods, FBI, Solitary, and Children of the Dust. Founding member of The Sống Collective. MFA: University of Houston Professional Actor Training Program

Teresa Avia Lim
Teresa Avia Lim. Broadway: Ayad Akhtar’s JUNK at Lincoln Center. Other works: Shakespeare in the Park’s Taming of the Shrew, NAATCO’S Awake and Sing, Macbeth, and Call and Response with the Mobile Shakespeare Unit at The Public Theater. Teresa originated her roles in Peerless, Water by the Spoonful, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, and Concerning Strange Devices From the Distant West. TV: MONSTERLAND (Hulu), THE CODE (CBS), RAY DONOVAN (Showtime), and more. Film: DISPATCHED, TAKE ME WITH YOU, ALL RISE. She is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and an inaugural Recipient of the Jerome L. Greene Foundation Scholarship.

Sami Ma
Sami Ma is a queer, first-generation daughter of Chinese immigrants enjoying the messy terrain between her traditional Chinese culture and her American upbringing. Theatre credits: The Chinese Lady (Adirondack Theatre Festival), The Great Leap (Portland Center Stage), Vietgone (American Stage), Gloria (Hatch Arts Collective), and F.O.B. (The Drama League). TV/Film credits: Tender Ears, Death Saved My Life, Where the Light Enters, and All Hail Beth.

Jon Norman Schneider
Jon Norman Schneider is a New York based actor. Select stage and screen credits include The Chinese Lady (The Public), Awake and Sing! (NAATCO/The Public), The Oldest Boy (LCT), Every Brilliant Thing (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Vietgone (Alley), King Lear (Northern Stage), Bitter Melon, The Normals, HBO’s Angel Rodriguez, “The Endgame,” “Jessica Jones,” and “Veep,” among others.

David Shih
David Shih. Theater: KPOP and Bike America (Ma-Yi), Kim’s Convenience (Westport Country Playhouse), The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin (Indiana Rep), Gnit (TFANA), Henry VI and Awake and Sing! (NAATCO). TV: “Hunters,” “Billions,” “City on a Hill,” “Iron Fist,” “The Path.” Film: Eighth Grade, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Saving Face.

Jillian Sun
Jillian Sun is a Brooklyn-based actor, theatre artist, and recent graduate of NYU Tisch and the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. Theatre: I LOVE MY FAMILY (Ma-Yi & 2g), The Great Hunger (The Tank), Playdate (Dixon Place), Intuitive Men (Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Brick). Podcast: Childish (Whale Bus).

About Ma-Yi Theater Company
Founded in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company is a Drama Desk, Lortel, and Obie Award-winning, Off-Broadway not-for-profit organization whose primary mission is to develop and produce new and innovative plays by Asian American writers.

Its numerous acclaimed productions include Mike Lew’s Teenage Dick and Bike America, Qui Nguyen’s The Inexplicable Redemption of Agent G and Soul Samurai (with Vampire Cowboys), and Hansol Jung’s Among The Dead. Other productions include: Rescue Me by Michi Barall, Lloyd Suh’s The Chinese Lady, and Lonnie Carter’s The Romance of Magno Rubio.

The Ma-Yi Writers Lab, a signature program founded in 2004, is the largest resident company of Asian-American Playwrights ever assembled. The Lab emboldens a new generation of Asian American artists to voice their experiences while developing a steady stream of quality new works by Asian American Playwrights for Ma-Yi’s own performing repertory. New works developed at the Writers Lab have gone on to successful productions around the country, at such theaters as Victory Gardens, Laguna Playhouse, Long Wharf Theater, Woolly Mammoth, and the Actors Theater of Louisville, to name a few.

Ma-Yi’s productions have earned 10 Obie Awards, 5 Henry Hewes Award nominations, a Drama Desk nomination for Best Play, and the Special Drama Desk Award for “more than two decades of excellence and for nurturing Asian-American voices in stylistically varied and engaging theater.”

Ma-Yi Theater is under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Ralph B. Peña.

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