Mar. 29 – Apr. 16: THEATER MU Presents World Premiere of Katie Ka Vang and Melissa Li’s AGAIN Featuring Dexieng “Dae” Yang, Melody Herr, Pagnia Xiong, and Aaron Komo at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis

Theater Mu is presenting the world premiere of Hmong American playwright and theater artist Katie Ka Vang and Melissa Li’s musical, Again. Weaving together unlikely friendships, complex family dynamics, and original songs, Again runs Mar 31-Apr 16 at Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S 4th St, Minneapolis, MN 55454 (previews Mar 29 & 30). Nana Dakin, who directed Again’s public reading in 2022, will also be helming its mainstage debut.

TICKET INFORMATION: Pay As You Are pricing asks those who routinely pay $45 for theater tickets to pay that amount—it’s the market value—but if an audience member needs to pay less, they can choose to do so, as low as $10. Tickets and more information are available at (651) 789-1012 or theatermu.org.

Pagnia Xiong, Aaron Komo, Dexieng “Dae” Yang and Melody Herr. Photo by RIch Ryan Photography

The cast includes Dexieng “Dae” Yang as Mai See (Man of God, 2022); Melody Herr as Quest; internationally recognized singer Pagnia Xiong as Shia, Mai See’s sister; and Aaron Komo as ensemble roles (Blended 和 [Harmony]: The Kim Loo Sisters musical reading, 2023). Understudies include Kristi Moua (Shia), Havy Nguyen (Mai See/Quest), and Matt Swanson (Doc/Broc).

When cancer survivor Mai See, a successful memoirist who can’t seem to get her life together, meets Quest, an aspiring filmmaker who is battling chronic cancer herself. Inspired by Mai See’s work, Quest asks her to star in her documentary. Although Mai See reluctantly agrees, they’re both thrown for a loop when Mai See discovers she has relapsed.

“I want to tell a story that highlights the nuances most folks wouldn’t normally see when dealing with cancer,” says Vang, who also created plays such as WTF, which made its world premiere at Mu in 2011. She adds, “As someone who survived cancer, it was also important for me to have moments of levity and magic.”

While the tagline for this irreverent and heartfelt show is “a musical about what to do when sh*t happens,” Li refers to it as a musical about discovering what in life is worth keeping and what is worth letting go. “Katie has created a beautiful show that’s heartfelt and funny, with characters who are imperfect and relatable, so my approach as a songwriter was to lean into the pop/rock musical style, where we can dig into the angst but also the joy of each moment,” she says.

The duo has been together since 2020, but Vang technically began working on the story in 2017, when Mu accepted her play pitch about an all-female band and commissioned it with help from the Jerome Foundation. As Vang began working on the initial script, though, she kept hitting writer’s block until a friend’s musical reading made her think that music could convey the nuances she was struggling to articulate. Vang connected with Li through Mu, and the two of them began their collaboration from Minnesota and New York, respectively, evolving and settling into their creative roles.

In the end, Again’s book and additional lyrics are by Vang, and music and lyrics are by Li. Like all good partnerships, though, their efforts have intertwined to become something greater than a sum of its parts.

“Whether we’ve experienced cancer ourselves or cared for a loved one, most of us can connect with Again’s humor and heartbreak,” says Mu artistic director Lily Tung Crystal. “When Mu held Again’s first public reading at our New Eyes Festival last spring, the musical brought the audience to tears and impacted them in astonishing ways, and it’s particularly exciting that Again’s three leads are all played by Hmong American women. We at Mu are proud to produce Again as part of our 30th anniversary season and believe it will be a special, even revolutionary, theatrical event.”

Katie Ka Vang

KATIE KA VANG (she/her) is a Hmong American playwright and theater artist. Her work explores the complexity of cultures/ communities, dis-ease, and diaspora. Her work includes WTF, Hmong Bollywood, 5:1 Meaning of Freedom; 6:2 Use of Sharpening, Fast FWD Motions, In Quarantine, Final Round, and Spirit Trust. Her work has been developed and presented at Pangea World Theater, Pillsbury House Theatre, Theater Mu, Leviathan Lab, Bushwick Starr, Brown University, the Royal Court Theatre (London), the Walker Art Center, Out North Art House, and more. She has received support from the Jerome Foundation, NET, Knight Foundation, NPN, MRAC, MSAB, and Coalition of Asian American Leaders. She was selected to be a member of East West Players 2021/22 playwright’s group in Los Angeles, California. She is the 2022/23 McKnight fellow at the Playwrights Center and was a 2020/21 Many Voices fellow at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis. She’s currently working on a new community-based play commissioned by Civic Ensemble. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Brown University.

Melissa Li

MELISSA LI (she/her) is a composer, lyricist, performer, and writer based in NYC and Montreal. She is a recipient of the 2023 ASCAP Harold Adamson lyric award, 2021 Kleban prize, Jonathan Larson award, a Dramatists Guild Foundation fellow, a Lincoln Center Theater writer-in-residence, a 2019 Musical Theatre Factory MAKER, a MacDowell fellow, a Company One Pao arts fellow, and a former Queer|Art|Mentorship Fellow. Selected works include Interstate (NAMT, NYMF winner for outstanding lyrics), MISS STEP (5th Avenue Theatre commission), Cancelled (Keen Company), May Day (NewYorkRep), and Surviving the Nian (the Theater Offensive, IRNE award winner for best new play in 2007). Her works have received support from 5th Avenue Theatre, the Village Theater, Playwrights Horizons, MCC, Musical Theater Factory, Keen Company, OSF, Weston Playhouse, CompanyOne Theatre, among others. In addition to working in theater and film, Melissa has released music solo and collaboratively, including 2 Seconds Away, Drive Away Home (as Good Asian Drivers), and The Beginning (as Melissa Li & The Barely Theirs).

Nana Dakin

NANA DAKIN (she/her) is a queer Thai American director of new work, classics, and devised performance based in New York City. Her work pursues social equity by examining the way culture is constructed and unsettling dormant biases. She is a core member of B-Floor Theatre, Thailand’s most highly awarded theatre company, and of Superhero Clubhouse, a company that creates theater to enact climate and environmental justice. Recent: Mammelephant (Superhero Clubhouse/122CC), Lost Coast (the Playwrights Realm INK’D Festival), Passage (University of North Carolina School of the Arts), Sorry/Not Sorry (Ars Nova Digital ANT Fest), Sunwatcher (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Global Forms Festival, Ancram Opera House Play Lab, Civilians FINDINGS Series), Love Letter to a Seed (Clubbed Thumb Winterworks), White Pearl (Royal Court Theatre), and an all-woman and nonbinary production of Shakespeare’s Richard III (Lenfest Center for the Arts). She has developed new work at Atlantic Theater Company, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Theater Mu, New York Theatre Workshop, the Song Collective, the Tank, and more. Nana is also the board president of the Thai Theatre Foundation. MFA theatre directing: Columbia University. | nanadakin.com

TICKET INFORMATION: Pay As You Are pricing asks those who routinely pay $45 for theater tickets to pay that amount—it’s the market value—but if an audience member needs to pay less, they can choose to do so, as low as $10. Tickets and more information are available at (651) 789-1012 or theatermu.org.

COVID-19 POLICY: Masks, preferably KN95s or N95s, are required at all Sunday performances. Mu recommends guests wear masks while attending any show, however, and the staff encourages those who feel unwell to stay at home. (Guests can reschedule their tickets within 48 hours of the performance.) Any policy updates will be communicated on Mu’s COVID-19 web page.

THEATER MU (pronounced MOO) is the largest Asian American theater company in the Midwest. Founded in 1992, Mu tells stories from the heart of the Asian American experience, presenting a fusion of traditional and contemporary artistic influences, which range from classics to up-and-coming voices in our community. Theater Mu’s continuing goal to celebrate and empower the Asian American community through theater is achieved through mainstage productions, emerging artist support, and educational outreach programs. Theater Mu is a member of the Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists as well as a member of the Twin Cities Theatres of Color Coalition, proudly standing alongside New Native Theatre, Pangea World Theater, Penumbra Theatre, and Teatro Del Pueblo. theatermu.org

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