Wednesday, July 25, 2012

After the Nightingale... Whats the Next Step?

First of all, THANKYOU to everyone who attended the panel discussion last Sunday.  I was honored by the company I kept with AAPAC's Christine Toy Johnson, and Cindy Cheung, as well as my more local allies Seema Sueko, Lee Ann Kim, Bennet Peji, Greg Watanabe and Larry Baza.  And despite the LA times reporting attendance of only 150, I cannot express the feeling of seeing the 400+ seat Potiker Theatre filled to capacity.  I saw many old friends from throughout our national community, make a real impact just through their presence!  I also thank the artists who have been involved in the Nightingale who reached out to me privately and personally!  I cannot fathom the difficult position you have been placed in!

All that said, if you missed the panel, you may view it here:
I also encourage you to seek out some wonderful responses such as Jennifer Chang's Here:
or this passionate spoken word video here:

Its been interesting to watch everything unfold.  Many people are watching the video of the panel and reacting for the first time.  New posts, new blogs, new letters are being generated each day.  The thing I keep thinking is, there is potential momentum to be gained here.  Yes we're all angry, with new people getting angry each day.   So how can we channel this anger towards something actionable... and I dont mean just in regards to La Jolla Playhouse or the Nightingale itself.  The fact is that this instance is a symptom of a larger issue.  Our culture and society has perpetuated a perception that enabled some individuals to make an erroneous choice, without a thought for the real impact of this choice. 

At the heart of this all, I keep feeling that there is a flaw in our society's constructed perceptions, that allowed his production to develop over 10 years without being  questioned until it came to La Jolla.  I feel this flaw is  the same that has allowed the film industry to Erase asian americans from lead roles in films like 21, the Last Airbender, Dragon Ball Z, Akira, and many more.  It is the same flaw that allowed the US Government to go 40 years before making reparations for Japanese Internment. It is the same flaw that led to the death of Vincent Chin.  It is the same flaw that had Scientist Wen Ho Lee wrongfully on trial for espionage.  It is the same flaw that lies at the heart of  the suicides of Private Danny Chen, and Lance Corporal Harry Lew, and the thousands of other Asian Americans who have been reported to be the most bullied of all ethnic groups (according to AAPI Nexus).   Our culture characteristically dismisses Asians and Asian Americans. But with this public apology, a NEW PRECENDENT HAS BEEN SET!

Now it is to US to build upon that public acceptance of responsibility, so that we as a national community can build a foundation to incite action!
So I ask, what can we do, as a community with reinvigorated purpose, that can affect real change?  Is it something that we can propose to the La Jolla Playhouse? is it something we propose to the Theatre Communications Group with help from the Consortium of Asian American Theatres & Artists?  Is it something that engages other resources, or mediums, like say the success of APIA entertainers on youtube, or support from elected officials, or other political action movements?

Lets think "Blue-Sky" (that is to say "without limitations") what are some actionable ideas that we can engage in to change the face of American Theatre, film, television that can have an impact on the social constructions of our culture.  Lets use this momentum that something truly positive, and groundbreaking can come of this.

Please share your ideas and impressions on this survey,

I will also be adding entered email addresses into a Google Group in order to continue our discussion!

Thanks, and feel free to pass this along!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Response to the Nightingale Casting Controversy at the La Jolla Playhouse

First of all, to get this out of the way, I have been an employee of the La Jolla Playhouse, off and on, in one regard or another for almost 16 years. This is an organization that has its facilities on the campus of UCSD, an institution with over 44% of its enrollment representing Asians and Asian Americans, despite having no Asian American Studies department or major.  As a theatre major I took great inspiration from my classes in Chicano theatre, that I took in lieu of the lack of classes that analyzed Asian American theatre.

So, as a result, my career began very young as I took it upon myself at age 19 to establish San Diego's Asian American Repertory Theatre where I served as Artistic Director for 10 years, all the while, moonlighting at the La Jolla Playhouse.  By night, I was a simple stagehand making slightly better than minimum wage while during the day, I was heavily involved with San Diego's APA Community, receiving a Mayoral commendation, and recognition as one of the "top 30 most influential Asian Americans under the age of 30."  With all this in mind, my relationship with the Playhouse, my standing in the local APA Community,  I am a little shocked to find myself in this current position I find hurtful and disappointing.

I must express my frustration and disappointment regarding the controversy over the casting choices of the La Jolla Playhouse's workshop production of "the Nightingale." To many of my colleagues in the Asian American community and Asian American artists, this represents a continuing trend for Asians and Asian Americans. It is hurtful not only because it exemplifies the decrease of opportunities for Asian American Artists as portrayed in the Asian American Performers Action Committee's "Ethnic Representation Report" (, but because it is indicative of the continuing trend of appropriation of cultural representation as often reported by organizations such as 

This is all particularly disappointing in light of the fact that La Jolla Playhouse has held a legacy of featuring more Asian Pacific American work on San Diego stages than any other local producer other than San Diego's  Asian American Repertory Theater, having developed both "Dogeaters" and "Most Wanted" with Jessica Hagedorn, Chay Yew's "Wonderland", Diana Son's "Boy" and featured APIA actors such as Ching Valdez, Alec Mapa, Sandra Oh, Michi Barral, Sab Shimono, Zoe Chao and BD Wong. (Its not perfect, majority of this happened in the 90's.  And in the context of the long history of the theatre, these are small numbers, I realize, but in the grand scheme of things it shows a strong attempt, and the promise of growth.). In spite of this, the current cast of "the Nightingale" features a "Multi-Cultural Cast" with only 2 out of 12 roles going to Asian Americans in a story set in feudal China.  As any director knows, you can tell a story without words, or text.  That the composition of the stage pictures alone can convey a feeling, imply a theme, and in that vein, casting tells a story.  And in this current workshop of the Nightingale, that story is hurtful, and offensive.
In regards to this recent controversy the Playhouse has stated that this story is not Asian or Chinese as it was created by Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson.  However the story is not framed within the context of a fictional universe like Middle Earth or a Kingdom of Mer-People.  With the names of characters, costuming, and situations, the Nightingale establishes itself as representing China, at which point one might question the logic that the creators would not seek out additional oversight from the Asian or Asian American Community, rather than lessen it through casting "multi-cultural."  For that matter, wouldn't an Asian American artist, born and raised in a western culture, schooled and trained in western theatre traditions, but influenced by Asian cultural roots, be ideal for interpreting a story like this, a western interpretation of Asian themes and aesthetics? 
Earlier this week, I and a few other minority leaders in San Diego’s arts and culture scene reached out with compassion to La Jolla Playhouse as peers and friends to have a conversation about this. We met on Monday for two hours, and thought at the time that it was a productive meeting. We expressed that there was a real opportunity here for La Jolla Playhouse to be a leader, do something groundbreaking, and advance the conversation about diversity in theater into something productive. All they had to do was say “I’m sorry.” They didn’t intend to offend fellow artists, the Asian American community and everyone engaged in issues of diversity, but inadvertently they did. we expressed that if they say sorry, we will stand by them and support them.
Unfortunately, after listening to the interview on NPR last Wednesday, it does not look like this is the direction they are taking.
As storytellers and artists, we all bear a responsibility, in the tradition of the classic Greek Dramatists who forged the foundation for modern philosophy, social science and other forms of study that analyze and present the human condition.  What is disappointing is that so far LJP is showing no leadership in taking responsibility for their lack of oversight.  Statements from the Playhouse so far indicate they are sorry WE were offended, not sorry THEY offended US.  The problem of course being, that if we, as artists cannot take responsibility, cannot own up to the impact our choices have and cannot admit to any mistakes, it removes the opportunity for our community and society to learn from such mistakes.  It halts progress rather than advances it.  This is not representative of a culture of artistic exchange or cultivation of ideas and expression.  This is representative a corporatist culture, so obsessed with saving face, so constricted, mired and strangled by its "official verbiage" and jargon that it cant say the simple things we learned as children like "I'm Sorry."

Moving forward, I can only hope that LJP will choose to build upon their past legacy of contribution towards the growth and cultivation of voices, rather than dismiss such indiscretions claiming the support of "artistic choice" over social responsibility.  Both should be a priority.  More-so I wish that the impact of certain choices on some communities did not still need reminding in the year 2012. 

I would like to believe that internally and individually, my friends and colleagues at the Playhouse, an organization that has felt like home to me for many years, understand the indiscretions, and feel remorse for the position the institution seems to be taking, and I challenge them to speak to their personal convictions and not to their prescribed "obligations" to the company line.

I also call out to all artists, Asian Americans other people of color, and my many white and Caucasian friends who believe in a community's right to own our own representations of self; Please support us, and express your solidarity, so those in power can hear our voices and know that this issue will not simply blow over. 


Please plan on attending the panel discussion on this topic on
Sunday, July 22, 2012
3:45 PM
La Jolla Playhouse
Directions and Parking Information Here:

Some Context, A report about the decrease of roles that went to Asian Americans on Broadway Stages
the Blog Post that hit the internet and brought national visibility to the issue...
Wednesday's KPBS Interview with Actor Greg Watanabe and Christopher Ashley

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A taste of things to come...

Curious about Golden Child?  take a look here at these promotional photos.  Think we captured  the essence of our characters?  

And now for one more taste of the show, take a look at this video trailer!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Cast for GOLDEN CHILD by David Henry Hwang


Once again, thank you to all of you who supported our Kickstarter account, launching this production of GOLDEN CHILD by David Henry Hwang!  We've got a lot to set in motion, and we'll keep you updated as to our progress, so keep on the lookout for some videos on our account (username - ChinesePirate) and forrow us on (@ChinesePirate) and like us on facebook! 
But first, introducing our cast, If you've seen an Andy Lowe production before, you'll probably recognize a few names from Dr. Horrible Live, and of course a few veterans from the original team that lead AART(Asian American Rep. Theatre) through its first 10 years!  
So heres to friends old and new! We'll have more information soon!
Kym Miller - Eng Siu-Yong Kym happily returns to Golden Child in the role of First Wife, after having played Second Wife in Asian American Repertory Theatre's staged reading in 2004.  Kym served as Associate Artistic Director for AART (1998-2005), where she directed or acted in over a dozen productions and has appeared at the San Diego Rep (Bandido!), and Lamb's Players Theatre (Boomers, South Pacific, An American Christmas, The Secret Garden) where she is an associate artist.  A graduate of UCSD and the American Conservatory Theater STC, Kym also works in television, film, as a voice actor, and sings with the jazz quartet Party Of 4.
Jyl Kaneshiro - Eng Luan Happy, happy, joy, joy! Jyl is back with a fervor that only the stage can bring, the coup de grace, this play allows for a full circle with some of the most talented people she has ever had the pleasure to work with..some of the original members of a tribe called AART. 
Jyl most recently performed with Dangerhouse Productions in The Love Suicides at Amijima and has been in such plays as Fool for Love, Wait Until Dark, Curse of the Starving Class, and Beirut to name a few. 
Jyl graciously thanks her family and friends for their enduring love and support.  Also a gargantuan THANK YOU to Andy Lowe for the opportunity to perform such a nefarious yet charming character. 
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
~Anais Nin
Karen Li - Eng Eling
Karen is a recent graduate with a B.A. in Theatre and Dance as a double major at UCSD. She has a musical theatre background, as well as extensive training in various forms of dance, including contemporary, traditional Chinese, and ballroom. She is currently the artistic director of Nomads Theatre Company, as well as the assistant coach of the nationally ranked UCSD Dancesport team. She teaches latin and ballroom dancing in San Diego, and is a top-placing International Latin amateur competitor. She has many acting, directing, dancing, choreographing, and playwriting credits at UCSD. Her public credits involve choreographing and performing in Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, Live in San Diego (Chinese Pirate Productions), choreographing Xanadu (J*Company), appearing as a competitor on Dancing with the Stars, and writing M, which received a production at the New Village Arts Theatre in collaboration with the Playwright's Project.

Janny Li - Eng Ahn (10-Years-Old)
Janny graduated from UCSD in 2010 with a minor in Theatre, specializing in writing. She has acted and performed in a few shows, including Letters to a Student Revolutionary, the Vagina Monologues, and the Asian American Theatre Festival '07 and '08. Janny has been recognized for her research and creative writing, receiving a research award from the Department of African Studies and nomination for her creative writing by the UCSD Theatre and Dance department. Janny has worked with Andy as his actor, his fellow writer, and a co-director. In 2011, she served as Andy's assistant director for the live adaptation of Dr.Horrible Sing Along. She is very excited to be a part of Golden Child!

Albert Park - Eng Tien-Bin
Albert Park is excited to be in his third play by David Henry Hwang. The native San Diegan has portrayed Wang Chi-Yang in SDAART’s production of Flower Drum Song at La Jolla Playhouse and HYH in Yellow Face at Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company. Elsewhere he has performed as the Bellhop in Lend Me a Tenor at North Coast Repertory Theatre, Steve Song in the one-man show GAM3RS at 10th Avenue Theatre, Rabbit in Year of the Rabbit at Asian Story Theater, Qi Dong  in the Musical Paul Gauguin at Asian Story Theater and Lefty in SDAART’s production of BFE at La Jolla Playhouse. He can also be seen in a number of short films and has had his animated films screened at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Albert is a graduate of UC Berkeley and lives with his wonderful wife, Jenny, in North Park, where he mildly tolerates their two cats.  Mildly.

Michael Nieto - Reverend Baines
Mike Nieto is delighted to be performing in this production. He has performed for improv and  traditional theatre troupes in LA, San Diego, and New Zealand. Locally he has performed with the Scripps Ranch Theatre, the Compass theatre, the Asian Story Theatre, SOHO, Sea World, and The Theatre Inc. Television credits include "The Fugitive Chronicles" on A/E.
Stage combat choreography credits include: Romeo and Juliet (LB Shakespeare), Troillus and Cressida (Compass Theatre), and Jaguraina (SOHO). Some of Mikes favorite performances include: Cyrano (Cyrano de Bergerac), Feste (Twelfth Night), Nick (Over the River and Through the Woods), Dracula (Dracula), Mercutio (Romeo and Juliet), and coaching the talented FOOSH improv team at UCSD. Mike is also a juggler, a former sea turtle biologist, plays the banjo, and earned his BS from UC San Diego.

Dana Byrne - Ghost / Eng Ahn
Dana is excited to be working with Chinese Pirate Production. Dana started her acting career with the Gansu Singing and Dance Company in China and has continued performing after moving to America, including in the Chinese Arts Festival in Los Angeles. Her favorite theatrical role is Titania in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her other theatre credits include: All in the Same Boat, White Haired Girl, The Sunny Valley, and South Pacific. Her TV and film credits include: Vanishing Son, Chicago Hope, Good Day to be Black and Sexy, Shopping for Fangs, Chicks with Sticks, and Ethan Mao.
Anne Tran Davis (Assistant Director)
Anne is excited to be working with Chinese Pirate Productions for the first time. She has directed for the Asian American Repertory Theatre (AART), Playwrights Project and the Fritz Blitz.  She has also performed with many local theatre companies, including AART, Page to Stage (La Jolla Playhouse) and 6th@Penn.  Many thanks to Andy for the opportunity and to the cast and crew for their hard work.  Much love to D, L, L and M.
Caroline Rousset-Johnson (Costume Designer) received her BA in Applied Arts with emphasis in Fiber Arts from San Diego State University and is currently writing her thesis in anticipation of receiving her MFA in Costume Design from SDSU. Caroline is extremely excited to be part of Chinese Pirate Productions as costume designer for the play Golden Child by D.H. Hwang and feels quite connected to Hwang’s storyline. After finishing the costume design for the SDAART production of the Flower Drum Song she has been active in many Community Theater productions.  Drawing upon her experience and skills developed as a fiber artist, along with extensive research, she brings a unique flair and realism to her designs.  Born in Saigon and raised in Paris Caroline has since lived in San Francisco, CA and now resides in San Diego.  Caroline was the costume designer for Labyrinth of Desire at SDSU Theater and has worked on numerous other productions.

Lace Flores (Lighting Designer) first collaborated with Director Andy Lowe for the 2001 production of David Henry Hwang. Since then she has graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelors of Arts in Lighting design, has taught design and technical theatre and worked around San Diego as a lighting Designer.

Jennifer Imbler (Scenic Design) Jenn is currently Scenic Charge Artist / Prop Master for the School of Theater, Television and Film at San Diego State University.  Previously she has worked as a scenic artist at La Jolla Playhouse and Indiana Repertory Theatre and as Prop Master for The Aspen Music Festival Opera Company.  Jenn worked in both the paint and prop areas as an intern at Cincinnati Opera, as well as executing the production design of the opera's educational tour for their commissioned work Margaret Garner, libretto by Toni Morrison.  At La Jolla Playhouse, Jenn worked on student productions for UCSD as well as Broadway bound shows and national tours such as The Farnsworth Invention, 33 Variations, Cry Baby, Memphis, The 39 Steps, Xanadu, and Bonnie & Clyde.  She also works in town for Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company as well as other production companies and projects including last summer's production of Dr. Horrible's Sing-along-blog Live!.  Jenn earned a BFA in Theatre Design and Production from the University of Cincinnati: College Conservatory of Music.  
Jenn is excited to work with Andy again and to return to set design for this production of Golden Child. 
 Jane Lui (Sound Design)  A singer/songwriter, Jane is classically trained in piano and voice.  Having toured US East & West coasts, Canada, Sydney (AU), London (UK). Her cultural and musical influences have produced a sound that has critics eliciting such names as Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, and Rufus Wainwright. She has opened for performers such as Vienna Teng, Jay Nash, Jim Bianco, Kate Earl, Tom Brousseau and Jason Mraz. 
She recently developed a following through YouTube, where she produces music with post-production videos to show her work as an arranger and multi-instrumentalist.  In 2009 she was featured as YouTube's Unsigned Pick with over 1.5 Million views. Her second record, Barkentine, was Best Recording Nominee in the San Diego Music Awards 2008. Over $11,600 was raised directly from fans to fund her most recently released album, Goodnight Company. This is her first sound design, and is really excited to apply her audio skills to storytelling.
Andy Lowe (Director / Producer / Pirate)-  Andy was a winner of the California Young Playwrights Contest in 1994, where his play The Cultural Hyphen was praised and endorsed by David Henry Hwang and Edward Albee. In 1995, he Co-founded the San Diego Asian American Repertory Theatre where he was the company's Producing Artistic Director for ten years ('95-'05) and over thirty-five full stage productions, and countless staged readings of original or under-produced plays by Asian American Writers.
In 2001 Andy helped inaugurate San Diego's first Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month Festival ('01-'03), and has been an active board member, and participant for various Asian American community organizations including Organization of Chinese Americans, SD Alliance for APIA's, and an event coordinator for the Asian Cultural Festival, and Amp Music Festival.   For his work he has received various honors including two mayoral commendations and was recognized as one of the "Top 30 most influential Asian Americans Under the age of 30" of 2001 (Political Circus Magazine).
After receiving a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program through the California State Library, Andy, with the Asian Story Theatre, developed Dear Miss Breed(’07) at the Lyceum Theatre, based on the award winning book by Joanne Oppenheim, and has volunteered his time mentoring and directing for UCSD's student driven Asian American Theater Festival.  Andy is currently employed with the La Jolla Playhouse where he serves as the Theatre in Residence Program Coordinator, and continues to independently develop theatrical projects through his own Chinese Pirate Productions brand, including last summer's nationally acclaimed production of Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which he lovingly directed, produced and adapted (like the true "Fanboy" he is...)
Andy is happy to put another notch next to his personal David Henry Hwang checklist having personally produced, directed, or performed M.Butterfly, Bondage, Trying to Find Chinatown and FOB (which incidentally was the first play he memorized at age 6 while being babysat back stage of Pacific Asian Actors Ensemble's1982 production at the old Marquis Public Theatre.)
(Directing credits include; Trying to find Chinatown ('98), Cleveland Raining ('99), F.O.B ('01), The Goddess  Of  Flowers ('02),  Fentor ('03), Dear Miss Breed ('07), UCSD AATF 3, 4, 5 ('08-'10), Letters to a Student Revolutionary ('10), This Girl I Used to Know ('10), Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog-LIVE(San Diego)('11).
DAVID HENRY HWANG is the author of M. Butterfly (1988 Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Awards, Pulitzer finalist), Golden Child (1998 Tony nomination, 1997 OBIE Award), FOB (1981 OBIE Award), The Dance and the Railroad (Drama Desk nomination), Family Devotions (Drama Desk Nomination), Sound and Beauty, and Bondage. His newest play, Yellow Face, which premiered at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum and New York's Public Theatre, won a 2008 OBIE Award and was a Finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. He wrote the scripts for the Broadway musicals Elton John & Tim Rice's Aida (co-author), Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (2002 revival, 2003 Tony nomination), and Disney's Tarzan. His opera libretti include three works for composer Philip Glass, 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, The Voyage (Metropolitan Opera), and The Sound of a Voice; as well as Bright Sheng's The Silver River, Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar (two 2007 Grammy Awards) and Unsuk Chin's Alice In Wonderland (Opernwelt's 2007 "World Premiere of the Year"). Hwang penned the feature films M. Butterfly, Golden Gate, and Possession (co-writer), and also co-wrote the song "Solo" with Prince. A native of Los Angeles, Hwang serves on the Council of the Dramatists Guild. He attended Stanford University and Yale Drama School, and was appointed by President Clinton to the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
Hwang's newest play Chinglish premiered at Chicago's Goodman Theatre last year before quickly making its way to Broadway in October 2011, where it continues to run earning many "Best of 2011" picks from critics throughout the national theatre community.

Chinese Pirate Productions(CPP) is a San Diego based production company founded by Director/Producer Andy Lowe.  CPP seeks to build partnerships, in order to better tell stories with artistic projects that speak to and for a community. It is our belief that stories, myth and folklore are what bind communities together. From the oral histories of our ancestors, to the contemporary myths found in superhero epics, stories speak to the common values, and universal themes upon which communities are built, and experiences are shared. 
CPP's producing partner for this production is the San Diego Chinese Center (SDCC).  
known for the Chinese-New-Year Food and Cultural Faire, which will be held January 28 and 29, 2012 in celebration of the Year of the Dragon, the SDCC has provided cultural programs and charitable services for San Diego's Chinese American community since 1972.  SDCC shares a history with local Asian American theatre artists having helped the early development of the 22 year old Asian Story Theater in 1989, and in 1996, when they hosted the San Diego Asian American Repertory Theatre's production of David Henry Hwang's F.O.B. at their facilities in the heart of San Diego's Asian Pacific Thematic District on 3rd Avenue.  Now celebrating their 30th anniversary, SDCC continues this tradition with Chinese Pirate Productions!