Monday, August 28, 2017

3rd Year Thesis MUTT: Let's All Talk About Race



MUTT: Let's All Talk About Race!
by Christopher Chen
Directed by Peter J. Kuo

It’s 2013, Obama has just been re-elected, and The Republican Party finally realizes it has a problem with race. In attempt to win the 2016 presidential election, it backs a candidate who is a mixture of every race on earth. A wild and surreal comedy that skewers all political parties to the point it becomes indiscernible of what is satire and what is today’s frightening reality.


Saturday, 9/30 @ 8:00 p.m. (Free Opening Reception)
Wednesday, 10/4 @ 9:30 p.m.
Thursday, 10/5 @ 7:00 p.m.
Friday, 10/6 @ 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, 10/7 @ 3:00 p.m. (Post-show Discussion)

New York, NY, 10014

Featuring Brett Bezad, Shaotian Cai, Katharine Chin, Rose Dolezal, Zach Lusk, and Jillian Macklin.

Set Designer - Libby Stadstad
Costume Designer - Rachel Dozier-Ezell
Lighting Designer - Solomon Weisbard
Sound Designer - Mark Van Hare
Projection Designer - Sarah Martinez
Production Stage Manager - Carolynn Richer
Associate Stage Manager - Arielle Goldstein 
Assistant Director - Pauls Macs

FREE general admission. Seating is limited; reservations are recommended. To make reservations, call Ticket Central at 212.279.4200 or search "MUTT" in www.ticketcentral.com

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Why the Roundabout Casting of Noises Off is Problematic




The recent cast announcement for Roundabout Theatre Company's Noises Off (brought to my attention on Facebook by Kate Rigg) is extremely problematic. The all-white casting of a play about a company putting on a production paints the picture that theatre is still only by and for white people. The arguments defending this choice--casting based off of talent or an artistic vision--are equally as problematic.

BEST TALENT
Okay, so let's just argue the casting of this show was based off the nine actors who were the most talented who auditioned for these roles. However, if the best talent argument is used, why do we stop at disregarding race? Why not gender, too? Why not a male Belinda or female Selsdon? "But the roles are written for specific genders, not for specific races!" So what this tells me is when a role is not ethnically specific the default for someone casting that role is white. I'd be curious to see what the default would be for non-gender specific roles. "What? Non-gender specific roles? That doesn't make sense! Some of those characters are supposed to be in love with each other! Boys can't be in love with other b..." Yeah, I think an organization like SCOTUS is going to disagree with that.

Fine. Let's disregard the gender restriction and go back to ethnic specificity. Is it to be believed that not one actor of color who auditioned was as equally talented to play any of these nine roles as the person who was cast? And let me remind you that Roundabout states on its website that it is an Equal Opportunity Employer. (Thank you Miki Yamashita) The implications that there are no talented actors of color are far beyond what I could explain in this blog, so I'm going to create an entire separate blog which I will link here when it's done.


Screen-cap from Roundabout Theatre Company's Website

But, I mean...come on...really?!?

ARTISTIC VISION

Perhaps there were better actors of color for some of these roles, but for whatever reason the producers or director couldn't envision them in the roles. Again, this reads to me as an artistic team that only sees non-ethnic specific plays as all white. This production's casting makes a statement to the world and audiences that; only white people create theatre. White actors, white directors, and white stage managers. These choices seem to me unimaginative and lazy. 


You might ask, "What would a diverse cast add?" Farce is all about setting up and tearing down expectations. What if Brooke was Asian? If we play to stereotype, an Asian actress who always wears glasses may be trying out new contacts for this show, which would explain her constant loss of them. Additionally, to play against stereotype of Asians who are studious and the model minority, how funny could it be that she is the space cadet of the cast? What if Dotty was a Latina? Again, it feeds into stereotype of a Latina house keeper, but then how much more resonate could Dotty's lines read about being unhappy with playing that type of role? Make Lloyd, the director, a person of color, because it would explain Lloyd's troubling behavior in the show! For the most part, directors of color who are directing non-ethnic specific plays are always feeling an added amount of undue pressure. In three simple choices we've added an extra depth to three characters. See what a little imagination can do?

Still having a hard time seeing Noises Off cast diversely? Then, I think you need to admit that you are someone who sees white as the default. I don't need to sit here and tell you you're wrong. But, I am going to tell you that you need to own it. Own that you only see a White America. Own that this production is choosing to work with white actors and tells the story that a white director only works with a white stage managers and white actors. Own that this is the story that is being told on stage. Exclaim it to the world; "MY DEFAULT WORLD IS WHITE!!!" Is that difficult? Is it uncomfortable? Does it feel wrong? Like I said, I don't need to sit here and tell you, you're wrong. Your own conscience seems to be telling you that.

Regardless if a white dominate American theatre is not the artistic vision you intended for the stage, that is the hidden message that is being put and told on the stage. And if that's the story you want to tell, I know a target market of confederate flag waving, #AllLivesMatter hashtag using, and anti-immigrant Trump lovers that you should be reaching out to.

But if you're ready to join the progressive side of America, where in just a few decades the minority will become the majority (which is already true in some cities such as Los Angeles), then start looking for that diversity in your artistic choices. Start looking for that in your actors, your directors, your designers, your writers. Don't get left behind. Or at least, don't start scratching your head when "your" audience starts disappearing, stops donating, and can no longer be found when you're the one looking for work. Then again, if drowning out the necessity of diversity with these #WhiteNoises helps you sleep a night...

(Thanks Rodney To for the #WhiteNoises inspiration.)

-----

UPDATE: Previously I had called this the "seemingly all-white cast" because I didn't know the entire cast very well, so I didn't want to presume that none of those actors might be mixed race and be white passing. That being said, my friend Trevor Biship on Facebook reminds me that "casting is about making a statement. Regardless of 'passing,' this statement is pretty clear to me." And he is correct, this casting statement reads all white to me. And now after doing my research on the individual cast members, the most ethnic diversity comes from actors with some Armenian and Albania's backgrounds...


Additionally, I previously suggested a male Poppy, but got a few reminders from people that her female anatomy becomes a crucial plot point in the play.

Also, after looking back at the casting notice for this production from Backstage, the notice asked for submissions from ALL ETHNICITIES...well, that seemed to go well for them...Either the company backed out at the last minute of making diverse casting choices, OR there was very little intention to actually cast diversely, and the ask for all ethnicities was purely for show. I'm noting director 
Jeremy Herrin as well as casting by Jim Carnahan and Stephen Kopel for the future. It would be great to get a response from them or RTC about what happened in this casting process that started with all ethnicities in the submission but ended with an all-white cast.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Critical Reviews of Washer/Dryer

Rachna Khatau, Ewan Chung, Corey Wright, Karen Huie and Nancy Stone in
Washer Dryer by Nandita Shenoy at East West Players
Photo by Michael Lamont

In full transparency, I like to post all the review of my show; the good, the bad, and the ugly! Washer/Dryer has gotten a good mix, things that I agree and don't agree with on both sides. But what has been noted through all of them so far, is that the show is filled with laughs, which means you're going to have a good time. Check out my favorite highlights below.


--------------------------


"Under director Peter J. Kuo's competent direction, the proceedings are diverting in a Norman Lear way...a sincere, well intended contrivance that gets its laughs like clockwork.... Khatau’s fresh, understated heroine and Chung’s likable, short-fused hero are nicely matched -- she is hilarious at her climactic meltdown, and he valiantly strives to keep the various tropes from stereotype. Huie and Stone expertly attack their functionary roles, and Wright, who also voices Sonya’s doorman, performs his duties with outsized flair"

"Big Load of Talent Tossed Into WASHER/DRYER Spins Outa Clean, Hot, Fresh, Finished Pice of Entertainment...Director Peter J. Kuo whips this talented cast of five through a fast, even paced ninety-minutes of social issues served up on a tasty elixir of laughter."

"...a nearly unqualified rave...Shenoy’s ingenious—and consistently hilarious—script... Peter J. Kuo’s inspired direction...a cast that ought to be transferred lock, stock, and wok to the small screen if and when Washer/Dryer is awarded the weekly 30-minute slot it so richly deserves."

"Directed by Peter Kuo with a sitcom sensibility, the piece feels like a pilot of the likes of Dharma & Greg...for those who loved Dharma & Greg, this is quite a compliment."

"[A] magnificent new comedy – a triumphant coming together of acting, directing, writing and timing...the funniest play I’ve seen in a year as director Peter J Kuo superbly handles the farce and family dynamics."
Review - ActorsEntertainment.com - Washer/Dryer (February 22, 2015)


"Reasonably well-acted and seasoned with some light hijinks..."
Review - LA Weekly - Washer/Dryer (February 23, 2015)

See if you agree! Washer/Dryer runs at East West Players until March 15, 2015! Get your tickets at www.EastWestPlayers.org.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Audience Responses to Washer/Dryer

Ewan Chung and Rachna Khatau in
Washer/Dryer by Nandita Shenoy.
Photo by MichaelLamont
This is what audiences have been saying about Washer/Dryer online:

4.2 stars out of 5 on Goldstar
"What a wonderful show!"- SoCalGirl

"Very well done. Unique plot & well acted. Very funny!" - Apmed

"GO see it-soooo great." - Leanne S., Facebook 2/14/15

"It's a super fun time!!" Justin L., Facebook 2/14/15

"Congratulations on a funny and great-sounding production." - Joey D. Facebook 2/14/15

"WASHER DRYER at East West Players. hilarious and really exciting; it's the first time I've seen a romantic comedy where the central characters are a Chinese American man and South Asian woman. Lovely work." - Greg W., Facebook 2/14/15"

"Get your arses to East West Players and go see Nandita Shenoy's "Washer/Dryer"!!! It's one of the best things I've seen at EWP and certainly one of the funniest plays I've seen in a long time." - Rodney T., Facebook, 2/12/15.

"A fun romp!" - Janet M., Facebook, 2/14/15

"SUCH a great show!" - Christopher B., Facebook, 2/14/15

"It was a great 90min feel good romantic comedy. Go See It!" - Dina D., Facebook, 2/13/15

"Saw a hilarious preview of Washer/Dryer at East West Players. Go see it when it opens." - Jordan W. - Twitter, 2/13/15


"Had a blast last night at Washer/Dryer." - Scott M., Twitter, 2/12/15

"Go see Washer/Dryer @EWPlayers! Sweet, funny, wonderful performances + well-directd!" - Dana L., Twitter, 2/12/15

GET YOUR TICKETS! The show closes March, 15, 2015: Go to www.EastWestPlayers.org

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Washer/Dryer at EWP; Feb. 12 - Mar. 15


There are a lot of reasons I'm excited about directing this production of Washer/Dryer at East West Players. Yes, it's my directorial debut on East West Players' main stage. Yes, I'm joining the ranks of a theatre company that I've known, studied, and worked at administratively for more than half of my life. Yes, I have an incredibly talented team of actors, designers and production staff members. 

But what is really exciting about this play is, not only does it feature hilarious writing and a heartfelt struggle between loneliness and relationships, but it reflects the reality of what a diverse America looks like today. The central themes of these plays aren't about race, or sexuality. Yet, the play features characters that are written to reflect multiple races and sexual identities. There is no huge thematic reason these characters are the way they are. They just are. And that's how it should be. It broadens the audience to seeing a diverse group of people on the stage, and then hopefully more on television and in films.

Please check your schedules now and reserve the time (and your ticket) to see this hilarious new production!

East West Players presents

Washer/Dryer
by Nandita Shenoy
Directed by Peter J. Kuo

February 12 - March 15, 2015

Love. Lies. (Dirty) Laundry.

A newlywed's marriage is put to the test by her husband's intrusive mother-in-law, their New York co-op’s strict president, and--worst of them all--the her washer/dryer. Tempers and misunderstanding flare and mayhem ensues as the couple is forced to re-evaluate their relationship and decide whether all is fair in love and real estate. Washer/Dryer is a hilarious new farce that examines marriage in the modern day against the backdrop of New York City real estate.  

Featuring 
Ewan Chung, Karen Huie, Rachna Khatau, Nancy Stone and Corey Wright

Set Design - Arturo Betanzos and Sasha Monge
Costume Design - Sara Ryung Clement
Lighting Design - Rebecca Bonebrake
Sound Design - Howard Ho
Prop Master - Sasha Monge
Stage Manager - Michelle Gutierrez-Martina
Assistant Stage Manager - Brandon Cheung

Tickets and additional info at:
www.EastWestPlayers.org or 213.625.7000

Performances are at
David Henry Hwang Theater
at 120 Judge John Aiso Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Friday, September 26, 2014

Deferring, Directing and Los Angeles

"The best way to get a job in your city--is to move out of it." 

Several artists said this to me when I discussed the potential of graduate school as well as moving out of Los Angeles. Lo and behold, just one week before my one-way flight to NYC I got a call from East West Players' artistic director inquiring if I'd be interested in directing a show in their season.

I can already hear it now, "Aren't you supposed to be in school earning your Directing MFA?"; "You're going to be in L.A. again?"; "Did you even move to New York?" Yes, yes, and yes. Let me address all of these questions.

The Deferment

My Obligatory NYC Instagram Photo
Early June, I received a call from The New School of Drama's admissions program. They found themselves in a unique situation where their program designed to have a specific playwright/director/actor ratio was uneven, so they were looking to one of the accepted directors to defer their admission in exchange for additional scholarship monies. I considered it briefly but I had already made my big announcement on Facebook that I was moving. And we all know when something goes up on Facebook it's PERMANENT! So, I turned down the offer. 

Fast-forward six weeks later, in which there were a few additional discussions between the administration and other admitted directors to no resolve on the deferment issue. Again, a call with a final offer from the administration in hopes of enticing me to defer. This time, with a generous scholarship package, an opportunity to start classes part time, access to an advance directing course designed for 2nd and 3rd year MFA students, and an effort to connect me with working directors and professional theatres during my part-time year. In evaluating my priorities, my overall goals, and my financial circumstances; for me, it was a package too beneficial to pass up.

So, yes, I've moved to New York, I'm in school, and I'm part-time. What this means is, at the earliest I'll be graduating in 2018.

The Offer


As my departure from Los Angeles drew near, I got requests to set up a few goodbye get-togethers, which included some of my favorite artists, artistic producers, and my Artists at Play cohorts. I shared news of my deferment with some, and of course, as people in L.A. love to hear the latest news, it made its way through the grapevine.

East West Players' David Henry Hwang Theater
As I said, I got the call from East West Players just a week before my one-way flight out of town. "Would you be interested in directing a show in our upcoming season?" A rush of thoughts ran through my head. I read the play, researched the playwright, and checked my class schedule. I would be missing three weeks of school in the spring semester if I took the job. I contacted the school and asked their opinion. There were questions. There was conversation. And in the end, "Do it! If it's a play you're excited about and a good opportunity, take it now. You won't be able to when you're a full-time student." I pursued the opportunity. And after some discussion between myself, the playwright, and the producers, I got the green light.

So, yes, I'll be returning to Los Angeles for a couple of months, I'll be directing at East West Players, and I'm very excited. Because of my deferment and part-time status, I am able to direct this show and simply not enroll in the spring semester.

The Show


There it is. The crazy twisted journey that will have me a bit bi(-coastal) this year. And without any further delay, the play and the great team I get to work with:



East West Players presents 
the World Premiere of

Washer/Dryer 
by Nandita Shenoy
Directed by Peter J. Kuo


Set Design by Art Betanzos
Costume Design by Sara Ryung Clement
Lighting Design by Rebecca Bonebrake
Sound Design by Howard Ho

Prop Design by Sasha Monge

February 12 - March 15, 2015

Love. Loneliness. And Laundry.

Washer/Dryer is a hilarious new farce that features a diverse cast of characters of different races and sexual orientation. A newlywed's marriage is put to the test by the husband's intrusive mother-in-law, their New York co-op’s strict president, and--worst of them all--the wife’s washer/dryer. Tempers and misunderstanding flare and mayhem ensues as the couple is forced to re-evaluate their relationship and decide whether all is fair in love and real estate in this world premiere.

In addition to this play being produced in February, Nandita and I will be preparing a public reading of the play at the Japanese American National Museum on Thursday, October 16, at 7:30 p.m. followed by a talk-back with the cast. This reading is presented as part of East West Players' Writers Gallery reading series.

So, I hope to see you at the reading and the production. And Los Angelenos, let's get together when I'm in town. Oh, and since I won't be enrolled in the spring semester next year, if you hear of any directing opportunities between mid-February and mid-August in Los Angeles or New York, you know where to find me.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

An Evolving List of Asian American Directors

Updated: 10/7/16

As many of you know, I recently moved to New York to start earning my MFA in Directing at The New School for Drama. Part of this move was my evaluation of the directing career potential in Los Angeles, but also the directing career potential for Asian American directors. As I did my research I felt there weren't a great number of us, so I decided I would create a list. If you are an Asian American director and would like to be added to this list, please email me or comment on this blog. There are power in numbers, and I believe we need to show that there are numbers. This information will be helpful for my panel on "Creating and Maintaining a Directing Career" for the National Asian American Theatre Conference and Festival, which is Saturday, October 11 at 4:30 p.m. in Philadelphia, PA. Confirmed speakers include Desdemona Chiang, Snehal Desai, Randy Reyes, and Mei Ann Teo.

Ernest Abuba* (New York)
May Adrales* (New York - MFA: Yale - Ed: Yale)
Stafford Arima* (New York)
Andrea Assaf (Tampa - MA: NYU [Performance Studies]; AD: Art2Action Inc)
Brian Balcom (Chicago - MFA: DePaul University)
Leilani Chan (Los Angeles - AD: TeAda Productions)
Jennifer Chang** (San Diego - MFA: University of California, San Diego [Acting] Ed: University of California, San Diego)
Tisa Chang* (New York - AD: Pan Asian Repertory)
Desdemona Chiang* (Seattle/San Francisco - MFA: University of Washington)
Ping Chong* (New York - AD: Ping Chong + Company)
Peter Cirino (San Diego - Ed: San Diego State)
Snehal Desai* (Los Angeles - MFA: Yale - AD: East West Players)
Tim Dang* (Los Angeles - Ed: University of Southern California)
Sandeep Shekar Das (Chicago)
Nelson T. Eusebio* (New York - MFA: Yale)
Ethan Heard* (New York - MFA: Yale)
Leslie Ishii* (Los Angeles - MFA: American Conservatory Theatre [Acting])
Alberto Isaac (Los Angeles)
Ed Sylvanus Iskandar* (New York - MFA: Carnegie Mellon)
Lavina Jadhawani** (Chicago - MFA: DePaul University)
Jesse Jou (Jubbock Texas - MFA: Yale - Ed: Texas Tech University)
Chil Kong (Los Angeles)
Shishir Kurup* (Los Angeles - MFA: University of California, San Diego [Acting])
Peter J. Kuo** (Los Angeles/New York - MFA: The New School for Drama [2018])
Young Jean Lee (Brooklyn - MFA: Brooklyn College [Playwriting])
Jeff Liu (Los Angeles - MFA: University of California, Los Angeles)
Jeffrey Lo (San Jose)
Victor Maog* (New York - AD: Second Generation)
Jess McLeod (Chicago - MFA: Northwestern University)
Zaraawar Mistry (Minneapolis - MFA: University of California, San Diego [Theatre])
Mina Morita (Berkeley - AD: Crowded Fire)
Dipankar Mukherjee (Minneapolis - AD: Pangea World Theater)
Alan Muraoka* (New York)
Katie Naka (Brooklyn - MFA: Columbia)
Ron Nakahara* (New York)
Meena Natarajan (Minneapolis)
Oanh Nguyen* (Orange County - AD: The Chance Theater)
Lane Nishikawa (San Francisco)
Aya Ogawa (Brooklyn)
Evren Odcikin (San Francisco)
Ralph Pena (New York - AD: Ma-Yi Theater)
Ruth Pe Palileo** (Las Vegas - PhD: Trinity College Dublin [Drama and Performance])
Orlando Pabotoy* (New York - Ed: Tisch School of the Arts)
Randy Reyes (Minneapolis - AD: Theatre Mu)
Jon Lawrence Rivera* (Los Angeles - AD: Playwrights' Arena)
Rick Shiomi (Minneapolis)
Nathan Singh (Chicago - MFA: DePaul University [2017])
Seema Sueko* (Los Angeles - aAD: Arena Stage)
Suzi Takahashi (New York - MFA: Southampton Arts)
Mei Ann Teo (Amherst - MFA: Columbia Ed: Hampshire College)
Eric Ting* (Berkeley - MFA: University of Tennessee [Performance Studies] - AD: Cal Shakes)
Andrew Tsao (Seattle - MFA: CalArts - Ed: University of Washington)
Giselle Ty (New York/London)
Meiyin Wang (Berkeley - MFA: Columbia)
Elizabeth Wong (Santa Barbara - MFA: Tisch School of the Arts [Dramatic Writing])
Kelvin Wong (Chicago - MFA: DePaul University)
George Ye (San Diego - Ed: University of San Diego)
Chay Yew* (Chicago - AD: Victory Gardens Theater)

* = Full or (**) Associate Member of SDC
MFA = Master of Fine Arts; [Non-Directing Degree or Expected Graduation Year]
AD = Artistic Director; a = Associate;
Ed = Faculty at Higher Educational Institution