English Only: A Fight for Words in America

Friday, December 05, 2008

Really short notice but if your weekend is still free and you can make it out the play English Only: A Fight for Words in America will be playing down at The New LATC this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday:

This weekend, the comedic drama, ‘English Only: A Fight for Words in America,’ chronicles 1980s battle over language and being American. In Monterey Park, the definition of what’s considered American has not always been as easy as pie. The struggle to define American culture roiled the community in the 1980s when an influx of Chinese immigrants spurred a group of residents to band together to make English the official language of the city. They felt the Chinese immigrants, who opened up businesses and put up signs in their native languages, had changed Monterey Park into a different place. A different country, even.

This period in Monterey Park history is the subject of ‘English Only,’ a stage play by Annette Lee that will be running this weekend at downtown’s New LATC. This comedic dramatization of the events is told from the viewpoint of Scarlett Wong, a fictional 16-year old, Chinese-American girl. As a second generation immigrant, she starts out looking down on recent Chinese immigrants who do not speak English.

But she comes to examine her own prejudices as she figures out where she stands on the movement to make English the official language in her city Scarlett’s journey has her listening in on the high drama of the city council meetings and examining her own assumptions through fantasy meetings with iconic figures like Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong and potato chip queen and a product of Monterey Park, Laura Scudder.

Scarlett follows the antics of former Monterey Park council members like Barry Hatch and Patricia Reichenberger, as well as Frank Arcuri, a local leader of the Official English movement, and Taiwanese real estate developer Frederic Hsieh who envisioned Monterey Park as a Beverly Hills for Chinese immigrants.

The play draws on what Lee learned through book research about the actual events and is based off of transcripts of council meetings. She brings to life the unique local characters who drove the debate during that contentious and emotional period.

Through a partnership with the Chinese Historical Society, her play was excerpted at a special panel discussion that brought together veterans of the period to discuss their memories and to take stock on where the issues of language politics and Monterey Park politics are going. Sociologist John Horton who studied the city for several years moderated the Nov. 21 panel that featured members of the Coalition for Harmony in Monterey Park, or (CHAMP) which fought against the Official English movement.
The show is going to take place Dec. 5, Dec. 6 at 8pm and Dec. 7 at 3pm. The New LATCTheatre 3, located at 514 South Spring Street Los Angeles. Tickets range from $10-$12. Check out http://www.thenewlatc.com%20for/ for more as well as the full article at egpnews.com.