Guest Post: Roger Tang's Eleven Theatre Groups To Watch

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

By Roger Tang


Out of San Diego, Mo'olelo is a multicultural theatre led by Seema Sueko. One of its hallmarks is that it's the Inaugural Resident Theatre Company at La Jolla Playhouse, one of the top Equity houses in San Diego. The other is the innovative edge it brings to the process of theatre. Emphasizing green processes in reducing waste and recycling the material it doesn't throw away ( Of course, it doesn't hurt that it's well regarded artistically; Seema acts and directs, as well as leads the group.


Out of Southern California, Teada is a multi disciplinary group, combining theatre, dance, you name it. As well, it deals with under-served communities a lot of other Asian American theatres don't serve (for example, their Refugee Nation embodies the stories of Laotians), and works to bring the theatre to those communities by touring across the country. And if that isn't enough, they do workshops and showcases letting community people develop their voice and allowing them to tell their own stories on stage. Whew!


Bay Area group who serves the Filipino community with regular, monthly doses of a whole assortment of forms, from stand up to full length plays to dance to sketch comedy to whatever you can imagine can fit onto a stage. Like the other groups, Bindlestiff offers a whole array of workshops that cover the gamut of stage performance, from producing to writing to directing.


From Toronto, Canada, and is a major nexus of Asian Canadian talent. They produce top notch theatrical productions and they produce an annual showcase of new works. They're criminally under-noticed on the Asian American cultural scene.

Silk Road Theatre Project

From Chicago, IL, and in a few short years, they've forged a huge reputation of cutting edge productions that cover a whole array of subjects and cultures, and cover authors as diverse as David Henry Hwang and Mott Lerner, drawing up cultures that are found along the fabled Silk Road (Chinese, Korean, Israel, Palestine and so forth).


Someone to keep an eye on. They're the first professional Asian American theatre group in Texas and just presented in March, Michael Golamco's Cowboy Vs. Samurai.


Speaking of Canada, we shouldn't neglect the Left Coast. Based out of Vancouver, BC (where the Asian population is 40% of the city), VACT is leveraging the talent of the immense film production activities in the area (you've seen some of these folks in Battlestar Galactica and Stargate) to do an eclectic blend of productions, ranging from Cowboy vs. Samurai to Flower Drum Song, as well as hosting Sketch@*#!, the first festival featuring Asian North American sketch comedy groups.

Kumu Kahua Theatre

Honolulu, HI, specializing in Hawaiian and Pacific Islander drams since the early 1970s, and spitting out new works featuring the part of the world where Asian Americans make up the majority of the population.

SIS Productions

Sex in Seattle is the nation's longest running serial theatre show, 17 chapters and counting, and spawning a spinoff in Vancouver. It's unique in Seattle in that it taps an Asian American audience that usually doesn't go to theatre and that's young and (can you believe it) half male. Some of them have even gotten married and started having kids (and have to arrange baby sitters around shows)

Ma-Yi Theater Company & Mu Performing Arts

The two biggest producers of new works of Asian American theatre. The Ma-Yi writers lab is an incubator of new Asian American writers, some of whom have spawned theatres of their own (Vampire Cowboy Theatre); Mu Performing Arts sponsors a long running New Works program that has launched the careers of many other Asian American playwrights.

Roger Tang is a theatre veteran of three decades, who began as a designer for David Henry Hwang and Philip Kan Gotanda. As a writer, he is the author of Third Generation Heritage, Walking in Shadows and Mac 'n Dex as well as numerous sketches for the Pork Filled Players. As a producer, he helmed the Northwest premieres of Gotanda’s Dream of Kitamura, Genny Lim’s Paper Angels, Hwang’s Bondage, Prince Gomolvilas'Big Hunk O' Burnin' Love and Qui Nguyen’s Living Dead in Denmark. He has taught Asian American history at the University of Washington and was instrumental in building the Theatre Off Jackson as Development Director for the Northwest Asian American Theatre. Called the "Godfather of Asian American theatre" by A. Magazine, he is Managing Producer for the Pork Filled Players (Seattle’s oldest sketch comedy group & the Northwest’s longest running Asian American theatre), is Literary Manager for SIS Productions, sits on the board at Repertory Actors Theatre, edits the Asian American Theatre Revue and administers the aa-drama mailing list. As well, he is a sound designer for various local theatres.