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COMPANY PRESS LIST 

 Current Pan Asian Show

   

Chang and Pan Asian Rep
'A Winning Combination' 

 
by TJ Fitzgerald   
Monday, March 2, 2009    http://china.broadwayworld.com 
   
  Click here for More Company Press 
   

The Geisha-and-Houseboy-Liberation Theater 

By STEVEN McELROY
Published: May 20, 2007 
Tisa Chang started the
Pan Asian Repertory Theater in part to expand opportunities for Asian-American actors
 
click here for next review 
  NEW YORK is a graveyard of bankrupt theater companies and broken dreams. But Tisa Chang’s Pan Asian Repertory Theater, with an annual budget of less than $1 million, is improbably celebrating its 30th anniversary.

The company’s latest production, “Tea,” by Velina Hasu Houston, is to start previews Sunday at the West End Theater, and the first National Asian American Theater Festival, which Ms. Chang has been instrumental in creating, is coming soon. Old enough to consider retirement, she is instead busy remounting some of the company’s seminal works, creating international partnerships, educating younger generations and seeking something that proves unattainable to many of the city’s companies: a permanent home.

Part of Pan Asian’s mission is to widen the scope of opportunities available to Asian-American theater artists. Before the transformative 1970s, Ms. Chang said, options for Asian-American actors were generally limited to roles like geisha girls and exotic houseboys. Groups like Pan Asian and East West Players in Los Angeles, which started in 1965, have worked to level the playing field, but the struggle continues, and not only in the live theater.

“Whereas it’s gotten better for ethnic minorities in terms of general representation, what hasn’t really improved is the complexity of the roles that we’ve been given to play,” Daniel Dae Kim wrote in an email message. Mr. Dae Kim, who appears on the ABC series “Lost,” acted professionally for the first time with Pan Asian Rep in 1990. “Many of the parts I see Asians playing onstage, as well as on screen, are smaller supporting roles whose function is to provide exposition or support to the leads,” he wrote.

Thirty years ago starting a company seemed the best way to create opportunities for Asian-American performers, Ms. Chang said. But it was not easy. “I’ve always felt that we absolutely must put the best foot forward,” she said, “because I do think we have to prove a little bit more.”

Her stamina won admirers, though. “I remember when she first started, people were saying it’s hard enough to start a white theater, let alone an Asian- American one,” said Tina Chen, who is directing “Tea.” “Who’s going to come see you?” But people came. In the mid-1970s Ms. Chang was getting mainstream work as an actor and dancer, but her passion was in heading up the Chinese Theater Group at Ellen Stewart’s La MaMa in the East Village. Even shows as nontraditional as a bilingual Chinese/English adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” set in China in 1000 B.C. sold tickets.

“Because we were considered a curiosity or something very new and unique, people did come,” Ms. Chang said. “La MaMa would always attract the kind of offbeat attendee.”

In 1977 she set out on her own, and Pan Asian Repertory Theater, with Ms. Chang as the producing artistic director, was incorporated. Early successes Tisa Chang started the Pan Asian Repertory Theater in part to expand opportunities for Asian-American actors included a 1983 production of R. A. Shiomi’s “Yellow Fever,” directed by Raul Aranas, who went on to work extensively on Broadway, and a 1986 production of “Shogun Macbeth,” adapted and directed by John R. Briggs. New works by David Henry Hwang, Philip Kan Gotanda and others followed, along with works from what Ms. Chang calls “the canon of Asian-American classics.”

The company’s core principles have never changed, she said, adding: “Our mission has always been to provide meaningful professional opportunities and to introduce the Pan Asian world’s literary works to Americans in America and also to create intercultural projects that draw upon our own history,” Ms. Chang said. “We have done Cambodian genocide, Japanese internment, dislocation — basically the acmes and nadirs of Asian- Americans in America.”

Next up in this vein: war brides. “Tea,” set in postwar Kansas, is about a group of Japanese women, all married to American military men, meeting to memorialize one of their own who killed her abusive husband and then herself.

“Tea” was written in 1987 and produced that year at the Manhattan Theater Club, but Ms. Houston said the themes are still important. The play has been produced more than 50 times all over the world. “We’re not beyond race in this country,” she said. “We have a lot to learn about existing in a very colorful society.”

After “Tea” Ms. Chang expects to remount some of the company’s most important productions, including “The Joy Luck Club” this fall and “Shogun Macbeth” next year, which will play both in New York and at the Off Square Theater Company in Jackson, Wyo., where Mr. Briggs is the artistic director.

The reprises are celebratory, but there are deeper goals for the future, like forming stronger alliances with other theaters, Ms. Chang said, and the National Asian American Theater Festival is a move in that direction. A group effort by Pan Asian and two other New York troupes, Ma-Yi Theater and the National Asian American Theater Company, the festival grew out of discussions with similar companies around the country, including East West Players. More than two dozen companies and individuals will present work at the festival, which runs June 11 to 24.

Ms. Chang has other plans too, but producing is expensive. To survive in New York for three decades is a feat, but Pan Asian has not achieved a high level of mainstream success, and Ms. Chang partly blames herself. “I know a lot of people but just don’t know how to be very opportunistic,” she said.

Securing more financial backing is one way to guarantee a future, but it is also vital that young Asian-American artists believe in the importance of the company. “I get very angry when the younger generation of Asian-American students and artists do not pay enough attention,” Ms. Chang said.

One way to help establish that sense of importance would be to create a permanent home, but that goal has proved elusive. “That’s another reason why we’re not further ahead,” Ms. Chang said. The company has presented the past several seasons at the West End, and before that rented space at St. Clement’s Church, Playhouse 91 and other locations. “Something very regular or concrete,” though, would allow for more flexibility and offer opportunities to create partnerships with other Asian- American artists and companies, Ms. Chang said. “We have looked at space in Queens, but I really want to be in Manhattan, and I also really want to have an oriental garden.”

If the garden never comes, though, Ms. Chang’s track record suggests she will continue producing. “Tisa Chang is a pioneer and a warrior,” Mr. Dae Kim wrote. “In a time when many theater companies are struggling to survive for even a full season, it’s hard not to stand in admiration of Pan Asian’s achievements.” 
   
  company press list continues below 
   

"Pan Asian Rep's IMELDA, A New Musical
Plays At Julia Miles Theatre"

AL140.COM
www.all140.com/news 
   
 

“Arts Briefly: East West”
“Jaygee Macapugay to Lead Cast in
Pan Asian Rep's New Musical, Imelda”
“Philippine Political Figure Will Sing in
Imelda Off-Broadway” 

BROADWAY STARS.COM   www.broadwaystars.com 
   
   

“Pan Asian Rep's IMELDA, A New Musical
Plays At Julia Miles Theatre, Opens 9/30”
 

by BWW News Desk  http://broadwayworld.com 
   
   
CALENDAR OF ASIAN AMERICAN THEATRE, 6/15/09

“2nd National Asian American Theatre Festival
New York City”
 

  www.aatrevue.com/Calendar.html 
   
   

“Future Shows: Imelda A New Musical” 

INDIE THEATRE LISTINGS,
9/15/09
 
www.indietheater.org/listings_future.php 
   
   

Arts Briefly "East to West"  

Compiled by PATRICIA COHEN
Published: June 14, 2009
 
www.nytimes.com 
   
   

“Imelda Marcos Musical in L.A. - An EWP Benefit
for the Production Bound for New York"
 

by Adam Hetrick
PLAYBILL ONLINE, 6/15/09  
www.playbill.com/news/article/130233 
   
   

Jaygee Macapugay to Lead Cast
in Pan Asian Rep's New Musical, Imelda
 

by: Dan Bacalzo
Jun 15, 2009 · New York
THEATERMANIA.COM 
www.theatermania.com/off-broadway/news 
   
   

“Pan Asian Rep's IMELDA, A New Musical
Plays At Julia Miles Theatre, Opens 9/30.”
 

USA TODAY ONLINE, 6/15/09  http://content.usatoday.com 
   
   

“Imelda the Musical’
to open on September 22 in New York City”
 

FILIPINO EXPRESS, 6/18/09  www.filipinoexpress.com 
   
   
THE DAILY NEWS, 6/25/09  http://events.nydailynews.com 
   
   
NAATF.ORG, 6/25/09  www.naatf.org 
   
   
NBC NEW YORK ONLINE, 6/25/09  http://events.nbcnewyork.com 
   
   

“Imelda Musical Soon in NY” 

THE PHILLIPINE STAR, 7/13/09  www.philstar.com 
   
   

“Imelda Musical Soon in NY” 

YAHOO NEWS PHILIPPINES  http://ph.news.yahoo.com