AAP Community

Artists at Play is dedicated to producing quality work on stage, and providing a professional working environment for our artists and volunteers. We’ve had the privilege of collaborating with talented, hard working individuals since our founding in 2011:

Trieu Tran, actor
"As both an actor and a theatregoer, I am a believer in Artists at Play’s mission and vision. To be a part of a collective of Asian American creative professionals who are telling the stories on stage of underrepresented communities was affirming and inspiring.  In The Chinese Lady, we were able to not only entertain the audience, but also to educate them on the history of Chinese immigrants coming to America. In turn, this helped raise awareness of the plight of most all ethnic groups that have immigrated to America in the past and in the present.  Producing quality theatre is not an easy task.  It requires dedication, passion and competence, which I witnessed firsthand from the producers at Artists at Play. Support from all of us through donations and ticket buying is imperative to their continued success in getting our important stories seen and heard."

Rebecca Wear, director

Support AAP, the work that we do, and the opportunities we provide by making a tax-deductible donation.


by Lloyd Suh
directed by Rebecca Wear
September 7 – 29, 2019

A Co-Production with Greenway Arts Alliance
at the Greenway Court Theatre

Inspired by the true story of America’s first female Chinese immigrant, THE CHINESE LADY is a dark, poetic, yet whimsical portrait of America through the eyes of a young Chinese woman. Afong Moy is fourteen years old when she’s brought to the United States from Canton in 1834. Allegedly the first Chinese woman to set foot on U.S. soil, she has been bought and put on display for the American public as “The Chinese Lady.” For the next half a century, she performs for curious museumgoers, showing them how she eats, what she wears, and the highlight of the event: how she walks with bound feet. As the decades wear on, her celebrated sideshow comes to define and challenge her very sense of identity.

A Brief History of THE CHINESE LADY, Afong Moy

by Katherine Chou

Afong Moy was brought to New York City in 1834 at fourteen years old. She was the first Chinese woman to set foot in the United States. Exhibited as "The Chinese Lady," she performed an hourly demonstration of how she spoke, how she ate using chopsticks, and most sensationally, how she walked in her bound feet.

Afong was instantly met with the American public’s fascination. At the time, China was largely unknown, with all international trade flowing through a single port city, Canton (now Guangzhou). Most Chinese immigrants to the United States were bachelors seeking their fortunes in order to send money home to their families. A Chinese woman was an exotic rarity. Afong’s exhibition and subsequent tours around the country, including a meeting with President Andrew Jackson, were covered extensively in the press.

Over the years, American views of China shifted due to the Opium Wars, the opening of more ports to trade, and the perceived weakening of the country. By extension, Afong’s show fell out of popularity and was incorporated into P.T. Barnum’s sideshow empire. By 1850, Afong had dropped from historical record. We do not know if she ever returned to China, as was originally intended after two years, or if she spent the rest of her life in the United States.

The Chinese Lady highlights the ways in which history repeats itself and reminds us of what is at stake if we do not learn from our past. Chinese immigrants of Afong’s time were used as cheap labor. They farmed land, mined, and built the Transcontinental Railroad, but were never truly welcomed as Americans. Eventually, the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act banned immigration from China outright. Afong herself was only ever allowed to be an object of curiosity to be gawked at and othered.

These experiences resonate through time to the present day. What is currently happening with immigration and xenophobia in this country is not new. This play raises important, evergreen questions about how we determine “value” in our fellow human beings, how we police entry into certain spaces, and how men in power build infrastructures to disenfranchise others. The Chinese Lady was a product of her time, as we are a product of ours. This play, the story of her life on display, is a space - a Room - where the two can meet.


by Marie-Reine Velez

1869 Advertisement for Afong Moy
Go back to where you came from…

This phrase that has flooded the news recently, makes me feel sad, among other feelings. Like, really sad. Because it calls into question our origins, our diasporas, our sense of belonging--as people of color, as immigrants, and as descendants of immigrants. It erases our different histories in this country, our struggles and our celebrations, and what people have gone through to get to this point in time.

This phrase sets a frame around people of color as not belonging, with no history and no home here in America; when the reality is that we have deep roots in this country, regardless of how long we may have been here individually. We own businesses, we vote, we marry, we do good things and bad, we make our lives here.

The story of The Chinese Lady begins in 1834, and the play is based on the story of the first Chinese woman to set foot on American soil--bought and brought to New York as a museum curiosity, as an object to be observed and wondered at. And with that very specific frame of othering this woman, I can’t help but think about how that “first impression” of Chinese women, influenced how mainstream Americans viewed and may continue to view Asian and Asian American women.

What I love about The Chinese Lady is how it explores and imagines Afong Moy’s experience as an object on display, and her journey from being that object to being something, someone, more than what people originally saw. And then there’s the question of representation: what did it mean for this woman to represent a whole country, and all by herself?

These are the questions and the stories that deeply move us as producers, and as people who love theatre. We have this wonderful opportunity to bring together amazing, talented, and dedicated artists, and their vision for this work needs your support. We aren’t able to do this without our community, so please donate to Artists at Play and our campaign for The Chinese Lady.

2019 Artists at Play Readings

April 4 at 7 p.m.

Bonobos by Lina Patel

April 11 at 7 p.m.
This is Not a True Story by Preston Choi

USC Pacific Asia Museum
46 N Los Robles Ave, Pasadena, California 91101

by Lina Patel
directed by Sara Israel

This is Not a True Story
by Preston Choi
directed by Reena Dutt

Continuing our mission to present stories of underrepresented communities, Artists at Play will develop and showcase these new works to the Los Angeles theatre community. In the midst of a national discussion on the lack of diversity and representation, we are proud to present two new plays by emerging playwrights of Asian descent with distinct voices that feature diverse casts. 

The readings will be at USC Pacific Asia Museum. Bonobos will be presented on Thursday, April 4, at 7 p.m., and This is Not a True Story on Thursday, April 11, at 7 p.m.

2018 Donors

Artists at Play would like to give special acknowledgement to the following donors who provided exceptional support in 2018:

Randy & Mari Tamura
Dr. Gay Q. Yuen
Monique Kim
Lindsey Willis
Aaron & Tori Pulkka
Anaïs Thomassian & Voki Kalfayan
Michael Golamco
Suellen & Munson Kwok
Alan Pao

Thank you to the individuals who have contributed to Artists at Play in 2018. (Listing as of December 31, 2018.)

Aaron Takahashi
Aaron & Tori Pulkka
Aileen Kamoshita
Alan Pao
Albert E. Aubin
Alejandra Cisneros
Alexander Choi
Alma Martinez
Aly Mawji
Amber Benson
Amy & Peter Guei
Amy Lew
Amy Tofte
Anaïs Thomassian & Voki Kalfayan
Andrew Crabtree
Asian Pacific American Friends of the Theatre
Bonnie Lui
Camille Mana
Carla Ching
Cecil Lee
Cesar Ramos
Chloé Hung
Charity Wu
Christian Mante
Christina O'Connell
Christine Linnell
Cynthia Tam
Daniel Vincent Gordh
Daria Yudacufski
Denise Iketani
Dennis Yen
Dore Wong
Dorothy Tamashiro
Elaine Loh
Ellen Thornton
Erin Wert
Fran de Leon
Freda Shen
Glenn Omatsu
Greg Watanabe
Helen Ota & Michael C. Palma
Howard & Sumi Yata
J. Sharon Yee
Jane & Ryan Sands
Jeffery Mio
Jennifer Perez
Jennifer Tsao
Jennifer Zheng
Jenny Song
Joy Regullano
Joyce Liu-Countryman
Joyce Tamanaha
Joyce Sharlene Adgate
Julianne Tetreault
Jully Lee
Karen Ito
Kathie Kingett
Katie Porter
Kelly & Robert Jue
Kelly O’Neil
Ken Mu
Kimiko Miyashima
Linda Lau
Lindsey Willis
Lloyd Lee
Lynn Arthurs
Madhuri Shekar
Magdalena Guillen
Maggie Ham
Mandy Ratliff
Mariano Velez
Marilynn Fong
Mark J. Pascual
Melissa Barbour
Michael Cheng
Michael Golamco
Miki Yamashita
Monica Lee
Monique Kim
Naomi Hirahara
Nicole & Daniel Callahan
Noel Joven
Parvesh Cheena
Paul Kikuchi
Peter J. Kuo
Philip & Frances Chinn
Phoebe Hyun
Randy & Mari Tamura
Rebecca Wear
Ricardo Figueroa
Roger Tang
Ronalee Miyasaki
Sarah Lau
Steven D. Wong
Suellen & Munson Kwok
Tara McPherson
Tatiana Jimenez
Teresa Huang
Theresa Hardjadinata
Thomas Wong
Tim Dang
Tim Miller
Tina Huang
traci kato-kiriyama
Tricia Ong
Vicki & Paul Shinto
Zonia Evidente

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to Artists at Play, please visit our non-profit fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas: http://bit.ly/AAPFracturedAtlas

To explore other ways to support Artists at Play, please contact us at ArtistsAtPlayLA@gmail.com