Join Artists at Play for a weekend of online events celebrating our 2011 inaugural production, the Los Angeles premiere of Ching Chong Chinaman by Lauren Yee, directed by Peter J. Kuo. Saturday, July 18 at 1 pm PST Explore the characters and themes of Ching Chong Chinaman in a special “book club” conversation with special guests including director Desdemona Chiang, professor Rena Heinrich and AAP founder Peter J. Kuo.
Sunday, July 19 at 1 pm PST Actors Julia Cho, Elizabeth Ho, Stephen Hu, Ken Narasaki, Helen Ota and director Peter J. Kuo reunite on the Artists at Play “stage” to talk about their work and experience on Ching Chong Chinaman.
Creating change within a country, a city, an industry takes more than words. Black lives matter and Artists at Play must take part in the rebuilding of a just, equitable, and inclusive society. But how does AAP fit in with all of this? What can we do? How do we hold ourselves and our community accountable?
Artists at Play stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement along with those in our own city of Los Angeles and across the country seeking justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black lives that have been unjustly taken. Building upon our original objectives of highlighting Asian American voices and combating lack of representation, we commit to taking a stronger stance of anti-racism in the work that we do and in our daily lives. We know we can do more and we can do better with regard to further diversifying our collective of performers, designers, and collaborators. We know that within our Asian American community, we also have to confront issues of anti-Black racism, the Model Minority Myth, decolonizing our practices and unlearn so much of what white supremacy has embedded in us.
As an Asian American organization, we want to mindfully seek out ways we can support Black artists, leaders, and voices, and help make an impact. Knowing that we need to go beyond just saying the words "Black Lives Matter," we will continue to use art as our tool for activism, be mindful of keeping our work intersectional, and provide learning opportunities for our community.
Below we share a few resources, keeping in mind the intersectionality of our audience—both of the Asian American and theatre communities:
The Conscious Kid - geared toward kids and families; an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to reducing bias and promoting positive identity development in youth
Token Theatre Friends - a weekly podcast, plus original essays and reported articles, all through a POC lens. Diep Tran and Jose Solís, theatre critics and writers, want to reimagine how we talk about art with the belief that it is more than entertainment.
Please check back with us and share any questions or thoughts or suggestions you may have. We know we don't have all the answers but remain committed to collectively working toward a more equitable industry, city, and country.
Yours in solidarity, Artists at Play Julia Cho, Katherine Chou, Stefanie Lau, Nicholas Pilapil, Marie-Reine Velez
We hope you're all staying safe—and sane!—during these unprecedented times. Who would've thought you'd ever hear us say we don't want you to come out to an Artists at Play show right now? Like all other organizations, we are trucking along, working (remotely) on how to make necessary adjustments while sticking to our original plans as best we can. As it is our foremost mission to highlight the work of Asian American theatre artists, AAP is actively looking for new ways to achieve those goals while adjusting to the new normal. Feel free to ask us any questions you may have about theatre or what we do or if you're interested in collaborating somehow. Now's as good a time as any!
Our first touring show, Allos: The Story of Carlos Bulosan written & directed by Giovanni Ortega, is our most immediately affected program. Originally slated for performances in May to coincide with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we are now rescheduling the tour for October 2020—which happens to be Filipino American History Month!
We are currently exploring a podcast/audio version of our annual Spring Readings. There are so many talented Asian American writers that we want to support, trying to see if even private in-house readings or one-on-one meetings could provide assistance at the developmental level.
Artists at Play's 2020 Summer Salon is a special event commemorating our 10th Season. We will present a reading of our 2011 inaugural production, Ching Chong Chinaman by Lauren Yee, reuniting director (and AAP co-founder) Peter J. Kuo with the original cast: Julia Cho, Elizabeth Ho, Stephen Hu, Ken Narasaki, Helen Ota, and Scott Keiji Takeda. Slated for Sunday, July 19 at Inner-City Arts.
Also still on the calendar is our Fall Mainstage, the world premiere of This Is Not a True Story by Preston Choi, directed by Reena Dutt. AAP presented this play at last year's Spring Readings as well as the National Asian American Theater ConFest in Chicago to a standing ovation and rousing post-show discussion. What happens when Madame Butterfly, Kim from Miss Saigon, and Kumiko the Treasure Hunter cross paths, realizing they're doomed to relive their (Western-patriarchy-enforced fetishized-Orientalist) lives over and over again?
Oh, and we’re also getting to work on finally becoming a non-profit in order to combat the effects of AB5—and now a pandemic—but mainly in hopes of making more of a financial investment back into our Asian American theatre community.
If you’re a fan of Artists at Play, we’d really appreciate your support. One way to help us is to make a tax-deductible donation via Fractured Atlas. We want to weather this and we also truly want to keep showcasing amazing work for our amazing community. The magic of live theatre doesn't solely come from the performance, but the connection to others—which is definitely limited right now. It's tough on us to be separated, but it merely confirms that people like being together. (Okay, most people. We see you, our introvert friends!) When this passes, the need to gather together will be stronger than ever. And when that happens, AAP and the rest of Los Angeles theatre hope to be ready.
In the meantime, please take care of yourself and your loved ones, make those difficult calls in the name of safety and health knowing that it’s truly for the good of humanity, and remember that at some point in the not-so-distant future we’ll all be convening at another show, hugging and catching up, impressed that we were able to make it to the other side.
I had never been an associate anything before Artists at Play. An associate is someone James Bond is told to meet, someone who is always seen in profile lurking behind pillars before they ultimately betray him and are killed for making their own plans. An associate is the craggy old guy flanking the mafia kingpin with a velvet-lined briefcase full of money. But here I am, a Producing Associate at Artists at Play, and not a single briefcase or pillar has been made available to me.
What has been made available, beyond new friendships and connections, is room and permission to grow. With each production, Artists at Play has handed me new roles I sometimes struggle to picture myself inhabiting. With their trust, however, all I have to do is step into them. This is one gift Artists at Play has given me, but there are other ways in which joining this small theater company has affected my work that go beyond personal ambition.
What I cherish the most about my work with Artists at Play is the chance to step outside my own cultural circles. As a writer and filmmaker, every project is deeply, even painfully personal. The emotional stakes are always so high. It is both a privilege and a relief to be able to champion other people’s work.
And while emotion and personal ties are what lead me to latch onto a particular project as a producer, I relish the chance to step back and tell stories that live outside my experience. For me, there is as much joy in getting to know the nuances of other communities as there is in weaving my own specific cultural knowledge into our production of The Chinese Lady.
The desire for representation comes from a self-centered place, a desire to see oneself reflected in storytelling. When I write, I am compelled to think of my own story as the Most Important Story. But the truth is, we will only reach real representation through a multiplicity of voices. We are stronger when we amplify each other, because representation is not a zero-sum game.
In fact, having a bounty of stories to look to alleviates the pressure on all of us as individual creators. If there’s a full table at the potluck, that makes your very specific and kind of mediocre pina colada banana bread (a real recipe I have seen on Pinterest) less of a crisis.
As a young artist, I have often been on the receiving end of others’ generosity, and I have asked myself how I might pay it forward in turn, with so little at my disposal. With Artists at Play behind me, I have the reach, resources and know-how to support creators who excite me. Being able to help tell stories that are not my own through Artists at Play has become a vital part of my creative practice. Wherever our individual paths take us in the future, I am proud to have been associated with them.
Artists at Play is proud to unveil a new logo as we enter our ninth season in 2020.
We’ve had the good fortune of working with designer Chris Komuro since our start in 2011. When it came time to rebrand, he shared this: “For this logo I wanted to do a modern take on the Asian ‘chop stamp’...without being too literal. I used a contemporary sans serif typeface and a bright, vibrant color palette.”
Chop stamps have been around for centuries throughout Asia, originating in China and spreading early on to places like Korea and Japan. In their most common form, they are small personal seals carved from wood, ivory, or jade. They have been used by emperors and commoners alike, and can be used as a marker of one’s given name, chosen names, or organization.
In East Asia, personal seals are used to stamp documents in lieu of or in combination with a signature. From the stamped image to the seal itself, they can be as elaborate or as simple as you can imagine. Chinese emperors would use them as seals of approval on works of art and calligraphy. The Qing Dynasty emperor Qianlong was known to be quite zealous about his art appreciation, covering the work itself with red self-asserting squares. Today in Japan, you can buy seals with common names ready-made for purchase, like novelty license plates at a souvenir shop, if novelty license plates were legally binding.
While the role and legal authority of the chop stamp is in flux around Asia, artists like Takuma Yamazaki have introduced its next iteration: QR codes. It’s a reminder that although Asian culture is often positioned in the past by the West, even by Asian-Americans ourselves (as the land we left behind, etc.), it is living, breathing, and ever-evolving.
Because even though chop stamps have become iconic and evocative of cultures across Asia, they are also just a functional part of everyday life. And they change as our lives change. The stories we tell at Artists at Play try to bridge the same line: tackling the enormous burden of representation while sharing the minutiae that make up our individual experiences.
A seal is, after all, a representation of self. The beauty of our new logo is that we can play around with looks while remaining undeniably Artists at Play.