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.

RSVP details to follow. Follow us on Facebook to stay up to date.

In Support of Black Lives and Social Reform

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:

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture’s “Talking About Race” - an online portal helping families, individuals, and communities talk about race and commit to anti-racism; with digital tools, online exercises, video instructions, scholarly articles and more than 100 multi-media resources
  • 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 SolĂ­s, 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

Stay at Home with Artists at Play

Dear friends, supporters, and fellow artists,

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.

And if you need a little distraction, here's a fun look back at "5 Years of Artists at Play." (Can you believe that was 5 years ago??)

The Producing Associate

by Katherine Chou

AAP Producing Associate Katherine Chou (center)

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.

Katherine Chou
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.

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

The New AAP Logo

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.

We hope you give it your seal of approval.

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

A Conversation with Min Kahng

Julia Cho and Min Kahng
Julia Cho: Alright there, Min Kahng. (laughter) First of all, thoughts on our upcoming collaboration of The Four Immigrants?

Min Kahng: Mmhmm.

JC: Mmhmm, we’re excited, rehearsals are about to begin …

MK: Yeah!

JC: Yeah! What are your immediate thoughts as that event is coming up, what are you looking forward to, what are you concerned about?

MK: I think there are two kind of realms in which I’m thinking about it. One is from a just as a writer development standpoint, I think this is a very interesting opportunity to revise a couple things from the previous version, as well as presenting it in this reading format takes a lot of pressure off of it being about how it’s being presented and let’s me focus in on how the words and the songs are flowing. There have definitely been some revisions made to this version and this will be a chance to hear how those revisions are working, both in the rehearsal room and during the presentation itself.

And the other realm that I’m thinking about this event is just spreading the word about the show. I think just being able to work with a team, a production company so to speak, plus a new group of actors—basically new people working on it that I have not been connected with before is exciting and will help spread the word in a region I'm not really known in. So this is also a chance to invite some folks to get to hear about the show. But even after the event, my hope is that whoever else was involved will be able to tell other people who might be interested in this project.

JC: In terms of you not being known in this region, you do have your South Coast Repertory show coming up ... I kind of feel like you're maybe on the verge of becoming a much more well-known artist in LA. I mean, how did that South Coast Repertory workshop come about?

MK: Um, well, I hope that's the case is my first response. (chuckle) I hope that’s the case because I think I'm pretty known here in San Francisco and part of my focus has been on trying to reach national recognition. And so in LA, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is the show that South Coast Repertory will be producing in February, but that came about purely through my Theatre for Young Audiences circles. I have a few works that been produced by
Bay Area Children’s Theatre

When Bay Area Children’s Theatre was remounting it, that’s when South Coast Repertory was interested in producing it themselves. So that honestly happened through the TYA circles that I’m in, not so much that I was in LA and trying to get my name out there. So it’s just kind of a lucky thing that has happened, it kind of is happening in close proximity to this upcoming reading for The Four Immigrants. Hopefully both of these events will get people just interested in the work that I do.

JC: Let’s talk about how this Artists at Play/Four Immigrants collaboration came about in the first place.

MK: Mmhmm. Well, I ran into somebody named Julia Cho, not the playwright (laughter) at the CAATA conference, the Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists, which has a bi-annual gathering. In 2018 they gathered in Chicago and I ran into somebody who I went to college with and we were in the same Rhetoric—I think it was Rhetoric and Theater class, The Rhetoric of Theatre class? …

JC: Oh, it was cross-listed?

MK: I was a Rhetoric major, but you were ...

JC: No, I was both!

MK: See, I wouldn’t have been in that class if I wasn’t a Rhetoric major. But that’s where you and I met. And I was also further aware of you, just ‘cause even in college I had secret longings of doing theatre and I think I saw you in The Vagina Monologues. Right?

JC: (laughing) I definitely did my fair share of Vagina Monologue productions.

MK: And I believe at CAATA, I didn’t understand why, but it seemed like both of us were nervous around each other. In my head, I was like ‘oh, she’s in LA. she’s been on stuff, I’ve seen her on TV’ She’s gonna be like, ‘Who's this guy trying to talk to me, like trying to get something out of me…’

JC: (laughter) Min Kahng and I had been keeping tabs in your career and to me you were a legit multi-hyphenate and here he is in the flesh! Will he remember me from Cal all those years ago? (laughing)

MK: And I did! I absolutely I did, because I had been low-key following your career. So that was nice that we both kind of entered into the conversation and got over that kind of awkwardness and just catching each other up. So that was the reunion piece and as a result of those conversations you had said ‘send me your’—I think I gave you the cast album for The Four Immigrants.

JC: You did, and it was on repeat in my car for the longest time and I was like I am so in love with this music, I am seeing the show in my head—There was the world premiere with TheatreWorks, but there was just something—

The music really kind of makes or breaks a musical, does it not? And these songs were immediately catchy, and there are some that moved me to my tears, and it was just such a fun fun show. And I, with my producing cap on—I mean, Artists at Play we're always looking for artists and shows that deserve to be seen by a wider audience and this definitely fit that bill.

MK: Yeah, and I appreciate that and I remember kind of, you know, I shared with you but in my head I thought 'eh,' You know, I don’t know what—because Artists at Play is a smaller company, I don't know if this means anything to her but here it is.

JC: It kind of just seemed like here is an example of my work so you know I’m legit. And I was like yes and yes.

MK: And I so appreciate that. I think I’m so impressed and excited about the fact that—It was like you and Artists at Play started to look for ways to support me and look for ways to help me. It wasn’t—You know, oftentimes a company that may be smaller and I have a show that’s like a larger cast size they can’t handle or a musical element they can’t handle, it’s like 'oh I love your work but keep me updated’ and that’s where it ends. But I feel like with Artists at Play the conversation moved forward to ‘we want to help,’ what can we do and that’s where the conversation led next to this partnership with USC and Visions & Voices.

I was just so honored and impressed by that, that it wasn’t just an end of the conversation how we do figure something out to help me and help this show, to get to its next level.

JC: Thank you for that, And we're just as excited and that's kind of what propels us, right?  Because none of us are really making any big bucks off of this, so I think it's that passion and excitement for the work that keeps us going towards that finish line. If anything, because we are such a smaller group, because we are so limited in our resources, it forces us to be more creative and a little more resourceful to what can we still accomplish. And this is a great example of that. And it's something new for us! Once our mainstage show is done in the fall, okay, taking a break, let’s regroup and plan out next season. So the fact that we're tacking on one more event for the year and it's a musical …  I mean, yes, in a unique version and capacity. But tackling a musical has always been something we've wanted to do. We know we are not able to put on a full production, but again how can we tackle presenting a musical? And The Four Immigrants came along and now here we are about to launch into rehearsals. And we’re already at capacity for the venue!?

MK: Yes. That was crazy. Like within a week really.

JC: I know! And I know we wondered about maybe moving into a bigger venue? I hope this isn't the last occurrence of this piece in LA. So I mean fingers crossed for a fantastic event and hopefully life beyond.

MK: What I guess I’m proud of—maybe I should wait until after the event (laughter)—is the fact that this is an event that has been made free to students. And that’s always been a thing wherever I go—My career right now has brought me to a place where I travel a lot and I often find myself in situations where I’m connecting particularly with other Asian American artist types. Like I was invited to speak at Harvard University once, and then this musical theatre writer who is Asian American, she just reached out to me and we had coffee and I got to share bits and pieces of my career. And in New York recently, somebody I had taught when he was in middle school, I taught a theatre class, he reached out to me and he wanted to pick my brain about what it was for me to make a career in the arts. So similarly, I feel like making this available to students fulfills this mentorship element that I like to bring into my work and what I do.

And I think it’s awesome because this isn’t the first time AAP has done community-oriented, right? Sure, there’s your mainstage stuff and that’s always community-oriented in that sense of putting Asian American representation before audiences. But also you’ve partnered with other organizations before. So it was totally in just the fabric of your organization to partner with USC to make this something that's not just an opportunity for us as theatre artists but also an opportunity for audiences to come. ’Cause it’s also going to be preceded by a conversation about the show so there’s a little bit more of a glimpse into the artistic process. So I’m excited about all of that and that this isn't just me scratching my own back (chuckles) but it’s hopefully going to be a meaningful thing for audiences to come and see.

JC: Yeah, yeah, I hope so as well. And something that's important to us, and something we’re not always able to do, is to make theatre as accessible as we can. But just the logistics of producing and funding from our end, it does make it hard. We wish we could more, we wish we could do better. But yeah, this partnership with USC is very exciting for us as well. Because of our various USC connections, we’ve been able to have students and professors come see our shows but this is very unique, being on campus ... Yeah, we hope everyone who comes enjoys it.

You’ve said lovely things about Artists at Play, which I very much appreciate. Anything else you’d want to add?

MK: No, not really, other than that … you know, I recognize that you're a small budget organization with limited but very excited, involved staff and people—I don't even know if you have a staff technically—

JC: (laughter) It’s just us! What is it, like four producers and two associates.

MK: To anybody who comes to this event or otherwise gets connected to you, yes, support your smaller local theatre companies. (laughter)

JC: That works. Thanks so much, Min! Okay, now going off the record ...

MK: (laughter)

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