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5 Theatres You Need to Know: Asian-American Companies in NYC

Date: Sep 17, 2018

Discover new-to-you theatre companies through our new series of themed roundups


In life, it's easy to stick with what you know. But you should never do that -- especially when it comes to theatre. In New York, we're lucky to have access to hundreds of troupes that are producing new shows all the time. You can't possibly be familiar with all of them -- but you can try. To help, TDF Stages is launching "5 Theatres You Need to Know," mini-profiles of companies that have something in common, be it cultural, geographical or philosophical. Give us two minutes, we'll give you five theatres that will broaden your perspective on the world.

Did you see Crazy Rich Asians and think, "I want to see more Asian stories." You're in luck! New York City has multiple Asian-American troupes dedicated to mounting shows about -- and starring -- Asian-Americans. Here are five Asian-American theatres you need to know:


1. Ma-Yi Theater Company

The biggest Asian-American company in New York, Ma-Yi is known for being eclectic. Whether mounting an immersive musical about the K-pop industry (KPOP) or presenting the adventures of two young siblings in space (The Wong Kids in the Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go!), Ma-Yi explores the contemporary Asian-American experience in unexpected and innovative ways. Founded in 1989, the 10-time Obie-winning company has premiered works by playwrights such as Qui Nguyen, Lloyd Suh, Mike Lew and Hansol Jung. If you're ever wondering where to find the Next Big Asian-American Playwright, see what Ma-Yi's producing.

What's next? This season, Ma-Yi presents four new plays: Orlando Pabotoy's Sesar about a Filipino teen obsessed with Shakespeare's Julius Caesar; Lloyd Suh's The Chinese Lady about the first Chinese woman to come to the U.S.; Kristine Haruna Lee's The Suicide Forest exploring depression in the Japanese community and Sam Chanse's Fruiting Bodies about two sisters who head into the woods to search for their missing father.


2. Pan Asian Repertory Theatre

If classics are more your thing, check out Pan Asian Rep. The theatre is celebrating its 42nd season, making it the oldest Asian-American company in New York City and the second oldest in the country. Over the decades, its artists have produced notable stories from the Asian-American canon such as No-No Boy by Ken Narasaki and Jeremy Tiang's adaptation of the Chinese classic A Dream of Red Pavilions.

What's next? This season, Pan Asian presents Damon Chua's adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's popular fairy tale The Emperor's Nightingale and Prince Gomolvilas' The Brothers Paranormal about two Thai-American brothers who launch a ghost-busting business.


3. National Asian American Theatre Company

NAATCO mounts work by writers of various ethnic backgrounds, but their plays always star Asian-Americans. The company's version of Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing! won an Obie Award and NAATCO's not afraid to go big. The troupe's recent production of Henry VI was a whopping six hours long and answered the question: What would an all-Asian Game of Thrones look like? Answer: legendary.

What's next? NAATCO is busy developing Gordon Dahlquist's meditation on the slipperiness of truth [Veil Widow Conspiracy], which will have its world premiere at New York Theatre Workshop's Next Door at NYTW series in June 2019.


4. National Asian Artists Project

Cofounded in 2005 by original A Chorus Line Tony winner Baayork Lee, this organization gives Asian-Americans the opportunity to do musicals beyond The King and I and Miss Saigon. In addition to running a training program for youths in Chinatown and mounting a series of staged readings of new tuners, the company presents annual one-night-only concerts of classic musicals with all Asian-American casts.

What's next? This year's selection, Into the Woods, will be performed on October 20 and stars Avenue Q's Ann Harada as the Witch and Groundhog Day's Raymond J. Lee as the Baker.


5. Noor Theatre Company

Although this company was only founded in 2010, it's already made quite the impression, presenting ten world premieres and winning an Obie Award in that short time. Unlike the other theatres profiled, which all take a Pan-Asian approach, Noor focuses specifically on works by and starring artists of Middle-Eastern descent, like Palestinian-Americans Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader 's critically acclaimed Food and Fadwa.

What's next? This fall, Noor will present its first full-length commission, Ismail Khalidi's Dead Are My People about a Syrian man living in the Jim Crow South. The show is being produced as part of New York Theatre Workshop's Next Door at NYTW series.

Got an idea for a 5 Theatres You Need to Know roundup? Tell us about it!


Follow Diep Tran at @DiepThought. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.

Top image: NAATCO's Henry VI. Photo by William P. Steele.

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