AAPI in Theatre History

This May, in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Village Theatre has curated information on AAPI theatre artists who have contributed to the repertoire and advancement of American-theatre throughout history. We hope you enjoy reading about these artists as much as we enjoyed writing about them!  

Photo credit: Lia Chang

David Henry Hwang

David Henry Hwang has been described by the New York Times as “a true original,” and by Time Magazine as “the most important dramatist of American public life since Arthur Miller.” He is a Tony Award winner (for M. Butterfly) and nominee (for Flower Drum Song and Golden Child) , and a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize (for M. ButterflyYellow Face, and Soft Power). He is also the most produced living American opera librettist. David was born in Los Angeles in 1957, the only son and oldest of three siblings to parents of Chinese heritage. While a student at Stanford University, he produced his first play, “FOB” (Fresh Off the Boat) in 1979, which won an Obie Award for best new American play. After graduating from Stanford, David enrolled in the Yale School of Drama for a year. During that year, he wrote two short plays, The Dance and the Railroad and The House of Sleeping Beauties. David is probably best known as the author of M. Butterfly, inspired by the opera Madame Butterfly and based on a true story about a French diplomat and a Chinese spy. M. Butterfly garnered him a Tony Award in 1988 as well as a Drama Desk Award, a John Gassner Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award and it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. M. Butterfly has gone on to be staged in over four dozen countries, was made into a movie, and revived on Broadway in 2017 with Julie Taymor as director. In 2011, his play Chinglish, written in English and Mandarin, premiered on Broadway and was named Best New American Play by Time Magazine. David also co-wrote the book for Aida, wrote the book for the original musical-comedy version of Tarzan and, more recently, a writer and consulting producer for the Golden Globe-winning TV series The Affair

http://www.davidhenryhwang.com

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Brian Yorkey Establishes Endowed Fund to Benefit KIDSTAGE!

April 19, 2020

At our successful February fundraiser, Sing it Forward, KIDSTAGE alum and Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award Winning playwright, Brian Yorkey, announced his endowment fund-establishing gift of $100,000 to benefit KIDSTAGE. Brian’s gift will help to ensure that future generations of students will continue to follow in his footsteps; finding their voice, their creative outlet, their connection with artistic peers, their sense of self, and their desire to make the world a better place through the performing arts.

Watch Brian’s Gift Announcement from Sing it Forward here!

Brian Yorkey’s History with Village Theatre

Brian’s relationship with Village Theatre began when, as a teenager, he enrolled in afterschool KIDSTAGE classes. Eventually KIDSTAGE offered Brian and his peers the opportunity to express their creative voice in writing their own material, setting him on a career path that has seen him become a critically acclaimed theatre artist. Through his participation, leadership, mentorship, and support Brian has become an inspiration to thousands of KIDSTAGE students across the nation. And although most people recognize Brian as the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright and lyricist of Next to Normal, to Village Theatre he is one of our incredible KIDSTAGE kids – doing what he was trained to do – using his voice and talents to make the world a better place.

Why a Gift Like This Matters

Anyone who has had the good fortune to witness the collaborative and supportive community that exists within KIDSTAGE quickly find confidence that students who emerge from the program will have a lasting positive impact on the World. And knowing that this is the legacy of KIDSTAGE – fostering the growth of generations of community shapers and builders – it is always incredibly meaningful when any of our alumni return to share their time, talents, or treasure.

The recognition of KIDSTAGE’s indelible impact in their life through reinvestment in the program – paying it forward to the next generation of open hearted and minded human beings whose lives are waiting to be touched in a similar way by KIDSTAGE – is the greatest validation we can receive.

The History of KIDSTAGE Programming

For the past 35 years, Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE has deeply held the belief that participation in the arts helps youth to realize and achieve their fullest potential. And that because of this incredible power the arts have to be a positive influence, eliminating barriers to enriching artistic experiences was of the utmost importance.

With this as a guiding principle, KIDSTAGE has grown from a fledgling after-school program in Issaquah to the most robust theatre education center in the Pacific Northwest, serving hundreds of students annually from across the Puget Sound and offering comprehensive theatre training in both Issaquah and Everett. But perhaps KIDSTAGE’s greatest achievement is that it doesn’t use the number of alumni who achieve professional theatrical careers as its barometer for success. It celebrates all the divergent paths is students take, knowing that they have emerged from KIDSTAGE empowered by the skills they have attained there and positioned to be impactful and empathetic members of society.

More Information

If you are interested in learning how you can join Brian in his investment to guarantee future generations access to cost barrier free arts-education and include KIDSTAGE as a part of your legacy, please contact Development Associate, Kevin Vortmann, kvortmann@villagetheatre.org.

KIDSTAGE Originals Festival: Meet the Writers and Cast

View online March 27-28
Reserve tickets on our website

KIDSTAGE Originals is an original musical project created by emerging theatre artists. Students in grade 9 – Age 20 generate their own material under the mentorship and guidance of a professional writing, composing, and directing team. The program emphasizes the process of creating a script from the initial concept to the stage. This year the entire process has taken place online via Zoom with the culmination of the KIDSTAGE Originals Festival on March 27 and 28.

The KIDSTAGE Originals Festival will consist of four readings of in-progress scripts created by KIDSTAGE students. Each script reading will be a creative combination of live reading, recorded songs, and other inventive ways to tell the story in a digital medium. Shows may be presented as abridged works or as works in progress, with the goal of sharing these original stories in an engaging and informative presentation. Each reading will culminate with a talkback with the writers about the show and process.

KIDSTAGE Originals Festival Schedule:
Saturday March 27
2:00pm PST – The Gray Area (A Tale of Sonder and Shoes)
7:00pm PST – Not So Grim

Sunday March 28
2:00pm PST – Dumb Club
7:00pm PST – Art Without Boundaries

The Festival is free! Visit our website to reserve your tickets for each reading.

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Village Theatre Receives $3 Million Donation to Help Emerge from Pandemic Closure

“Investments in the performing arts are a powerful means of fostering inclusion, healing, and inspiration. Village Theatre provides a place for people from different cultures, ideas, and walks of life to unite through beautiful imagery, music, movement, and compelling stories.” -Anonymous Donor

March 10, 2020

After one year to the week with its doors shuttered, Village Theatre is humbled to announce that it has received a sustaining gift of $3 million from an anonymous local donor. This deeply meaningful and critical donation comes as the organization plots out its strategic return to the stage from administrative, operational, and artistic standpoints, and significantly helps to ensure that Village Theatre will be able to return to regular operations in the post-pandemic world to carry forward its 42-year legacy of producing premium musical theatre. While this generous gift goes a long way to ensure Village Theatre’s successful return to the stage, the donor made this gift in the hope of inspiring others to make an additional investment in Village Theatre’s future, and to provide for financial contingencies due to COVID-19.

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Women in Theatre History

This March, in celebration of Women’s History Month, Village Theatre has curated information on women who have contributed to the repertoire and advancement of theatre throughout history. We are also excited to share research on some female theatre history-makers provided by the National Women’s History Museum. We hope you enjoy reading about these women as much as we enjoyed writing about them!  

Hrotsvitha: The First Female Playwright 
The first female playwright is thought to be German writer Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim. It has been surmised that she was born in 930/935 and died after 973, perhaps as late as 1002. It is thought that she may have been a relative of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I the Great. Hrotsvitha spent most of her life as a nun, although she did not take the vow of poverty, which meant she was known as a canoness. She is credited with writing six plays as well as eight poems, although her plays were meant more for reading and the moral instruction of her sister nuns rather than for performance. Hrotsvitha’s plays were rediscovered in 1500, although some parts of her works are missing. Her plays are either about the martyrdom of a Christian woman in pagan Rome, or about pious Christian man rescuing a fallen woman. Hrotsvitha’s plays were published first in Latin in 1502, and then in English in 1920. 

To read more about Hrotsvitha, please refer to these two resources: 

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hrosvitha

https://www.thoughtco.com/hrotsvitha-von-gandersheim-3529674

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From the Desk of Jerry Dixon

In his March check-in, Village Theatre’s Artistic Director offers an update on the theatre.

March 1, 2020

As we approach the one-year mark of this pandemic and our hiatus of theatre production, we are reflecting on what it will mean to our community to bring theatre back to our stages. The economic strain, the change to everyday activities, and the impact of finding ways to bring ourselves to a healthier social environment are all part of the way we rebuild and reopen. Our team at Village Theatre is hard at work preparing and planning for the future and how we can safely and successfully welcome back our artists and patrons.

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Village Theatre-Linked Musical MISS STEP Wins National Award

Our friends Kit Yan and Melissa Li have won the 2021 Kleban Prize, a $100,000 award for a promising libretto (book of a musical) for their show MISS STEP. Kit and Melissa have developed MISS STEP with Village Theatre in our NYC-based At the Table program in 2018, and in a residency in 2019. Plans are currently underway to support MISS STEP later this season through a digital residency.

The MISS STEP writers, cast, and creative team at the 2019 residency and table read.
The MISS STEP writers, cast, and creative team at the 2019 residency and table read.
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Milestones in Black Broadway History

In addition to serving as the Artistic Director of Village Theatre, Jerry Dixon works as an award-winning director, actor, writer, and teacher. One of his projects includes the “Black Broadway Interactive Encyclopedia”, an upcoming online resource charting the history of Black Broadway artists, exploring the art and politics of each decade, and discussing the current issues that affect Black artists still today.

Here is a look at five pivotal productions in the Broadway canon, pulled from Black Broadway Interactive with an in-depth look from Jerry himself.

Sammy Davis Jr. in rehearsal for “Golden Boy”. Photo by Friedman-Abeles/New York Public Library

Golden Boy
The year 1964 saw Sammy Davis Jr. as the highest paid performer in the history of Broadway. Considering it was in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, this was a rare milestone, among a few remarkable facts about the production of musical version of Golden Boy. Besides Sammy Davis Jr. holding that monetary distinction, Clifford Odets was surprisingly convinced to write the book (until his untimely death), Sugar Ray Robinson consulted on the boxing choreography, and most notably… Because of the interracial romance between Joe (Davis), and Lorna (Paula Wayne), bomb threats and violent protest against the production meant that all principal actors were provided bodyguards for the duration of the run.

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