March 2020 hit the Asian American community especially hard in more ways than one. At that time, six Off Broadway plays written by Asian American writers were under production or scheduled to open their curtains. It was a consummation of several decades of a varied spectrum of journeys—all leading to a moment in which never before were so many Asian American playwrights set to show in the city that never sleeps.
When PBS approached Ralph Peña, Ma-Yi Theater’s Producing Artistic Director, to create a documentary on Asian American playwrights, he chose to interview several playwrights in honor of a moment of arrival that was sadly truncated by the global pandemic. He had the contact list to do it. After all, five of the playwrights were past participants in the Ma-Yi Theater Company’s Writer’s Lab. The interviewees include such writers as David Henry Hwang, Lloyd Suh, Qui Nguyen, Lauren Yee, Mike Lew, Rehana Lew Mirza, and Chay Yew.
“These writers took different paths and followed disparate artistic impulses to get to this point,” said Mr. Peña.
Tune in to watch “The First Twenty: 20 Years of Asian American Playwriting” on November 9, 2021 at 8pm Eastern Time on PBS’ All Arts Program. It was filmed over two days and took five months to edit down to a 30-minute documentary thanks to Ralph Peña of the Ma-Yi Theater Company. The Ma-Yi Theater is one of the oldest Asian American theater groups in the United States, founded by Filipinos and named after a thousand year-old term traders used for the Philippines before our homeland became someone else’s colony.
The show airs on November 9, 2021 on the following channels:
DIGITAL ANTENNA: 21.4
If you miss the 8pm Eastern showing on these cable channels, you can play it on demand by going to allarts.org after November 9.
“People of color are used to watching stories about white people and empathizing with them,” said playwright David Henry Hwang in the documentary. “And the reverse has to happen as well.”
So true. So true.