Starring Roles for Asian-American Actors
By Maria Cheng
Theatre Esprit Asia’s Dust Storm and Spirit & Sworded Treks
Runs May 30, 2013 – June 23, 2013
Vintage Theatre 1468 Dayton Street | Aurora, CO 80010
Tickets: 303-856-7830, $13-$20 Student/senior/group discounts
Online purchase and showtimes www.theatre-esprit-asia.org
“Best role I’ve ever had – the opportunity of a lifetime!”
“Even in high school, I was the only person who auditioned who didn’t get cast because I was told I would ‘stick-out’ and this was a huge musical, but I wasn’t allowed to be on stage.” says Vietnamese-American Peter Trinh, one of three actors cast in TEA – Theatre Esprit Asia’s solo play Dust Storm, which tells a story of fictional Seiji, a rebellious eighteen year old Japanese-American, interned at Topaz, Utah during WWII and his relationship with real life renowned visual artist Chiura Obata, the victim of an assault by fellow internees who considered him a ‘collaborator’ with the U.S. government.
Says Chinese-American Dale Li, who did have a starring role as the Samurai in Paragon Theatre’s production of Sound of a Voice. “Dust Storm scares me because it has moments where it feels so personal, but that’s also exactly why I love it. It’s about shame and honor, self-worth and community. It’s a universal coming of age story with a redemptive theme, a call-to-arms sentiment that through adversity we build strength.”
At 39, Chinese-American Zachary Drake is the oldest of the three cast for Dust Storm. He has played lead roles in M. Butterfly and Pacific Overtures. “I am closer to Obata’s age, 57, than to Seiji’s, 18! This is definitely the best part I’ve had since playing Gandalf in a sixth grade production of The Hobbit!”
“Solo plays can be a nightmare for directors. This one is different; it is so well-written; and with these incredible actors, it is very exciting!” says director Warren Sherill, founder and artistic director of the former Paragon Theatre. “The pleasure I find in directing this is that I am doing it for a brand new, very important theatre in Denver. The city is growing in its arts diversity and TEA is part of this wonderful growth.”
Dust Storm will be running in repertory with another solo work, a stand-up performance piece Spirit & Sworded Treks, written by Maria Cheng, double cast with Cheng and Michelle Hurtubise and co-directed by Cheng and Tria Xiong, TEA’s co-founder and co-artistic director with Cheng. Employing tai ji, martial weapon forms, on-stage cooking, story-telling, modern dance and even bad singing, it explores a modern Chinese-American woman’s efforts at maintaining a spiritual path. The work has received critical acclaim across four continents.
“The Chinese roots and cultural clashes fascinate me, as does the relationship between art and spirituality. And to get private instruction, almost master classes, from Maria in tai ji! Each rehearsal has felt like a beginning; I am always surprised that things have been learned, that the journey continues forward. I’ve done one other solo show but nothing as challenging as this!” says Chinese-American Hurtubise who holds an MFA in Theatre from the University of Hawaii.
“Michelle is young enough to be my granddaughter, so I have had to rewrite almost half the script to make it more authentic for her. This process wound-up helping me hone the original script in a way that is funnier and more honest!” explains Cheng.
And this from Xiong, “What a blast to work with fine actors and in such an unusual work. This is what TEA is about – provocative stories from original voices. We can’t wait to open!” For more information, visit www.theatre-esprit-asia.org.