Maria Cheng in Spirit & Sworded Tales: a solo play of a comedic look at a Chinese American’s spiritual journey.
Maria Cheng in Spirit & Sworded Tales: a solo play of a comedic look at a Chinese American’s spiritual journey.

What is Asian American (AA) theatre? Miss Saigon, a musical written by two Frenchmen based on an Italian opera? The King & I, written by two Americans guys named Rodgers & Hammerstein?

According to Maria Cheng and Tria Xiong, the founders and artistic directors of Colorado’s first AA theatre company, Theatre Esprit Asia – TEA, true AA theatre produces works predominantly written by, directed by and acted by, well, Asian Americans.

Cheng says, “We want to tell modern stories, funny or serious, created by those who are living the conflicts, the struggles, the absurdities, yet informed with the wisdom of Asian heritages.”

Xiong adds, “We have fantastic AA acting talent in the metro area, but they’ve been starving for meaty roles. In Colorado’s sixty plus years of professional theatre, amongst thousands of plays, we’ve had four, FOUR professionally produced AA plays!”

The two met last May while acting in one of those four plays, Vintage Theatre’s The Joy Luck Club, arguably the largest AA production ever mounted in Colorado. Marveled Cheng, “Director Craig Bond found nineteen AA actors!”

“Some of them had never been on stage before, but they stepped-up to the task, not a single yellow paint on white face was necessary!” laughed Xiong.

In ten months, the two founders formed a dynamic Board of Directors drawn from all the major Asian cultures. “We do have two Caucasians – they said they don’t mind being tokens!”

TEA’s National Advisory Council includes movers and shakers of the national AA theatre movement who have been waiting for years for an AA theatre presence in the Southwest. TEA has also gathered a stellar ensemble of AA actors. One has won a Henry, Colorado’s equivalent of the Tony. Another is a quantum physicist by day and a thespian by night! The company has programmed three powerful and critically acclaimed plays.

The co-founders say, “We can’t wait to showcase the amazing AA talent of Colorado!”

TEA’s inaugural season runs May 31 to June 22 at Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St, Aurora CO 80010. For tickets, call 303-856-7830. Tune in to next month’s Asian Avenue for more info on the plays or visit TEA’s website: www.theatre-esprit–asia.org.

Zachary Drake in original production of Dust Storm, directed by Rick Foster:  TEA’s production on the story of renowned Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata and his internment experience based on true events. The three male actors and two male directors who will be bringing this beautiful story to life are some of the best talents in the theatre scene.
Zachary Drake in original production of Dust Storm, directed by Rick Foster: TEA’s production on the story of renowned Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata and his internment experience based on true events. The three male actors and two male directors who will be bringing this beautiful story to life are some of the best talents in the theatre scene.