Theatre Esprit Asia celebrates its 5th anniversary with a national performance, regional touring, a major award, and a home season of world and regional premieres and two hits from its first year

“We survived five years, and every year we have ended in the black! Whew!” says Maria Cheng, founder and Artistic Director of Theatre Esprit Asia, the first and only Asian-American theatre company of the entire Rocky Mountain region. Well, actually more than just “survived,” thrived is perhaps a more fitting description.

TEA is technically six years old, established in June 2012 by Cheng and co-founder Tria Xiong. The two met as actors in the Vintage Theatre’s production of The Joy Luck Club, both new to the Colorado theatre scene. As the story goes, one asked, “How come there isn’t an Asian-American theatre company in Colorado?” The other answered, “I don’t know. Want to start one?” Thus TEA was born. The first year was spent creating the structure of the nonprofit tax exempt company: forming a board, raising funds, gathering a company of theatre artists and finally opening to the public in June of 2013 at the Vintage with two hit productions, Dust Storm and Spirit & Sworded Treks, which will be revived this 2017-18 season.

The buzz on the company’s innovative repertoire and production quality was immediate. The awards started pouring in and in its four years of presenting three world and eight regional premieres, TEA has garnered accolades and awards from leading critics, publications and venues – 20 awards in just four short years of producing.

TEA began its fifth performance year in June of 2017 with an invitation to the National Festival of the American Association of Community Theatre (AACT), the first ethnic theatre from any state to have been so honored in the Festival’s 48-year history. It was one of 12 companies selected from over 200 entries from ten regions across the nation.

TEA won this privilege by placing first in Region VII, winning Best Production, Actress, Lighting and Peoples’ Choice with its world premiere production of COMING TO AMERICA, an original work of three immigration stories from Iran, Vietnam and China. This work toured regionally in 2017 at Theatre Company of Lafayette – TCL and Bas Bleu Theatre of Fort Collins. Wendy Ishii, Artistic Director of Bas Bleu was so taken by TEA and its work that she says, “I want Bas Bleu to be the northern Colorado extension of TEA! We are going to continue sponsorship of their work.” Madge Montgomery, Artistic Director of TCL has already invited TEA back in January 2018 to perform its FERMATA, another original work that world premiered and inaugurated TEA’s new home at the Aurora Cultural Arts District Theatre to which the city of Aurora invited TEA to establish as its base in March of 2015.

Xiong departed TEA in the fall of 2015, but Cheng remained, becoming its sole Artistic Director and expanding the scope and reach of TEA’s threefold mission to: give voice to the contemporary Asian diaspora experience, provide creative opportunities to Asian-centric theatre artists, and foster deeper exchange and understanding among Asian communities and between them and the culture-at-large.

Besides the regional touring and national exposure, TEA’s 5th Anniversary Season was also auspiciously launched by Cheng being named by the Colorado Asian Culture and Education Network as a 2017 Asian American Hero for her work with TEA. An honor already received by three TEA Board members – Angela Cho, Ivy Hontz and Pam Sweetser.

“The enthusiasm for TEA from the Asian American, the theatre and our volunteer communities has been incredible. We would not be here today without their steadfast support.”

“This is our biggest season ever – three productions at home, at least four regional tours and an international festival. We are so excited for this 5th anniversary season of presenting powerful, humorous and moving plays about the human condition.”

TEA’s 5th Anniversary Season

October 7-29, 2017 | Hearts of Palm by Patricia Milton

A Regional Premiere – This satire is a tale of conscience fighting corruption, love surviving loss and ignorant foreign corporations versus savvy indigenous peoples. Hearts of Palm subverts several well-worn tropes, including white savior complex, gender bias, white male privilege and the notion that women don’t know how to negotiate!

January 12-28
FERMATA by Maria Cheng

Three generations of world class female musicians gather at a villa in Italy to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the patriarch’s passing. Music by Bach, Beethoven and Johann Strauss.
“..engaging and subtle…loaded with rich ideas about artistic legacy, familial love, a father’s failings…Cheng is a formidable force.” – Lisa Kennedy, The Denver Post

March 9-April 1
Coping with America, three one-acts directed by Cecilia Pang. All of the Above by Jon Vogels – A super bright Iranian techie muses on the pros and cons of the American Dream. Gunpowder Man by Rick Foster tells of two Chinese workers building the railroads of the American west. Pavithra Prasad’s The Occidental Moon – An Indian scientist expounds on his nation’s space program in relation to its ancient texts about the moon.

April 27-May 20
Spirit & Sworded Treks written/directed/performed by Maria Cheng – A comedy on how to maintain a spiritual path in materialistic America. The NY Times says her work is “wickedly funny… exquisitely crafted.”

Dust Storm by Rick Foster – A rebellious Japanese-American youth comes of age in an internment camp in WWII, inspired by a wise old master painter; directed by Maria Cheng, double cast with Michael Chen and Zachary Drake.

June 18-24
Spirit & Sworded Treks by Maria Cheng
International Theatre Festival of World Fest in Venice, Florida