Tuesday, January 20, 2009

NAATCO's Expanded Mission Breaks Down Barriers

NAATCO -- the National Asian American Theatre Company -- is going to be producing the world premiere of Karen Hartman's play Leah's Train in February. What might be surprising about this is that Leah's Train is about a family of Russian-American Jews; and that all of them will be portrayed by Asian actors in the NAATCO production.

It doesn't surprise me, though, given what I know about NAATCO. Permit me to quote directly from their press release to explicate:
After nearly 20 years of presenting first-rate revivals of western stage classics with all Asian American actors, the National Asian American Theatre Company expands its mission to include world-premiere works from other cultures based on the company's founding principle that NAATCO provide Asian American actors the opportunity to portray roles not usually made available to them, and also to challenge audiences to examine their perception and expectations of other cultures.

About this world-premiere production of Leah's Train, NAATCO artistic director Mia Katigbak says, "This new initiative is inspired by courageous playwrights who agree with NAATCO that Asian Americans are capable of interpreting characters from a multitude of cultures. The world premiere of Leah's Train, in which characters who are Russian and American Jews are being created by an all Asian American cast, comes at an auspicious time: the historic inauguration of an African American president. What better way to celebrate the richness of American culture."

On a personal level, Ms. Katigbak, who is Filipino American and will also perform in Leah's Train, notes: "I was touched by the story of these three women as it reminded me of a trip I took to Portugal years ago with my mother and grandmother. As our train traveled from Lisbon to Caiscais, the modern world faded away and my Grandmother began to speak of her youth 70 years earlier in a way that seemed as clear as if it had just happened."

There's info about Leah's Train here. The NAATCO website is here.

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