The first edition of the following timeline was collaboratively created by the attendees of the 2006 National Asian American Theatre Conference and Festival as a record of events as part of Asian American theatre (both in general and to them personally) and performance history. Additional dates added since then (Note: dates are not verified).
Broadway production of Onoto Watanna’s (Winnifred Eaton) A Japanese Nightingale, at Daly’s Theater in 1903. First Asian American author produced on Broadway.
Asian American student playwrights begin writing at the University of Hawaii
Winnifred Eaton [1875-1954], the first Asian American novelist and screenwriter, wrote hundreds of screenplays and treatments from 1924 to 1931″:
She is also known as Onoto Watanna. Her IMDB listing is under a married name, “Winifred Reeve. Note: her sister Edith Maud Eaton [1865-1914], writing as “Sui Sin Far,” is held to be “the first person of Chinese ancestry to write in defense of the Chinese in America, countered beliefs widely held at the time that the Chinese were unassimilable [sic], morally corrupt, and corrupting. Sui Sin Far demonstrated that the Chinese were human, like everyone else, but victimized by the laws of the land.” Another sister, Grace (1867-1957), was the first Chinese-American female attorney in Chicago; she went to her law practice every day until her death at age 89″:
Ling-Ai Li & Wai Chee Chun Yee begin writing and become pioneering Asian American women playwrights in Hawaii
The Filipino Manongs came to California (Stockton, etc.) — My dad immigrated to NYC (Nicky P)
Willand Wilson begins collecting student plays at the University of Hawaii Manoa (including Asian American plays)
Early 20th Century
The Forbidden City thrives–Asian American Cabaret
Chop Suey Circuit
Japanese American Internment
Going by when the first main camp, Manzanar, opened [March ’42] and the last one, Tule Lake, closed [March ’46].
Dutch & Indonesians in concentration camps under Japanese occupation
The Crimson Kimono” debuts starring James Shigeta — one of the first studio marketed films in which an Asian Pacific American gets the girl! ”
Creation of the San Francisco Mime Troupe
Flower Drum Song starring Nancy Kwan was the first TV. performance of Asian American actors and positively influenced Asian identity. We saw ourselves in the media.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s shows a buck tooth stereotype of Japanese man
Immigration Act of 1965 – Relaxation of anti-Asian immigration laws, large wave of Chinese, Filipino and Korean immigration to the US as pent up demand lasts for at least two decades.
Yoko Ono’s appearance on “The Tube” & in the media
Tanzaman Socialist dance performances
East West Players is founded – Mako is the founding Artistic Director
Bruce Lee as Kato
Collaboration between East West Players and Inner City Cultural Center
Demonstration at Los Angeles Music Center (re) Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen
Late 60’s Early 70’s
Great Asian American actors audition but no roles for Asians
Most consistently multicultural ensemble in SF Bay area and the oldest” political theatre in the nation ”
Kumu Kahua Theatre Honolulu — as a response to the absence of local voices and material in Hawaiian theatre. Local” is an identity shaped by/for largely
Asian American Studies begins
First courses in Asian American Theatre taught at UCLA
Second City establishes improv + sketch comedy as an art form
BITAW — Basic Integrated Theatre Arts Workshop was an educational program created in the Philippines and used in the Philippines and the United States to teach and empower
American Conservatory Theater develops Asian American actors
Indian Sheer Theatre meets Asian American solo performance
Country Dinner playhouse toured Teahouse of the August Moon
International Manila Voice Fest
Ping Chong’s Lazarus at La Mama ETC
Production of Chicken Coop Chinaman by Frank Chin, 1st Asian American play produced in New York
Creation of Theatrical Ensember of Asians (which became Asian Exclusion Act, then Northwest Asian American Theatre ) in Seattle
Creation of Asian American Theatre Workshop (later Company) in San Francisco
Coda written by Tri-Am, Alberto Isaac, produced by East West Players
Kearny Street Workshop founded — San Francisco
Chinese Theatre Group Act La Mama Return of the Phoenix
Asian Americans protest Broadway parts being given to non-Asian Americans
Nicky Paraiso was the first Asian-Filipino-American to be admitted to NYU’s graduate acting program. Harsh Nayya, a South Asian actor, was in the class a year ahead and Marion Yue was a Japanese American classmate.
Pacific Overtures on Broadway
Pan Asian Rep founded by Tisa Chang
Wakako Yamauchi’s And the Soul Shall Dance at East West Players
Nobuko Miyamoto founds Great Leap – Asian American performing arts organization in Los Angeles ”
New World Theatre founded — Asian American female artistic director — Asian American theatre presented, produced, developed since its founding
David Henry Hwang writes F.O.B. at Stanford
Pacific Asian Actors Ensemble in San Diego founded by Thom Sesma, Gingerlily Lowe, David Tamayo, Kent Brisby, Ed You, & Janine Lowe
East West Players’ productions hit me in my theatrical heart, and I knew someday I wanted to be involved with East West. I got my opportunity in 1991.
AIDS epidemic devastates the theatre world
Paper Angels at Chinese Cultural Center in San Francisco
Reading Fanon & Rustom Barucha
Participating in Street Theater in India — watching Badal Sircar’s extraordinary production Procession
Seattle Group Theatre — multicultural playwrights, festivals, national gatherings
Song for a Nisei Fisherman at Asian American Theatre Company (and Stanford Asian American Theatre Project)
Cold Tofu founded by four women: Marilyn Tokuda, Denice Kumagai, Judy Momii, & Irma Escamilla
Japan America Theater opens its doors
Yellow Fever at Asian American Theater Company and Pan Asian Rep
Chicago’s first Asian American theatre formed: Mina Sama-No
Co-founded by Marc Rita
Yellow Fever by Rick Shiomi in Vancouver Canada
Who Killed Vincent Chin?
Karate Kid with Pat Morita – 1st Asian American born Oscar nominee
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (as a bad thing)
1st Production of David Henry Hwang’s F.O.B. in our Capitol City Sacramento
Creation of Cahoots Theatre Projects in Toronto
The end of Asian Writers Basement Workshops led by Fay Chiong in NYC
Velina Hasu Houston’s Tea at San Diego’s old Globe Theatre
Films like Sixteen Candles & Gung Ho portrayed Asian stereotypes and sparked a movement for Asian Americans to fight these stereotypes.
David Henry Hwang wins Tony for M Butterfly
Joy Luck Club written by Amy Tan
Ma-Yi Theatre Company founded in NYC
Chinese Story Theatre (later renamed Asian Story Theatre) founded by Kent Brisby & Gingerlily Lowe
Highways Performance Space founded by Tim Miller & Linda Frye Burnham in Santa Monica, California
Dan Kwong premieres first solo performance, Secrets of The Samurai Centerfielder
Tianamen Square student protests
Exit the Dragon in Berkeley
Development and rise of Asian American stand-up comedy (Margaret Cho)
Production of Yankee Dog You Die at Washington Project F/T Arts
Petition in protest to Colleen Dewhurst & Actor’s Equity regarding non-Asian American casting of Miss Saigon
Miss Saigon Opens, starring Jonathan Pryce & Lea Salonga
The first Gulf War
David Mura’s reading of After We Lost Our Way
Bindlestiff studio in San Francisco founded
Tokyo Bound Amy Hill’s solo show
Chay Yew teaches the Asian Theatre playwriting workshops at the Mark Taper Forum
David Henry Hwang Writer’s Institute
Treasure in the House Asian Pacific American performance series born at Highways
note: founded by Dan Kwong
Theater Mu founded
Rich Shiomi writes and Theater Mu produces the first play about Korean Adoption
LA Riots and the subsequent founding of Society of Heritage Performance
NWAAT’s 20th Anniversary
Asian American Renaissance — conference & organization forming in Minneapolis, MN 55407
The Public Theater forms an Asian American Playwrights Lab headed by Chiori Miyagawa with members Sung Rno, Lesli Jo Morizono, Diana Son, Eugenie Chan, Dawn Akemi Saito and Cary Wong.
It is shut down a year later after Artistic Director JoAnne Atkalitis is replaced by George C. Wolfe.
Joy Luck Club the film
Red Earth & Pouring Rain won the Booker (Indo-American novel).
Unbroken Thread published — edited by Roberta Uno and Velina Hasu Houston — the first anthology of plays by Asian American women playwrights.
Canadian premiere of David Henry Hwang’s The Dance and the Railroad
Club O’Noodle – Vietnamese American Theatre Company started
2nd Spoken Word Summit APIA Chicago
Youth Speaks in NYC at the teachers & writer’s collaborative
Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra established — introducing Asian American theatre to the whitest county in California (Nevada County)
All American Girl with Margaret Cho
Asian Boys — Nicky Paraiso’s first full-length performance piece
Dan Kwong’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Asian Men – but Didn’t Give Enough of a Shit to Ask at Japanese American National Museum Los Angeles
Cleveland Raining by Sung Rno
Berkeley Rep’s Woman Warrior
Roger Tang develops Asian American Theatre Review website which suddenly links API artists nationally through the world wide web.
Stir-Friday Night! Discovered a fun yet powerful method to show a truthful perspective on the Asian American experience– that method was sketch comedy.
Asian American Repertory Theatre founded in San Diego: Andy Lowe, Vince Sobbrano, Jenn Wong, Donna Maglalang, Jyl Kaneshiro
Peeling the Banana Writing and performing workshop at Asian American Writers Workshop – NYC
note: founded by Gary San Angel
Lapu (UCLA’s Asian American Theatre group) founded
Ann Bogart’s Still Co. – Suzuki Summer Program
Asian Arts Institute – First nonprofit community arts center targeted to Asian American forms.
RAW – Real Asian Woman Talk (performance art/dance) at the Walker Art Center. Shared stage with Denise Uyehara & Canyon Sam
Produce APIA Arts Initiative @ Pomona College hosting readings of John Song/ Judy Soo Hoo, & Michael Premsirat’s plays.
New World Theater’s Third World American Theatre Conference
Introducing & directing South Asian play at regional theatre
San Francisco Chronicle article on interracial dating: Asian women and Caucasian Men
Spoken word turned theatre
Journey to the West at Berkeley Rep
Asian American Women Playwrights archive founded at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It becomes a national repository of plays, interviews, photos, etc.
Josephine Lee’s publication of Performing Asian America
API 101 at Asian American Theater Company
Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center founded
Ching Valdes Aran-Obie — best performance, Flipzoids @ Ma-Yi Theatre
Scholarly work by Josephine Lee’s Performing Asian America
Asian American Theatre Listserv aa-drama established
Import of Hong Kong Box Office stars like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat.
Making Tracks NY Musical Workshop
First the Forrest worked with Dipankar Mukherjee in one-woman show
Dan Kwong & Gary San Angel introduced an all Asian American performance workshop in Philadelphia
Pork Filled Players (later Pork Filled Productions) is formed in Seattle.
East West Players moves into new 240-seat Equity theater in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo
Something to Say performance group at Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia
East is East Premieres in NYC
World Premiere of Dogeaters at La Jolla Playhouse
Hapa Performance Weekend @ Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica
East West Players produces first Thai-American play Big Hunk O’ Burnin’ Love by Prince Gomolvilas
In Vancouver, the Asian Canadian population constituted 40% of the general population, but we were not represented at all on stage in Vancouver. Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (VACT) was born to right this injustice.
Resurrection of Stanford Asian American Theater Project (a group started by David Henry Hwang). Sean Lim of AATC involved as student.
Conference at Seattle’s Northwest Asian American Theatre
Singapore Festival of the Arts hosts Los Angeles based playwright of Dutch, Indonesian, & Spanish Apache descent. If I Only Had a Heart Made Out of Levi’s written by Annette Jilts Jacobs
Mighty Mountain Warriors & Latina Theater Lab & Culture Clash collaborate and create a piece.
Lodestone Theatre Ensemble founded in Los Angeles
Manhattan Theatre Club and The New Group collaborate to produce UK play East is East in NYC with mostly South Asian cast
Jooks Songs Performance Group at Yale University
( founded by Dave Lin, original member of Peeling the Banana, NY)
Generasian — Next teen theater troupe starts its first season at the Asian Arts Initiative.
I Was Born with Two Tongues founded using the idea of “Asian American Identity” through powerful and proficiently worded spoken word poetry.
Sirenz — women’s multi-ethnic spoken word group founded in response to white supremicist hate crimes in Illinois
A Jive Bombers Christmas 2nd Generation continues the tradition at the Japanese American National Museum
TeAda Productions — JACCC — Hawaii artists in Los Angeles
SIS Productions (Seattle) is formed
Roberta Uno’s reading of her anthology Unbroken Thread
Disha Theatre — The first South Asian theatre company in New York City launches at Dialectica Art Gallery.
Teada Productions presents Native Immigrant at JAT in Little Tokyo
1st APIA Spoken Word & Poetry Summit in Seattle
Karen Shimakawa’s National Abjection
Mango Tribe, a collective of 30 APIA women from Chicago, NYC, Minneapolis, LA — produces Sisters in the Smoke in Chicago at the Vittum Theater in response to violence within APIA communities.
Mellow Yellow’s 1st show opens two weeks after the events of September 11, 2001
American Desi released — 1st major Indo-American independent film nationally released
Better Luck Tomorrow opens (grassroots community, globalization)
YAWP begins in Chicago!
1st TeAda workshop featuring Kristina Wong, Ova Saopeng, & Robert Karimi
Leadership shift and new direction at Asian American Theater Co. of San Francisco. Sean Lim starts as Artistic Director.
Great Leap’s Sacred Moon Songs at East West Players with Asian. Chicano
Flower Drum Song by David Henry Hwang opens — Asian American patronage extend the run
Sex in Seattle: Episode II — other women influence Vancouver Asian Canadian theatre productions
Sex in Seattle is the country’s longst running serial drama for stage.
YAWP Young Asians with Power workshop
Chop! Chop! Asian American Artists collective show
2nd Asian American Spoken Word &Poetry Summit in Chicago
World Premiere of Precious Stones by Jamil Khoury — Chicago
Mango Tribe produces Sisters in the Smoke in New York at HERE Arts Center — sold-out run!
Bombay Dreams produced on Broadway with mostly South Asian cast by Andrew Lloyd Weber
Ushering in the new generation of Asian Canadian plays and artists (Little Dragon, China Doll, Banana Boys) consistent, continuous, constant
Beau Sia, Stacey Ann Chinn, & Suheir Hamad receive Tony Award for Def Poetry Jam
Taiko Project (re)generation — 1st major taiko theatrical production tours in the US
Harold & Kumar opens with two Asian American leads
Dogeaters — LA production
Theater Mu collaborates with Park Square Theater on the first all Asian American cast musical in MN with Pacific Overtures
Co-playwright in With love from Ramallah First Arab-American production in the upper Midwest.
National Performance Network Conference in Los Angeles
Opening night of Remains at Mo’olelo Performing Arts Co. San Diego
Pipe Dreams and Paper Trails at Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco
Mango Tribe performs 2nd production The Creation Mythology Project
Henry Street Settlement in NYC.
M Butterfly production by East West Players
Tea by Velina Hasu Houston in Chicago
The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow at The Old Globe
Premiere of F.O.P. Fresh off the Plane at AATC by Sean Lim
3rd APIA Spoken Word & Poetry Summit in Boston
A Korean couple on Lost the television show
Haruki Murakami’s After the Quake premieres at Chicago’s Steppenwoolf Theater
Lodestone Theatre Ensemble production of Aziatik Nation
YAWP Young Asians with Power benefit in Chicago Untranslatable
As Vishnu Dreams at East West Players in collaboration with Cornerstone Theatre
Guantanamo at Culture Project
World premiere of Amazing Leap of Faith
Asian American Arts Initiative writing and performance workshop
Self (the remix) opens in Alaska
AATC and Bindlestiff Studio production of Sleeper (a chronicle of the return of the remarkable)
Touring work of Youth Speaks through Living Project Rep.
Making Tracks in San Jose — Asians can sing and have incredible talent!
Kristina Wong is awarded creative capital award in theatre to create new work on mental illness among Asian woman
TeAda Lab development & open rehearsal at Angels Gate Cultural Center
Scholarly work by Esther Kim Lee History of Asian American Theatres
Mango Tribe develops 3rd production Un/knowing Desire and Empire at New World Theater summer play lab
1st collaboration between CATS and a professional theatre group, the Word for Word Theatre Co. in SF, bringing Amy Tan’s Immortal Heart to Nevada
Grace Lee Project
Mango Tribe & Asian Arts Initiative collaborate on a residency exploring gentrification as an intensive workshop for artists across the country
Another Heaven depiction of Asian dilemma as indentured labor in Hawaii – produced by Kuma Kahua Theatre
Asian American Theatre Conference hosted by East West Players in Los Angeles
Mako passes away, July 21.
SIS Productions (Seattle) launches Insatiable, the Seattle Asian American Playwrights’ Festival
I Land solo performance by Keo Woolford & Roberta Uno
Launching of Canada’s 1st Asian-Canadian Drama Anthology (acknowledging/recognizing the body of work we love).
First National Asian American Theatre Festival held in New York City.
Second National Asian American Theatre Conference, Minneapolis, MN
Second National Asian American Theatre Festival, held in New York City.
Azeotrope debuts in Seattle.
Silk Road Theatre debuts South Asian Playwrights website
Qui Ngyen’s Vampire Cowboys Theatre wins special Obie
Shunya Theatre founded in Houston (?)
Third National Asian American Theatre Conference/Festival in Los Angeles, CA
Chay Yew named Artistic Director for Victory Garden Theatre, Chicago, IL
Artists at Play founded in Los Angeles, CA
National APIA Spoken Word Poetry Summit, 2011: Twin Cities!
Here Lies Love opens at the Public.
TEA opens in Colorado
Fourth National Asian American Theatre Conference/Festival in Philadelphia, PA
PAPA (Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists) debuts in Philadelphia, PA (first full production in 2018)
The Kilroys list debuts (Carla Ching is one of the organizers)
National New Play Exchange debuts
The McKnight Foundation has named Minnesota playwright, director, producer, theater artist, and musician Rick Shiomi as the 2015 McKnight Distinguished Artist, in recognition of artistic excellence spanning four decades.
Ruthie Ann Miles wins Tony for The King and I.
Eric Ting named Artistic Director at California Shakespeare
Fresh off the Boat debuts on ABC
Vietgone, by Qui Nguyen, opens at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (with first all Asian American cast at OSF); win slew of awards
Fifth National Asian American Theatre Conference in Ashland, OR, with Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Beyond Orientalism co-hort launched by Theatre Communications Group
Tradewinds opens shop in Kansas City
Ma-Yi establishes residencies in Seattle and San Francisco
Kim’s Convenience debuts on Canadian TV
Christopher Chen’s Caught wins Obie
Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men opens on Broadway (first Asian American female playwright to do so)