So….What is Canon for Asian American Theatre?

Canon Asian American TheatrePrince Gomolvilas once did an exercise with his writing students and put up a blog post on the six plays that demonstrated the breadth and depth of Asian American theatre. They include:

  • The Year of the Dragon by Frank Chin
  • And the Soul Shall Dance by Wakako Yamauchi
  • M Butterfly by David Henry Hwang
  • Yankee Dawg You Die by Philip Kan Gotanda
  • A Language of Their Own by Chay Yew
  • Durango by Julia Cho

Now, given that there was a limit of just six, I bet there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. And with over fifty years of sustained production of Asian American theatre (hellooooo, East West Players!) , it seems that there’s a deeper and richer bench folks can tap. There’s more than material to form an actual canon of plays (as in, you can plug one into a slot in a season, forming an anchor for everything else that’s being presented.

Moreover, these are plays that SHOULD be presented to a wider audience, but are narrow mindedly restricted to “ethnic” theatre, and are therefore NEVER done (because mainstream theatre often don’t think to revive anything but the classics, and usually the ones done by dead white males).

After kicking it around on Facebook and late night sessions (not to mention, noticing a lack of press releases for actual news in the field), here’s MY take on canon in Asian American theatre (yes, it’s incomplete):

  • The Chickencoop Chinaman by Frank Chin
  • Dogeaters by Jessica Hagedorn
  • And the Soul Shall Dance by Wakako Yamauchi
  • F.O.B.
    Dance and the Railroad by David Henry Hwang
  • The Wash 
    Song for a Nisei Fisherman by Philip Kan Gotanda
  • Merchant on Venice by Shishir Kurup
  • Paper Angels by Genny Lim
  • Gold Watch, Momoko Iko
  • Gate of Heaven by Lane Nishikawa
  • Tea by Velina Houston.
  • Stop Kiss by Diana Son
  • Walls
    Talk Story
    by Jeannie Barroga
  • Yellow Fever by Rick Shiomi
  • The Theory of Everything by Prince Gomolvilas
  • Carry the Tiger to the Mountain by Cherylene Lee
  • Ching Chong Chinaman by Lauren Yee
  • Cowboy v. Samurai by Michael Golamco
  • Letters to a Student Revolutionary by Elizabeth Wong
  • Sakina’s Kitchen by Aasif Mandvi
  • Aloha Las Vegas by Ed Sakamoto

So…who did I miss? Who did I whiff on? Who have I pissed off?


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