East West Players’ Kentucky Features Hapa artists

East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest-running professional theatre of color in the country and the largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work, is pleased to announce the cast and creative team for the West Coast premiere of Kentucky, which the The New York Times has praised as “…the full-length debut of a distinctive new voice — mouthy, sly and bourbon sweet, with the expected kick.” Written by Leah Nanako Winkler and directed by Deena Selenow, Kentucky begins performances on November 10 and runs until December 11, 2016, with opening night on November 16.

Kentucky is a story about home, redemption, and finding the best version of yourself. I’m so excited to share Kentucky with a new audience, especially at East West Players, where two hapa (mixed-race) sisters will take center stage! I’ve been a huge fan of EWP for as long as I’ve been a playwright and having an often painfully personal, loud, eclectic play of mine as part of this season is truly a dream come true. I’m especially thrilled to uncover new layers within a nine-person ensemble playing multiple characters for the first time ever,” says playwright Leah Nanako Winkler.

Kentucky is written by a unique and bold, new voice in the American Theater. Leah’s play is hilariously subversive and heartfelt, depicting a clash of cultures from Japanese to Southern and from the city to the heartland,” says EWP Artistic Director Snehal Desai. “These juxtapositions are what make Kentucky an authentically American story. There are so few plays that feature hapa characters front and center. It’s a beautiful, funny, and endearing coming-of-age story.”

Hiro is a single, nearly thirty, self-made woman making it in New York as a marketing executive after a traumatic upbringing in Kentucky. After seven years of being estranged from her family, she returns home to be the maid of honor in her sister Sophie’s wedding. As her therapist predicts, Hiro gets sucked into a whirlwind of toxic family drama, which she thought she left behind. First, there’s her emotionally unstable father, who berates everyone, especially Hiro’s mild-mannered mother. Then there’s Sophie, her born-again Christian baby sister, who super loves Jesus and a fiancée she barely knows. What happens when egos collide before the wedding? There’s nothing that anti-anxiety pills and whiskey can’t fix—or not. Identity, religion, and love collide in this rollicking story about family, relationships, and roots.

Making their EWP debuts are Jessica Jade Andres (TV: The Mindy ProjectNCIS: Los AngelesGossip Girl, and the Emmy-Award-winning Lizzie Bennet Diaries) as Hiro; Jacqueline Misaye (Sam Shepard’s Cowboy Mouth and Sam Henry Kass’ An Actor’s Guide To Survival) as Sophie; theatre veteran James Harnagel (The Centre Theater Group’s The House of Blue Leaves) as James; Christian Telesmar as Da’Ran; Victor Morris as Pastor Ernest; Daniel Rubiano as Adam/Larry; Megan Rippey as Grandma/Laura/Bridesmaid 1; and Jenapher Zheng as Nicole/Bridesmaid 2/Sylvie. Dian Kobayashi (EWP’s Steel Magnolias) will play Masako.

The creative team includes Deena Selenow (Director), who has directed productions at REDCAT and La Jolla Playhouse WoW Festival, and is an inaugural member of Theatre Communications Group’s SPARK Leadership Program; Sara Ryung Clement (Scenic Designer), whose upcoming projects include set design for Vietgone at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Hilda Kane (Lighting Design), whose credits include Mary Bridget Davies Live in Concert at the Pasadena Playhouse; Howard Ho (Sound Designer), whose EWP credits include Washer/Dryer and Criers for Hire; Lena Sands (Costume Design), who has designed for Riot/Rebellion at The Los Angeles Theatre Center; Glenn Michael Baker (Prop Master), who recently worked on Stuart Little for the Lewis Family Playhouse; and Zachary James Schell (Stage Manager), who has worked with La Jolla Playhouse and LA Opera.

All performances of Kentucky will be staged at the David Henry Hwang Theater at the  Union Center of the Arts at 120 Judge John Aiso Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Previews are Thursday, November 10 through Sunday, November 13, with 8pm shows from Thursday to Saturday, and 2pm matinee shows from Saturday to Sunday. All preview seats are $25. Opening night is Wednesday, November 16 at 8pm. “Pay-What-You-Can” performance is on Friday, November 25 at 8pm. The production runs until December 11.


East West Players is proud to stage the West Coast Premiere of Leah Nanako Winkler’s Kentucky as part of Radiant, a 51stAnniversary Season that focuses on featuring stories by and about women. Tickets may be purchased atwww.eastwestplayers.org or please call (213) 625-7000, making sure to mention any wheelchair/accessible seating needs. Student and senior discounts are available. Ticket prices range from $35 to $50.


For more information about East West Players, please visit www.eastwestplayers.org.


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