Rap + Vietnam + Arkansas = Qui Nguyen’s Poor Yella Rednecks at South Coast Repertory Sequel to Hit Vietgone

THE CAST: Tim Chiou, Paco Tolson, Samantha Quan, Eugene Young and Maureen Sebastian. Photo from South Coast Rep

COSTA MESA, Calif. (​​March ​15, 2019)—The next chapter of playwright Qui Nguyen’s story about his family history—Poor Yella Rednecks—is a raucously funny, deeply moving take on the immigrant story, told with his signature hip-hop and rap style. The play premieres at South Coast Repertory, directed by May Adrales, March 30-April 27. It is a co-commission with Manhattan Theatre Club and has been developed at SCR as part of the Pacific Playwrights Festival. Tickets are available online at www.scr.org.

Nguyen started the story in the award-winning Vietgone (2015), his breakout hit, that recounted his parents’ hot and hilarious 1975 courtship in a Vietnamese refugee camp. Poor Yella Rednecks picks up the story six years later as his mom and dad (Tong and Quang) try to build a new life in a foreign land called Arkansas. They find that marriage is hard, especially when she’s having doubts and his first one isn’t over yet.

He based both plays, in part, on interviews with his parents, but populated the world of both family plays with hip, modern Asians who use modern language.

“Qui turns the tables on what an audience might expect by having the Vietnamese characters in his plays use Hollywood blockbuster vernacular,” said Kimberly Colburn, literary director and dramaturg for the show. “By contrast, Americans speak in poor, comical and halting English. The point he illustrates is that much more unites us than divides us.”

Nguyen is co-founder of the Obie Award-winning Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company (New York City), the “pioneers of geek theatre.” His plays include Vietgone (2016 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, co-commissioned and premiered by SCR and Manhattan Theatre Club); She Kills Monsters (2014 American Alliance for Theatre and Education Distinguished Play Award); Soul Samurai (2009 GLAAD Media Award nomination) and the critically acclaimed Vampire Cowboys shows The Inexplicable Redemption of Agent G, Alice in Slasherland, Fight Girl Battle World, Men of Steel, Living Dead in Denmark, and the upcoming Revenge Song (Geffen Playhouse, 2020). His recent awards include a 2016 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Preschool Animated Program (“Peg+Cat”) and a 2015 New York Community Trust Helen Merrill Playwriting Award. For TV and film, he’s written for Marvel Studios, AMC, SyFy and PBS. He writes for “The Society” (Netflix) and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Returning from the original SCR Vietgone cast are Maureen Sebastian, Paco Tolson and Samantha Quan, with Tim Chiou and Eugene Young.

The creative team includes Shane Rettig, original music and sound design; Arnulfo Maldonado, scenic design; Valérie Thérèse Bart, costume design; Lap Chi Chu,lighting design; Kenny Seymour, arrangements; Jared Mezzocchi, projection design; Sean Cawelti, puppet design and direction; and Joanne DeNaut, CSA, casting. The production manager is Joshua Marchesi and the stage manager is Kathryn Davies. The dramaturg is Kimberly Colburn.

Poor Yella Rednecks has generous support from Honorary Producers Talya Nevo-Hacohen and Bill Schenker, and Marci Maietta Weinberg and William Weinberg. The play is the recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award. KCRW is the show’s media partner. South Coast Plaza is the season sponsor for the Segerstrom Stage.

The Godfather of Asian American Theatre

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