Mar 14, 2015

Coffeehouse #124 – Ping Chong

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Curator: Michal Gamily

Moderator: Victoria Abrash

Panel: Ping Chong, Alvin Eng, Talvin Wilks

Performer: Moriamo Akibu


Ping Chong is an internationally acclaimed theatre artist and pioneer in the use of media in the theater. Since 1972, he has created over 90 works for the stage which have been presented at major festivals and theatres worldwide. He has presented over 15 works at LaMaMa including Kindness, Deshima, Nosferatu, Elephant Memories, Kwaidan After Sorrow and Cry for Peace among many others . He is the recipient a Guggenheim Fellowship, a USA Artist Fellowship, two BESSIE awards, two OBIE awards and the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award.

In 1992, he created the first work in the Undesirable Elements series of community-based oral history projects of which there have now been over 50 productions. His puppet theater work CATHAY: ThreeTales of China was commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for its Festival of China in 2005 and was presented at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, New Victory Theatre, the Vienna Festival and the World Puppetry Festival in Chengdu, PRC. His adaptation of Kurosawa’s THRONE OF BLOOD, was presented at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in 2010.  With Talvin Wilks, he directed and wrote COLLIDESCOPE: Adventures in Pre and Post Racial America, which premiered at the University of Maryland in Fall, 2014. His BEYOND SACRED:Unthinking Muslim Identity premieres at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in April, 2015.  Theatre Communications Group has published two volumes of his plays The East West Quartet and Undesirable Elements: Real People, Real Lives, Real Theater.

Moderator Victoria Abrash has served as a dramaturg and collaborator in all forms of theater. She has worked at many leading theaters in New York and around the country, including the Second Stage, Manhattan Theater Club, the Public Theater, the Mark Taper Forum, the Philadelphia Drama Guild, Lincoln Center Theater, the Acting Company, and others, and has an ongoing collaboration with the multi-disciplinary Ping Chong + Company.

Alvin Eng, a native New York playwright, director, performer and educator, is currently developing Portrait Plays: A Cycle of Historical Dramas about Artists. The first work, THREE TREES, was presented Off-Broadway by Pan Asian Rep at the West End Theatre, as well as in Paris by the Moving Parts Theatre. 33 & 1/3 CORNELIA STREET recently had a NYC reading featuring Kathleen Chalfant as painter Alice Neel and Bob Holman as urban legend, Joe Gould, in a benefit for City Lore. He recently traveled to Russia to research THE IMPERIAL IMAGE, the third “Portrait Play.” In 2011, Eng conceived and directed a Fulbright Specialist residency, “Our Town: China/USA,” at City University of Hong Kong with his wife, director/actor/dramaturg Wendy Wasdahl. At La MaMa, he has directed three of his own works, the opera MAO ZEDONG: JEALOUS SON, a musical, THE LAST HAND LAUNDRY IN CHINATOWN, as well as a solo performance piece, MORE STORIES FROM THE PAGAN PAGODA. He is on the faculty of the Theatre Department at Goucher College.

Talvin Wilks is a playwright, director and dramaturg. His plays include Tod, the boy, Tod, The Trial of Uncle S&M, Bread of Heaven, and An American Triptych. Directorial projects include the world premiere productions of UDU by Sekou Sundiata, The Love Space Demands by Ntozake Shange, No Black Male Show/Pagan Operetta by Carl Hancock Rux, Banana Beer Bath by Lynn Nottage, The Shaneequa Chronicles by Stephanie Berry, Relativity by Cassandra Medley, On the Way to Timbuktu by Petronia Paley and The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza. He has served as co-writer/co-director/dramaturg for ten productions in Ping Chong’s ongoing series of Undesirable Elements, as well as for the recent premiere of Collidescope: Adventures in Pre and Post Racial American. For over 17 years he has served as the company dramaturg for the Bebe Miller Company premiering five collaborations, Going to the Wall, the Bessie Award winning, Verge, Landing/Place for which he received a 2006 Bessie Award, Necessary Beauty and A History. Recent dramaturgical and writing collaborations also include work with Camille A. Brown and Dancers (Mr. TOL E. RaNcE), Carmen de Lavallade (As I Remember It), Darrell Jones (Hoo-Ha), Urban Bush Women (Hep Hep Sweet Sweet, Walking with ‘Trane-Chapter 3), baba Israel (The Spinning Wheel) and Hartbeat Ensemble (Jimmy and Lorraine), He was a researcher/co-curator/dramaturg for the 2013 Sekou Sundiata Retrospective, Blink Your Eyes, and the Aunt Ester Cycle at the August Wilson Center in 2009. He is currently writing a book on black theatre, Testament: 40 Years of Black Theatre History in the Making, 1964-2004.

Moriamo Akibu (James Baldwin) Her credits include Collidescope: Adventures in Pre- and Post-Racial America, Spring Awakening, Moliere Impromptu, In Time of Roses, In the Red and Brown Water, and The Old Settler. University of Maryland (upcoming) The Human Capacity (assistant director) Spring MFA Thesis (assistant stage manager). Regional: The Cypher (vocal coach), Forum Theatre ReAct(s): Community Day. She is the Artistic Director of Kreativity Diversity Troupe. Training: University of Maryland College Park B.A. Theatre Candidate (Spring 2015).

Coffeehouse Chronicles


Coffeehouse Chronicles is an educational performance series exploring the history of Off-Off-Broadway. Part artist-portrait, part history lesson, and part community forum, Coffeehouse Chronicles take an intimate look at the development of downtown theatre, from the 1960s’ “Coffeehouse Theatres” through today.

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