Thursday, June 14, 2012

Moderating Saturday matinee talkback of Pan Asian Rep's RANGOON

I will moderate a talk back of Pan Asian Repertory's RANGOON world premiere this coming Saturday June 16. The show will begin at 2:30 pm at the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row. The talk back starts right after this matinee show. We will discuss the South Asian immigrant experience in the USA.

A teaching artist from Theater Development Fund (TDF) will join the actors of RANGOON: Sunita S. Mukhi who plays Seema, Faizul Khan who plays Dhiraj, the 2 children played by Adeel Ahmed and Anita Sabherwal, James Rana who plays Chetan, and Kylie Delre who plays Marge

In the audience there will be a group of about 40 members of the Ganesh Temple in Queens, most of them, I understand, are Indians born in India who have children born in the United States.

Located in Flushing, Queens, the Hindu Temple Society of North America’s Ganesh Temple is one of the nation’s oldest and largest temples founded by Hindu immigrants. This Hindu Temple Society of North America’s slate-gray temple is straight out of India, literally: it was built 30 years ago by silpis, artisans from the home country. The main attraction is the sanctuary, where devotees pray and priests conduct ritual offerings and cleansings to the gods represented throughout the room. Ganesha is the presiding deity in this temple, and thus the black granite sculpture representing him — with an elephant-like head and human body — is at center stage.

The reviews for RANGOON have been glowing:

Rachel Saltz, New York Times, says: "RANGOON has an Indian context and Indian specifics: Samosas and bhel puri are cooked, and references made to Gujarat, Hindi films and ayurvedic cures. But it could almost be any immigrant drama. All the familiar themes are here: the clash of generations, the longing for the old country, the striving and accommodation and loneliness.”

Frank Scheck, New York Post, says “The playwright... clearly knows the territory, and Raul Aranas’ staging has some amusing moments — the son’s impersonation of the “universal Indian head bob” and a fantasy sequence among them. The nine-person ensemble acquits itself well, headed by Faizul Khan’s subtly moving turn as the beleaguered Dhiraj.”

RANGOON is written by Mayank Keshaviah, a playwright, screenwriter, and educator. Before moving to Los Angeles in 2005, he served on the board of South Asian Theatre Arts Guild Experiment (STAGE) in Washington, D.C. Mayank has worked at the Mark Taper Forum and in the Literary Department of Center Theatre Group.

In 2007, his play THOSE WHO CAN'T received a workshop production in the USC School of Theatre’s Blueprints festival. RANGOON received a second staged reading at New York’s Pan Asian Repertory Theatre in December 2009.

Mayank is a member of the Playwright’s Group at Company of Angels, the oldest non-profit professional theater in Los Angeles, and the L.A. Drama Critics Circle and regularly reviews theatre for the LA Weekly. He was selected as 2010 NEA Arts Journalism Fellow in Theatre and Musical Theatre. He holds a B.A. in Economics from Dartmouth College and an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from the University of Southern California.

RANGOON World Premiere
Directed by RAUL ARANAS
At The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row

$51.25 at, call Telecharge at 212-239-6200

Discounts avaiable at
212-947-8844, or the Clurman Theatre Box Office:

Here are some details about the show:
Revisit Arthur Miller’s take on the American Dream from an Indian point of view…

RANGOON is funny and tragic — a quintessential 21st century American tale!

RANGOON World Premiere
Directed by RAUL ARANAS

At The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row
Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30
Saturday-Sunday at 2:30
Opening Night May 31 at 7pm

$51.25 at, call Telecharge at 212-239-6200

Discounts avaiable at
212-947-8844, or the Clurman Theatre Box Office:

Seniors: $41.25 with code TRSnr
Students: $26.25 with code TRStu
Groups (10+): $41.25 TRGroup
(Groups interested in arranging a talk-back with the artists must purchase through the Pan Asian Business Office- 212-868-4030 or

Contact Pan Asian Rep:
212-868-4030 or for tickets to
Opening Night: $100 May 31 at 7:00 w/party
School Matinees: $12 May 30, June 5 or 6,12 or 13 at 11:00

Starring: Faizul Khan,Juan Luis Acevedo,Adeel Ahmed,
Kylie Delre, Sunita S. Mukhi, Krishen Mehta, James Rana,
Anita Sabherwal, Daniel Robert Sullivan

Sets: Kaori Akazawa Dramaturg: Snehal Desai
Lights: Victor En Yu Tan SM: April Ann Kline
Costumes: Carol Pelletier ASM: Miriam Hyfler

more about Pan Asian:
more about Theatre Row:

On twitter? Join the conversation using #NewAmericanDream

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Deadline to apply for 2012 National Critics Institute at O'Neill Theater Center: Friday June 15

The organizers of the annual National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center, tell me that the Connecticut-based summer-only institute has "a bit of scholarship money" for critics, professors, students and writers. Perhaps you are in a directing program or in degree-seeking programs. You may want to do what Charney and I did  — to become a Critic Fellow for two weeks at the O'Neill. Playwrights and scholars are welcome.

If you are interested, please contact Mark Charney at cmark [at] by Friday June 15.

To learn more about the program, visit this link: You may also read the description below the photo....

A Personal Testimony:  Thanks to the New York Times, Company Foundation, I was chosen as a 2003 Critic Fellow at the O'Neill Theater Center. Barring going on a road trip to every single theater city in America, the only other potential solution to my problem seemed to be the O’Neill Critics Institute. At the time, I had begun to face the imperatives of a different question: How is it possible for an American theater critic to possess a truly national outlook — to become one of Robert Brustein’s “repertory critics with a passionate overview” — but whose purview transcended Broadway essentialism?

The O'Neill's Playwrights Conference each year offers staged readings of new writing from around the country led by top directors and actors. One of the unique aspects of the O’Neill Critics Institute is that critics are assigned to new works-in-progress and can, when schedules permit, plumb the mysteries of how plays change as they observe firsthand the process of putting them on their feet.

The glimpse into the backstage life is just part of the O’Neill program, though. This two-week boot camp, created by the late Ernest Schier, is primarily designed to improve a critic’s copy. It’s not just about writing on deadline — it’s about writing the overnight review. The faculty (which, my year, included Newsday’s Linda Winer) gives critiques of what has been written while everyone sits on benches under the copper beech trees that line the estate’s rustic campus.

The theater's campus overlooks the Long Island Sound in Waterford Beach Park. I spent a lot of time on that beach. On some lazy afternoon days, I closed my eyes, dreaming that I might hear the sound of a foghorn.
The beach at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT.

Waterford, CT — The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is now accepting applications for its 2012 National Critics Institute (NCI) to be held July 2-16, 2012. Applicants may submit through Friday, June 15, 2012.

A two-week intensive, the National Critics Institute offers writers, professional or amateur, complete immersion in the life of professional theater. NCI runs concurrently with the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference and National Music Theater Conference and provides Critic Fellows a unique opportunity to observe the growth of new American Theater while sharpening their own skills as writers. 

Selected applicants can expect a rigorous exploration of their work. Critic Fellows see a production every night and their copy—a review of the show, an interview with a playwright, a feature about an actor or director—is due early the next morning. Copy is then usually read aloud and discussed by the group under the direction of a seasoned theater writer or editor.

With feedback from professionals like Linda Winer (Newsday) and Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), applicants will receive frank, objective criticism of their work and learn the latest trends in theatre journalism, from blogging and tweeting to web publishing.

"We don't come to the O'Neill to tell the playwrights what's wrong with their scripts," says NCI director Dan Sullivan, who reviewed theater for the Los Angeles Times for twenty years. "This is about our process as writers — the place where we exercise our right to fail. It's a tough two weeks, not a vacation at the beach. We like to call it a boot camp for critics. For critics with experience it's a re-boot. There's no other program like it."

Although primarily designed for working writers, NCI also welcomes theater educators. The program has included professors associated with the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for years. CEU credits are available. Cost of the session is $1,800. This includes private room, meals, tuition and tickets to National Playwrights Conference, National Music Theater Conference, Goodspeed Opera House and Ivoryton Playhouse. Limited financial aid is available for qualified candidates.

If you are interested, please contact Mark Charney at cmark [at] by Friday June 15.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Be a guest at our table in "How Queer Everything Is Today!" - an experimental public forum, Tues, June 12

NEW YORK CITY:  It's a party. There is a seat at the table for you. It is a democracy. Talk is the main course. This is a performance of a dinner-party conversation. Anyone seated at the table is a guest performer.

On Tuesday, June 12 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, please join me, Susana Cook, Travis Chamberlain and Neal Medlyn in How Queer Everything Is Today!, an experimental public forum and a featured event of the inaugural Queer New York International Arts Festival, taking place at Abron Arts Center (466 Grand Street in the Lower East Side, at the corner of Pitt Street.

As a festival, Queer New York International Arts Festival states that it seeks to “dispel preconceived and stereotyped notions of ‘queer’ and provide a platform for expanding the discourse about artistic practices.” What is a “queer” art practice? Is it the artist’s intentions or the framework? Are their limits or frameworks that define it? And how do we move from autobiography and narrative toward an understanding of queer aesthetics?

How Queer Everything Is Today! is modeled after performance artist Lois Weaver’s “The Long Table."

Inspired by Marleen Gorris's film Antonia's Line, Weaver conceived and developed "The Long Table" as an experiment with participation and public engagement. The central image of the film is a dinner table that grows longer and longer as Antonia's family welcomes more outsiders and accommodates more eccentricity.

Weaver's "The Long Table" re-appropriates this dinner table atmosphere as a public forum, and encourages informal conversations on serious topics. It is literally a very long table set up with chairs and refreshments where anyone and everyone is welcome to come to the table, ask questions, make statements, leave comments, or simply sit, listen and watch.

For this event, How Queer Everything Is Today!, the New York City-based performance magazine Culturebot has invited a variety of artists, critics, and curators, along with audiences, to take part in a discussion about queerness in performance. The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

French choreographer David Wampach in "Auto + Batterie"
What is Queer New York International Arts Festival?
Queer New York International Arts Festival (QNYI) is a new festival of contemporary performance and visual art that take places for the first time from June 5 – 16, 2012 and will present some of the most exciting artists from all over the world.

The festival explores and broadens the concept of “queer (in) art.” The QNYI festival presents a program that includes artists such as Raimund Hoghe (Germany), Ricci / Forte (Italy), François Chaignaud (France), Tadasu Takamine (Japan), Cecilia Bengolea (Argentina) and many other international artists who will strongly challenge the current reality and normality of queer.

Co-curated by Zvonimir Dobrović, artistic director of Queer Zagreb and the Perforations Festival in Croatia, and art historian and curator André von Ah, the festival aims to dispel preconceived and stereotyped notions of “queer” and provide a platform for expanding the discourse about artistic practices. The goal is to create an artistic context that will respond to a process of systematic narrowing of the very idea of what queer (in) art is. According to curators Dobrović and von Ah:
The QNYI Festival will create a new understanding of queer that will redefine what has become the preconceived, expected and very stereotypic notion of the term as marginalized entertainment and burlesque-type drag aesthetic lacking any artistic relevance. This impoverished reality will be approached by an empowered new concept of queer as a wider platform for excellence in arts, capable of tracking, discovering and interpreting new trends and reinventing queer to be both socially and politically relevant while daring to speak openly about the norms that constitute society and artistic practices. By this redefinition, it will be possible to present artists whose work deals not purely with gender and identities (i.e. expected queer issues), but with different aspects of norms, disabilities, ethnicities and race to name a few. 
This need to constantly widen the meaning of queer comes from a realization that a narrowing process of that term has systematically been taking place in the so called “queer centers” of the world – Berlin, Amsterdam, Sydney, London, San Francisco, New York, and others. Those gravitational centers where it has become seemingly easier to live with others’ (queer) identities are actually the places where the idea of queer art has become as irrelevant as it ever was in most places around the world. Like for example in Eastern Europe where queer art never really existed before an international queer festival (Queer Zagreb) created tools for it to be recognized. The result of all this is that New York, or any other city in the US, does not have an artistically relevant queer festival. The reason is not, as it may often be heard, that there is no need to separate or name or identify art as queer, but because of the process of continuous narrowing of queer results in queer art being  hijacked by the mainstream and its queerness being sublimated and metamorphosed into an abstract artistic level, absorbed and erased, thus made invisible, no doubt on purpose in order to be easier to be consumed. 
The long term effect and vicious circle of this transition and impoverishment of queer and its wider meanings is that even artists often avoid the label since they see it as something that would narrow and define them in a limiting way. It should actually be the contrary – that is, queer should be seen as symbolic capital to be added to their work rather than a handicapping definition that could alienate wider audiences.

Who will be at the long table of in How Queer Everything Is Today!?
I am a guest performer at this table, along with these cool folks:

Susana Cook is a New York-based playwright, performer and director who works in political theater. Born in Buenos Aires, she has been writing and producing original work for over 20 years. She graduated from the National School of Drama in Buenos Aires and also trained in theater in Paris, before moving to the United States in 1991. She is, in my humble opinion, one of the best artists working in the USA.

Travis Chamberlain is a director, producer, and curator based in New York City, originally from North Carolina. As the Artistic Director of The Kindness, a production company formed in 2011 with Chris Keegan, he is commited to a reassessment of the histories of transgressive culture. He most recently directed and produced Green Eyes by Tennessee Williams to great acclaim. He is a performance curator at New Museum.

Neal Medlyn is a performer. He has been hailed as the Paris Hilton of performance art. He has performed at Joe’s Pub, PS122, Fez, Ars Nova, the Knitting Factory, Galapagos Art Space and the Philly Fringe. He starred opposite Karen Finley in George and Martha, and his dance moves have been featured in the work of choreographers Adrienne Truscott and David Neumann. He has performed in a variety of films, bands, dance pieces and plays, been a model and a go-go dancer and continues to do some of these things.

Please join our super-cool gang at the long table!

If you are interested, I have written several essays about the shows being presented at Queer New York International Arts Festival.

Here is a round-up of the entire festival:

Here is a performance review of Macadamia Nut Brittle from Italy:

Here is a performance review of Japanese artist Tadasu Takamine's Kimura-san:

Here is a performance review of Auto + Batterie from France:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

On Forging a True Arts Renaissance

NEW YORK CITY:  Everyone wants to be part of a renaissance. Everybody desires a new birth. But are we really experiencing a renaissance? If so, what does it look like? If not, how can we make it happen?

At the UniPro Summit in New York City, held this weekend at NYU School of Medicine, Fil-Ams in the New York metro area came together to celebrate our presences, inquire about the life-giving projects we've been involved in, and grapple with the notions of achievement and renaissance. "We considered the successes of Pilipinos in recent years and felt a sense of pride in knowing that our fellow Pilipinos are able not only to succeed but also to make the accomplishments of our community known to others despite our label as the 'invisible minority,'" says Summit co-chairs Rachelle Ocampo and Judy Yem.

To understand the breadth and reach of the daylong occasion, consider the breakout panel topics: health and medicine; business and entrepreneurship; politics, activism and civic engagement; education and storytelling; and arts and entertainment. Antonio Melato, founder of the activist group Gawad Kalinga, and Jose Antonio Vargas, founder of the campaign Define American, were keynote speakers.

In one of the panels, the fiction writer Ninotchka Rosca offered a panoply of metaphors. She said that one model for the Philippine diaspora is the family tree. We are all branches springing from a common root. She also offered another image, arguing that perhaps this other one might be more precise: the banyan tree. Prop roots grow out of a banyan tree, thick woody trunks that with age become indistinguishable from the main trunk. Banyan trees spread out laterally, using these prop roots to cover a wide area. Perhaps we are a rice dessert: the sapin-sapin. Recognizable for its layers, each colored separately, a blancmange of several colored flavors because of centuries of foreign colonization.

At UniPro Summit with novelist Ninotchka Rosca
Despite our increasing demographic numbers, Fil-Ams feel invisible in the broader mainstream conversations. So the Summit was a moment of celebration, a public accounting of what we have achieved in the U.S. society. There was also a keen sense of struggle and an acute awareness of the scale of work ahead of us. The work is not done. Larger sociopolitical issues need to be tackled head on. Issues within Fil-Am communities need to be addressed, problems that we have to conquer to achieve unity and progress. There were many expressions of hope that these issues would gain greater traction and result in solutions.

In the main panel, entitled "How to Push the 'Pilipino Renaissance,'" speakers Esperanza Garcia of Ecohope, Fr. Benigno Beltran of Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig, Illac Diaz of MyShelter Foundation, Tony Olaes of Gawad Kalinga and Loida Nicolas Lewis of US Pinoys for Good Governance shared how they have fared in their struggles so far. Garcia, for example, spoke about Ecohope's work in mobilizing youth in the areas of global climate governance and environmental sustainability. Olaes urged attendees to come forward and to put in their time and efforts in support of significant causes.

The panel on education and storytelling was especially interesting, because it centered on the power of narrative to educate about Philippine culture. It featured Rafe Bartholomew, author of a very original book about basketball as both as sport and a locus of aspirations in the Philippines entitled "Pacific Rim," as well as Renjie Butalid, who has made strides via TEDxWaterloo.

In the panel on arts and entertainment, filmmaker Stephanie Walmsley was quite inspiring. She spoke about the struggles she endured co-producing the film God of Love, which won the Best Live Action Short Film award at this year's Academy Awards. She spoke about the rejections she received. She came clean about how she lost her job. She said she contacted numerous people in order to succeed in life while pursuing a passion to produce a film. By the time she won the Oscar trophy, she said that the award was just a nice bonus.

I also found inspiring Kilusan Bautista, a performance artist and hip-hop performer who grew up in the working-class district of San Francisco. Born in the Bay Area, he was given the name of Kilusan, which means active movement, by community activists and artists back in the Philippines who encourage him to continue the movement for social justice and human rights in the U.S. His desire to connect his Fil-Am identity to the global struggle led him to write a solo play, Universal Self, a hip-hop-inflected chronicle of his personal journey.

Reporters Elton Lugay, Grace Hufano-Labaguis, Cheri Domingo and me at UniPro Summit
I was honored to conduct a 45-minute cultural workshop in which I shared my analysis of the state of Fil-Am arts and offered constructive solutions to what I feel it takes to create, build, develop and sustain a Pilipino Arts aesthetic/renaissance in the U.S. and internationally. I laid out and described the current state of affairs, as I experienced it. I asked the tough questions. I endeavored to go beyond blurbs and sales pitches. Because what I mean by Pilipino Arts goes beyond marketing labels and public-relations precepts.

Being a conceptual artist, I proposed Pilipino Arts as an Art idea. I challenged everyone, including Fil-Am youths, to think of Pilipino Arts as an intellectual force, an aesthetic form, a way of life...and as creative entrepreneurship.

In thinking about this Art idea, I was referring to a Pilipino Arts movement that reached out to music, literature, dance, visual arts, performance, and other fine arts. Pilipino Arts might be thought of as an art movement co-eval with the Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts and the Hip Hop. That might be one model. The Harlem Renaissance, like the Hip Hop movement, was not simply about music. It traversed into other forms of art such as dance and visual arts. Both forms attempted to bring recognition to the African American community in a time without civil rights, in a time when the outside world chose to ignore the world of Harlem and the larger community of the Black race.

Unlike the Hip Hop movement (which was driven by those in poverty), the Harlem Renaissance was started by a rising middle class of African Americans. Jazz and Blues were brought from the South to the North by African Americans with Great Migration which started after World War I.

After my talk, I talked to the young people afterward. I listened to their personal experiences as emerging artists. I learned that I must continue to devote myself to continuing to propose this concept of Pilipino Arts as well as be actively involved with other artists in a collective pursuit of this conceptual search for an Art idea. Thinking back to Rosca's panoply of images, I saw my talk as a way of seeding this renaissance. It is our job to nurture, encourage and help a renaissance in arts and culture happen. We might have to wait years and years from now to see if such a renaissance does indeed occur, but if we do not seed it now, we will never see it emerge and grow.

I learned that I really need to engage and communicate with Fil-Ams outside of the arts on the importance of Pilipino Arts. I have to advocate for a Pilipino Arts. We need to ask our Fil-Am audiences if they are interested in being supporters, fellow advocates and philanthropists in a Pilipino Arts idea. We need to continually intervene as artists by arguing for or showing the importance of arts and culture in these other areas of human endeavor, such as health, medicine, business and entrepreneurship, many of which have abandoned arts and culture for the sake of assimilation and economic success. We need to lay bare the wider potential of Pilipino Arts to stage our re-entrance into a global world and to re-invent the way Fil-Ams view ourselves when we encounter one another in public spaces, in virtual worlds, in theatrical spaces, in international venues, and in everyday life.   --RG

Speaking to reporters Elton Lugay (on the mic) and Grace Hufano-Labaguis about the Philippine Independence Day parade in Manhattan, and of my Pilipino Arts workshop