Upcoming Shows - In the Works:

January 29, 2012
Sunday 5-7pm
Latino Theater Company Play Reading
Los Angeles Theater Center
514 S. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

March 13, 2012
UCLA Asian American Studies 187A
Professor Valerie Matsumoto
"Exploring Ethnic Cultural Arts through Oral History"

March 29, 2012
Thursday 6:30-9:30pm
Break the Silence Open Mic held at
The Manazar Gamboa Community Theater
1323 Gundry Ave. Long Beach, CA, 90813

April 4, 2012
Wednesday 11-1pm
Cal Arts in Valencia
Theater History
Professor Chantal Rodriguez E108

Los Angeles, CA
Produced by TeAda Productions and The Latino Theater Company
May 31 - June 24, 2012
Thursday-Saturday 8pm, Sunday 3pm
General $30|Students/Seniors/Groups: $20
Los Angeles Theater Center
514 S. Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Fall 2012-Portland, OR
Fall 2012-Vermont
Stay tuned for times and locations.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Confessions of a touring addict - by Leilani

You know you're a touring addict when you get home, you're exhausted, you're still unpacking, you're still jet lagged, and you are already planning the next tour in the next city and you can't wait to get on the road again. Okay, I can wait, 'cause I'm looking forward to being in one town for a while. Man my own bed feels so good. The road is hard. It's the stress of travel and work wrapped up in one for, in this case, two and half weeks. It's like a little working family, there are moments of bonding, moments of stress, irritation and bickering (and we are a husband and wife time, so imagine the testing of our relationship - poor Jen and May had to witness it). Not to mention the financial concerns of the show just barely paying for itself, and we still must come home to the regular bills we need to figure out how to pay in the coming months. Nonetheless, we begin talking about the next trip, the next stage of development for the show, and the next cities we want to reach out to and perform in.

Highlights from Boston to Alaska:
1) Our dress rehearsal performance for Harbor Middle School students, they were so expressive, and so engaged with everything we did on stage. After the climax of our fight scene when Ova's fighter hit my gangmember character and a student exclaimed out loud "you better run!" and during our Q & A after show a student said she related most to my mother character "because that happened to my mom, when my uncle was deported backto Haiti, she cried and cried like that." (thanks Phitsamay for setting this up!)
2) Meeting Toc and May for the first time at the airport where Mike came to pick us up. Little did we know what this team of people was about to accomplish.
3) Our first baci ceremony at the Lao Temple.
Food coming out of no where, our sound guy being a bit overwhelmed being the only falang (white guy) in the place until we showed up with Mike. And the ceremony itself! I almost cried while it was going on. the symbolism of the community coming together to wish you well. We've been working on this so long, it was amazing to feel this sense of community support. I still am wearing the strings of well wishes on my wrists.

4) Our assembly for Begich Middle School where 20 Hmong students got to share their family stories of escape from Laos with their classmates. It made the evening news where one of the students interviewed exclaimed that she didn't know she and her parents were refugees until she took our theater workshop. After the assemblies, when the principal asked who would participate if they started an after school theater program, almost all the kids raised their hands.
5) In the dressing room Saturday night in Anchorage when Jen our TD comes running in the back door of dressing room looking for extra chairs exclaiming "Monk seating issues, monk seating issues!" and she runs out, and then, looking out the front door of our dressing room and seeing Mike carrying chairs with a jolly grin on his face exclaiming "Monk seating issues! No one told me about Monk seating issues!" His grin was too big, I knew he was tickled by this little cultural surprise his venue was experiencing as a result of bringing a new audience to OUTNORTH.
6) Did I mention FRONT PAGE of the Alaska Daily news?
7) Homer's Fireweed Academy's enthusiastic students and amazing principal.
8) The tears from Asia and Rika after our performance that told me they got it, they really got it.
9) Our performance for the youth at Maclaughlin Youth Center - I don't think I've ever been more energized. Looking out at the youth who live at the detention center knowing they'd see right through me if I couldn't get this gangmember character down. I was supposed to cut out all the "f" words, but I got so into character, I let one fly. But I think if I hadn't, the students would not have believed my character at all. The teachers forgave me afterwards, I think they know it made sense. The Q&A was the most enlightening so far. They asked specific questions about the performance and the characters.
10) Toc, Toc, Toc, Mike, Mike, Mike, - if the two of them were with us wherever we go then Refugee Nation will travel far and wide. And I am thankful for Lee and May - who we also need wherever we go! And Jen who we could not live without. And of course Ova, who still loves me and I still love even after all the madness!

Thanks for all your support everyone! Updates to come once we've set our next destination. Please post more comments if you've seen the show!

Yours, a touring addict, Leilani aka a diva wanna be...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Snow to Fog

The completion of our residency in Alaska made me realize the full extent of what we do as artists. We are not merely entertainers and educators, we are activists. McLaughlin Youth Center was our last stop before we headed off to the airport. It was a last minute effort and decision for us to visit but we filled it in with a performance excerpt of Refugee Nation and a Q&A with the teens there. The 25 or so youth at risk of various ethnicities that did attend were so mesmerized by the "Lao Fighter" scene, we were quite amazed at the questions and comments that came up. One girl asked why did we put the two stories in one scene and the other students offered answers including: 1. Same struggle, different time 2. One is fighting in Laos, the other is fighting in the U.S. What they saw truly resonated with them as well as with the adults. We kept a discussion going for almost another hour. The impact is amazing. I truly felt like a good citizen empowering these young minds to think and work to make themselves better people. Mike, Toc, Leilani and I were so fueled by the experience we didn't want to leave. I'd like to thank Principal Catherine Jones for allowing us to share this and to Candace McKenzie for arranging it.What was awesome was to see 5 Southeast Asian boys 3 Lao, 1 Mien and 1 Cambodian all speak up about how they related to the excerpt and how they saw some piece of their lives portrayed on stage. It gave them hope that they can choose a better path. I think seeing Leilani and I, two artists of Southeast Asian descent, able to accomplish what we've done is a victory for us and for them. I could see it in their faces thinking "Wow, if they can do it, maybe so can I!" Well, I wish you the best my young Lao brothers. I wish you the best.
Now, we are safely back in Los Angeles after such a long plane ride and a great residency. We have so much to close up from Alaska, and so many to things to face in Los Angeles and all at the same time planning to look ahead. Arriving in Los Angeles early yesterday morning at 1:30am to a very foggy weather made me miss the snow. It's no wonder we get sick here in Southern California...there is no season and when you venture outdoors it is deceiving because temperature dips or rises yet visually nothing changes. Sigh...California.
Our next step is to recoup and plan out Refugee Nation for 2008-2010. We really have something special here. I am very much looking forward to the future having learned from the past. I hope those who have read the blogs have enjoyed the entries so far.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Closing but not done

The "saibai" silence of a Sunday morning at dawn in Homer welcomes me after a very, very exciting yesterday filled with a snow-opera, packed house performance and some good-byes. Yes, we are coming to a close here in Homer and in a few days Alaska and though the performances are done, I know for a fact, the work continues.
The Snow Opera or "Sliding Light"
What could be more exciting then to leave Homer with a Homer experience. It was a cold day yesterday. Gray skies and the pounding sea forewarns pending worries and possible doom. Snow...beautiful falling snow continually covers the earth giving the illusion that life is calm and peaceful. Unbeknown to us all that we'd come face to face with...the "ICE" below. All we wanted to do yesterday was spend some down time with Asia Freeman our benevolent Homer host before we left. Driving to her place, me and Jen in the 16 passenger behemoth and Asia in the lead vehicle with Leilani, May and Jake. We were seriously a few blocks from the house going up an inclined stretch when suddenly...the van starts to slide...slide....slide. What do you do? Well, one DON'T PANIC. Two PULL THE VIDEO CAMERA OUT. Three MANEUVER THE MUTHA'F VEHICLE WITH CARE. Four KEEP JEN SMILING. So we slide sideways as the ass of the van starts to turn CRASH! The rear tires slump down a small ditch. I rev the gas...no luck...we are stuck! Perpendicular to the driveway and blocking 3/4 of the road. Good thing it's not a busy drive. Next thing you know we see Asia and her vehicle with passengers turn around and coming towards us...but SUDDENLY...yes, ICE underneath. Her vehicle starts to slip...slide...slide and passengers jump out and the car continues to slide...Asia LEAPS out just in time before CRASH! the vehicle goes off to the side of the road into a 3 foot ditch! STUCK. Ahhh...the snow opera. Both vehicles are stuck down both ditches of each side of the road. Luckily...NO ONE IS HURT. We all shrug our shoulders and calmly walk up the road a quarter of a mile up to her house. It's getting dark. The snow continues to fall and WE HAVE A SHOW IN 3 hours. What to do? What to do? One DON'T PANIC. Two CALL THE MOUNTAIN MAN. Three SMILE AT JEN. In the end everything was fine. We had literally a sip of tea and both vehicles got pulled out of the ditch and we made it back to the gallery filled with adrenaline and excitement to perform.

The final performance or "Open the Door it's Freezin' Out Here"
By the time we get back to the gallery. We needed to warm up and calm down. So we did. It was the last night of our performance in Homere and word got out from Friday night's show that "Refugee Nation" is a must see and Homervillians need to see this before we wave "aloha". We'll, by 7:15pm we had a line outside the door of over 50 people in the cold and snow waiting to get in. Once the door opened up...the house was PACKED! We had to pull out extra chairs and even sat people along floor in front and on the side of the stage. Those that sat along the side got to see two shows as they could also see backstage where we were changing. The excitement didn't stop there...

Saying GOODBYE or "La Gon" to May Lee Yang
After the show the audience was so riveted they had so many overwhelming thoughts to share about the performance raving about our skills as actors, the content, the energy...all the while May Lee had to say goodbye as she needed to head for the airport to catch her flight at 10:00PM. We hugged her deeply and were a little concerned about the conditions of the weather, which was still snowy and slippery. We send our friend, colleague and fellow artist off. Her commitment and "open" attitude really gel with our sense of work and adventure. THANK YOU MAY LEE for joining us on this journey and also throwing some of your skills on this blog! Safe journey back to Minnesota and keep in touch. We may be together again...oh...one more thing MLY...it's okay to be afraid of drugs.

Thank you so much Bunnell St. Art Gallery, Fireweed Academy and Homer for this beautiful exchange. We head to Anchorage where we will do our final activity...doing an excerpt of the show at McLaughlin Youth Center and School for youth at risk. It would be a great honor to share a piece of this show with them in hopes to give them thought to become better citizens.

This is just the beginning. Where the land may end, the sea begins and we ready ourselves to board the ship and bring Refugee Nation onto other shores. So, if you are interested or know anyone who is interested....PLEASE contact us, we'd like to talk. Refugee Nation deserves to be in your community because it will engage, enlighten and empower...I guarantee it!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Home-r Stretch

The final leg of Refugee Nation's tour in Alaska is almost over. Last night's opening performance in the Bunnell Street Art Gallery was filled with warm hearts and minds. The audience of all ages from baby to grandparent appreciated the performance.
Our youngest fan Spencer with cheers and applause! When I did my monologue and said I'm Lao and I'm proud...I heard him in the audience cheering me on, even though he isn't Lao!!! Go Spencer! (He likes to walk on chairs!)Again, it is a testament to the universal appeal of this show. Many people commented on how well the performance weaves together so many elements of dialogue, movement, live performance, film, content, improv, script...I could go on and on about the layers and layers that Refugee Nation offers. Hint: calling out to all academics out there! This is a hot piece of study. Grab us soon or next thing you know...we'll be gone. What we are doing is so friggin' incredible and amazing and think of all the papers upon papers that could be written about this process and project. You could be in school forever!!! Anyway, Homer has been an exchange of blessings. It's an honor to be here and connect with the people of Homer and we've gotten the same sentiments from Homervillians thanking us for coming.Before the show DJ TDJen warms up her finger to prepare and create magic with lights, sound and video for Refugee Nation in the Bunnell St. Art Gallery...all by her solo self. JC ROCKS! (That's Jen Cleary, not to be confused with the JC from the bible.)

While, Leilani and I do our physical warm-ups (being the great actors of observation that we are) taking in the traits of the local animals as we stretch...I'm doing the walrus stretch in the background and Leilani is doing the moose stretch.
Our show closes tonight in Homer and we shall see where the show will take us next. In the meanwhile, we'll take with us stories from Homer and memories to cherish. We've also made such great friends that we will surely return...maybe in the summer:)

Extra Curricular before opening..

So, you may wonder...what do actors and techies do when they have time on their hands before a show. Well, here you go:

Our day usually starts off with waking up and going to breakfast. Here we had a great meal at the Mermaid Cafe. Server "Samantha" aka ?????? (it's not her real name as she wanted to be anonymous) because she kept on messing up the orders and spilling things here and there and well it was an off morning for "Samantha" aka ??????. Kidding, aside she is very sweet. Everyone deserves one right?! Nonetheless, she was wonderful and so is Mermaid Cafe. They've been around for 2 years I think and serve some great eggs and reindeer sausages. Right next to it is a bookstore where I spoke with Mike Armstrong from the Homer News for an article that should come out today.
On our way walking back as they ladies posed in front of the Mermaid Cafe and May Lee tried to reference the ummm you know women from the sea in the Odyssey or Iliad or Greek tale...oh "whatever"...yes the sirens. It occurred to us that I had no place with them in the picture. So being that they were the three Sirens...I was then designated as the Cyclops. So IF I were and did become one...this is how I would look. I'd be a pretty smart one though...most cyclops were giants and dumb! Or at least that's what I'm told.Next on the list Jen and Leilani scheduled a massage because...hey it's hard work what we do. The stress of the production schedule, traveling, performing, teching...we needed to rejuvenate and relax AND it's no wonder! I mean look at this...can the stress levels be any higher? This is the van I'm driving around town, the conditions are icy and snowy, up hills and valleys. It's a 16 passenger, heavy duty Dodge..mutha'f and the massage therapist Sara LaQue is way up in the hills of Homer...like a good mile and and half up West Hills Drive which is like a Skyline Drive of any major city with mountains. The Refugee Nation crew, Leilani, Jen and May Lee have had a fearful experience with me already in Anchorage driving on black ice there. The famous "kiss" at the stop sign on Bragaw and 16th one block away from Out North. So...stressed yet?...See the cracked windshield. No rear view mirror. Low gas! Humph...and you thought this acting thing was easy...HELL NO! I had to find a way to climb up on the front bumper and scrape off ice and snow. Today...I get MY massage. Deep tissue anyone?!
One thing about Homer and Alaska in general is...I can never go wrong with names. So far we've met 5 Mikes...Huelsman, Hayes, Armstrong, Mason and our wonderful photographer and awesome cook at Panarelli's, Mike Walsh. Now, take a moment to count that for a second. Four are in Homer....so the odds are good that the I'll probably meet another angel called Mike "Where the land ends and the sea begins." There are a lot of Mikes here...so if you come to Alaska don't worry about remembering names. Start with "Hey Mike" and you'll be fine.

Finally, here is a great shot of me wondering around Homer and meeting up with canine Babu. There are many wonderful dogs here from Happy , Karma and many others I've yet to meet. They are also Homervilleians with stories to tell.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fireweed Academy Fabulous!

Once again another wonderful day of outreach in Homer, Alaska. Woke up early morning to have breakfast at Two Sisters Bakery before we head to visit Fireweed Academy for our final day of workshops with 3rd and 4th graders. May Lee, Jen and I all went to breakfast. Leilani needed to rest in and she deserves it considering none of us would be here without her vision and direction.

Drove the van to the school and got in around 9:05am. The classes came in and the 3 & 4 graders came in with enthusiasm and excitement. They all jumped right into the theater exercises and really absorbed a lot. Education through the arts is enriching. More funds SHOULD be directed to arts programs in every school. It just really opens up doors for students to want to learn. In the workshops, we share theater exercises and teach the kids to use their voice, body and imagination to create a world on stage. Skills that can be used to enhance every aspect of their lives. Isn't it incredible that a Lao-American and Hmong-American artist are sharing their lives to kids in Homer. One exercise leads to another and one hour leads to another and next thing you know...we are done. Afterwards, I signed some autographs and requested a photo of all the workshop participants from Fireweed. Many warm thanks goes out to the wonderful teachers that elevate, challenge and support these efforts Kiki, Kris, Kim and Stephanie for being such amazing leaders. Teachers continually amaze me as they balance teaching, class management and curriculum. Kop jai lai lai Fireweed for having Refugee Nation be a part of your day. We look forward to seeing many of you in the audience at 7:30pm this Friday Nov. 16 and Sat. Nov. 17 at Bunnell Art Gallery.

The Refugee Nation Crew had a chance to drive around town today after work. It was nice to be able to leave Main St. and Bunnell for a short excursion. We hit the Homer Spit where land and sea embrace each other and drove around the town getting familiar with the streets and local business. On our return to the gallery we rehearsed to prepare for tomorrow night's opening. Can't wait to share the performance with people here in Homer. Additionally, a last minute radio spot opportunity came up so we zipped off KBBI 890 Public Radio to chat with radio host Mike Mason announcing Refugee Nation has come to Homer. Come one , come all to the show...you'll be engaged, enlightened and electrified!

Homer is where the heart is...

One night at Old Town B&B right above the gallery and we were set. Central to everything with views of the mountains on one side and the ocean from another window, it's a nice walk from several good places. One of the places right next door to the Bunnell St. Art Gallery is Panarelli's. Asia Freeman our beautiful, charming, thoughtful artist and host dropped us off for lunch there. She had to speed off to another engagement but I caught her in time for a quick paparazzi shot. She's got a fascinating history with Homer. If you ever come this way...visit her at the gallery and she can tell you stories.

The morning started off with a walk to breakfast at Two Sisters Bakery. Snow flurries in the air. Brisk walk in the morning. Leilani didn't feel so good as she's been under the weather. She joined us for the first workshop at the school but we made her rest for the 2nd workshop. She is still resting and recovering. May Lee and I have taken to facilitate the workshops with ease. I love team work. We also met Mike Hayes for the first time the technical hire for Bunnell Street Art Galllery, who drove us in a van which we are suppose to have for use. He and Jen are working hard to get the lights and sound ready for the show.

Homer is a nice town full of heart and the people here are gracious. Today, we set foot on Fireweed Acadamy School and were led by Kiki Abrahamson to meet the students. We worked our tails off presenting two theater workshops today with energetic and bright 5 and 6th graders. This is an amazing school. The children are very bright, the teachers warm and the atmosphere full of learning and growing. Tomorrow we work with 3rd and 4th graders and I'm very curious as to how they will turn out. Hopefully, I'll get a nice shot of everyone tomorrow and I can post on the next blog. Introduced and welcomed in the gym in front of 75 plus students we did a quick intro and went to work. Funny how all the kids had more questions about Pirates of the Caribbean 3 than anything else, go figure.
May Lee would like to register to be a student at Fireweed...she fits right in with her size and look at the attitude on her face. School anyone?

On our arrival to Fireweed, I posed with a bicycle fish.

After a nice long day. We went to eat at Fat Olive's an Italian eatery that is housed in the old school bus barn. I had the game hen...tasty. It was nice to be together again and take some time to plan out the rest of our stay. Hung out at Duggan's pub and had myself a beer while Leilani and May Lee glued themselves to reality tv (Survivor:China) on youtube.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Homer, Alaska--The Drinking Town With A Fishing Problem by May Lee-Yang

Today marked our last day in Anchorage. This morning was filled with last-minute meetings, some good-byes, and a mad dash to clean up the apartment that had become our home for the last week.

Then we flew from Anchorage to Homer, Alaska, and, as always, things were interesting.

First off, there was no security check for the airline that took us to Homer. All of us noted how odd it felt to not have to go through the protocol of security check.

Next, our plane was small...so small that EVERYONE had a window seat and there was no stowaway space above us. There was some turbulence initially on the plane, but, let me tell you, it was worth it.

In the 45 minutes it took to get us from Anchorage to Homer, I saw the landscape and sky change several times over.

There were mud flats all over the ground...and, of course, the mountains were ever present. Then we drifted in the whiteness of clouds for a while. For a moment there, I felt as though I was in one of those horror movies in which the passengers of the plane unknowningly go through a thick cloud only to emerge in some creepy parallel world.

But I eventually saw the light--literally.

The views of Alaska are really breath-taking. I wish I could better describe what I saw or that I had photos. What I can say is that I felt as though I was watching a painting created before my very eyes.

Anyway, about Homer...Anchorage had been snowy when we left. Homer is still green. There was some rain left over from earlier today.

We were shown to the Old Time Bed and Breakfast, which will be our home for the next couple of days. The Old Time B & B is really cute place. It's situated right above the Bunnell Street Gallery where we'll be performing REFUGEE NATION this Friday and Saturday.

What I can say right now about our neighborhood is that everything is very cute, very whimsical (and, yes, I know I've already used the word "cute" several times but it really is). The buildings are all brightly-colored and Victorian-esque. We have a coffeeshop downstairs from us. Down the street is a bakery/coffeeshop, a bookstore, a pub, among other things. I'm looking forward to exploring the coast line. That's right. We have a great view and easy access to the Pacific Ocean.

The Bunnell Street Gallery has beautiful artwork and our host, Asia Freeman, organized a wonderful dinner for us tonight at which we got to meet some of the students from her painting class.

Anyway, it's a beautiful town, and I look forward to our new adventures, which begins tomorrow morning at the Fireweed Charter School.

This photo was taken in real time. That's literally me as I'm writing that's literally Jen sending photos to the blog site. And no, I'm not pregnant! Just fat.

Also, we'll be discovering whether Homer, indeed, has a fishing problem and the other stuff about the drinking too.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Last show in Anchorage... by (spaced out) Leilani....

We just finished or last show in Anchorage, so tired, can't spell AnkorAge... can't make sentence... must blog... so excited...must blog....so many faces...so many great people... sold out shows...diverse audiences...really cool MEDIAK Native Youth came tonight and taped our show (and they really liked our show which made us feel ultra cool - guys, please add your comments to this blog, we wanna hear why you liked it)...

...and for the Amazing Toc's birthday... went to the ULTIMATE THAI restaurant where Uncle Tom fed us phet, phet, PHET thai/lao food... Allison the amazing artist I met when I was here last directing robert karimi's MAN/MARDAAN... and look at our closing night party! look at these faces!!! All our new friends in ALASKA! We've only been here TEN days. We wont say goodbye, we are just going to say, until next time...must pack, must sleep, off to Homer tomorrow...maybe we will finally see some moose!

Left to right - The Amazing Toc, Shana who sold the most Refugee Nation t-shirts EVER (note to self, always have hot friendly Lao girls with tattoos of the budda of compassion sell our t-shirts), and me of course - so happy 5 shows are over (or maybe it's because I just had mango sticky rice - my favorite...)

Uncle Tom - owner of the ULTIMATE Thai Restaurant and Ova compare beards...

My dear long lost friend/sister in art - Allison Warden, the soon to be emancipated-from-her-9-to-5 to be come a full time singer/writer/performance Native Alaskan artist.

The Refugee Nation After Party...