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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

East Bay KPFA Tri-Fecta

Blam! Blam! Blam! One after another Leilani and Ova hitting home runs on the radio thanks to KPFA public supported radio station in Berkeley, CA. We were fortunate enough to make friends and build buzz for such an amazing show that the houses were packed for the performances. All three performances at La Pena Cultural Center were filled and thanks a big part to the KPFA radio spots. Take a listen by clicking the link to the radio shows of our IN THE NEWS section.

Listen carefully and you'll notice both Leilani and I have very strained voices due to that fact that we were SICK! Yep, exhausted from rehearsing, workshops and driving around town all the while full of anxiety that we needed to get more word out so audiences could come to fill the seats at the performances. It all pays off. Next time...I'm swigging my anti-sickness immune boost drinks and medicines before I start off.

Big hugs and applause go out to Weyland Southon of Hard Knock Radio for hitting us up with a great chat three way with Channapha, Leilani and myself. Wayie Ly and Gina "G" Hotta of Apex Express for the continual support expressing the Asian-American experience. Love to the Mitch J. and Amy Allison of The Morning Show for the morning wake-up to boost the word about Refugee Nation. It was such a pleasure to do the radio both on a prepared and improvised status. The skills that these talented host and producers have to make the news go round cannot be matched. Until our next radio spot comes a word of advice. YOU have a voice...so use it!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Feast!

This past Tuesday Khammany had the brilliant idea of getting folks together for a meal at the best Lao Restaurant in Oakland - Vientien(e) Cafe! The dinner brought together almost everyone helping with REFUGEE NATION marking a gathering of most of our Northern Cal team. It couldn't have come at a better moment. Just when we were starting to get tired, our team came together for a magnificent feast expertly ordered by our Bay area community leaders Khammany with help from Toni an Phoumy there, amazing hosts who have housed and fed us. Sarah Guerra of La Peña Cultural Center was there along with Lakine Valdez our Light Board Operator. And the recent arrivals Marie-Reine, TeAda's Operations Manager, Jen our TD, and Paul Berrera our video collaborator, and local Director Alex Torres, making up the biggest our tour team we've ever had. What a joy, everything is going so well! And new friends and supporters like Weyland (who had us on air Wednesday - check out the links to the right) and others. Man we need the juice of everyone's energy. It's kept us going all week through tech and dress rehearsals to know we have the support of the amazing people at the feast! And to all you supporters of this blog too - we wanted to share the joy with you. Here are some pictures of the meal!! Wish us luck tomorrow with our opening night and Legacies of War Benefit!

KPFA's Hard Knock Radio

Weyland Southon is the MAN! Thanks to the hip-hop connection via Jeff Chang whom we met at Intersections V in Amherst just a few weeks ago we were invited to share a piece of our show on the radio on KPFA 94.1 Berkeley. Check out the link as Weyland our hapa-host of Samoan-Chinese ancestery and new found Lao-food critic of Hard Knocked Radio quiz Channapha Khamvongsa of Legacies of War and Leilani and I of Refugee Nation about our programs this weekend. It was great to talk, share and promote the upcoming events. Listen to it online and click the link under IN THE NEWS section.

This is hell week for us in the lingo of theater production and we have our full team steaming ahead with Marie-Reine at the helm of marketing and promoting, Jen Cleary tech-savvy magician with the confines of La Pena Cultural Center performance space, Paul Berrera at the MacBook Pro video editing station and Alex Torres director at large to finalize this outcome of Refugee Nation. These creative people have come together to make the upcoming NoCal debut of our show a success. Leilani and I forge forward with fine-tuning the piece to make it even more dramatic, more humorous and more alive. We even have a special local young guest artist in Junnida Siribounthong, teen-traditional Lao dancer extra-ordinaire whom will collaborate with us in the final scene of our show.

Across the Bay in San Francisco we have our partner organization Legacies of War prepping for a national steering committee meeting this weekend. Many of our friends and colleagues we've made through this amazing organization will be arriving on Thursday from all different parts of the nation: Seattle, Boston, Pennsylvania, DC to attend the performance as well as discuss the future of Legacies of War.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Emotional weekend...by Leilani

It started yesterday. We headed over to UC Berkeley to do a workshop for the Laotian American Student Representatives. Lucky for us LASR also runs a mentorship program with High School students from SEAYL so we got to spend more time with some of our students earlier this week. The workshop went smoothly despite the early morning start on a Saturday. We decided to challenge this group to dig deep and explore the mythic moments of their lives, mining for stories from their ancestral memories. We got to hear many powerful stories. Still, as the workshop was coming to a close, I wasn't sure if we had got through, if we had communicated why we were here and what we do. So when we sat down to discuss our workshop and who we were, I was searching for a way to explain how important their stories were and why we needed them to come see our show. It somehow came to me. I asked how many of them have seen their story, the story of Laotians on stage live before? One Hmong student said she did when she was in school a long time ago. Point is, she remembered that she had. None of the others had. I explained, for me it was seeing Jude Narita perform her one woman show that told me wow, Asian women can do this work, if we learn to write and produce our own work. The experience of seeing your story on stage after being forgotten, never being seen on TV or Film or mainstream anything, the experience of seeing what is real to you live on stage, is an important and empowering experience. And more than just trying to sell a ticket, that is why we need to see them in this audience. We don't want these youth to miss that experience. We don't want this community to miss that experience. And I thank these folks for reminding me why we do what we do.

Then today, we joined our hosts Phoumy and Toni, and our community reps Vinya, Khammany, and Mali at a meeting of the Laotian elders. I'll let Ova tell you more about that meeting since it happened mostly in Lao. But as I sat there watching and listening and looking at the room we were in, I started getting emotional again. This room has been built for these meetings. Over 30 years perhaps of community meetings have happened here. These elders have been doing community work for many years. These are also the people our show is about. They too need to be in our audience. If only so they can see how we honor their experiences and the issues they are addressing here today. I got emotional, even in my silent observation.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Burning the mid-afternoon oil!

Immersed in rehearsals and workshops we have been very busy here in the East Bay. The students of the SEAYL program had a blast sharing their experience with us as we taught them some theater exercises. They had just recently come from a social justice workshop a week ago and had that subject in their mind so vividly. In Richmond, one of the most notorious problems is crimes and gangs. They did a sculptor of a police profiling scene. It was incredible and definitely reflected for them what was going on in their neighborhood. It gave us insight into the city they call home. Majority of the group were Khmu ethnics from Laos. It was great to connect with them and I hope they achieved a sense of ownership and validation of their history and personal stories.

Each and every time we rehearse Leilani and I get better and better. We delve deeper into the characters or story or concept that we continue to learn more and more about how important and very powerful the play can be. There are great lessons to learn from it. I hope the push this weekend to get the word out brings commitment by audiences to attend. We've worked very hard to bring the dramatic tensions into certain scenes and can't wait to share it with everyone.

Oakland International High School gave us an hour with some refugee students to work with. We had a fun time exploring theater games but the challenges were also there as the language comprehension and vocabulary stumbled us a bit. Time is of the essence and we covered only a few exercises. In the end we did get through to them but it was interesting to be able to share a workshop with refugees and immigrants from such various places like Burma, Africa, Yemen, Russia...they all had similar yet different experiences. We did our best and hope we influenced and educated. One of the surprising comments by one of them was when we did a cultural mapping exercise and asked participants to step into the circle if you are a refugee...when he saw me stepping in...he said "YOU are a refugee?" I simply replied "Yes."

As we work here in the Bay Area I am thinking of my LaLao group down in Los Angeles. They are my Lao'd and Proud friends whom I've come to cultivate and nurture. They are having a beach get together this coming weekend and though I will miss it...I know they are sending good vibes for us. Some of them will actually trek from SoCal to NoCal for our performance weekend. Lou, Litdet, Sinakhone and Bangbay for sure will make the trip. The Lao'd and Proud group came together when I started to search for Lao connections and friendships in Los Angeles. Since my initial push I can now count a good dozen or more active young Lao-American men and women coming together for social and cultural gatherings. It's been great to have group to bond with.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wise words, hard work.

Practice, practice, practice or more aptly rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals are going well for us. Leilani and I are enjoying the process of rehearsals with our director Alex Torres. He is the artistic leader of Bindlestiff Studios and has been instrumental in giving us the time to discover nuances of the characters and further refine the play. Alex hails from the Philippines and this "monk looking" photo of him leads us to believe we have chosen the right "one" to guide us. Last time we touched the script or played the characters was back in November 2007. That's a long time ago and as actors we need to retain the word and body "memories" again, to get connected to the people that we portray.

In between the rehearsal we have several workshops that we'll be holding throughout the Bay Area as part of our residency. They include SEAYL, Oakland International High School, UC-Berkeley LASR (Laotian-Americans Student Representatives) and other opportunities to immerse ourselves with the community. This particular day we've scheduled to work with the SEAYL: Southeast Asian Young Leaders in Richmond, a program of the Asian Pacific Psychological Services. I can't wait to share our process and see what the young leaders come up with.

Richmond and the Bay Area is rich with many Lao people of many different ethnicities. We hope to get as many to attend our performance as much as possible. So far...it looks good as word is getting around. We look to find some community collaborations with traditional Lao dancers and musicians for this run to enhance the experience for us and our audiences.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hello Bay Area!!!! - by Leilani

We drove up from Los Angeles and arrived late Friday night at Phoumy and Toni's house, our gracious hosts for this Northern CA residency. Turns out Phoumy and Toni's house is Lao community central! Lao New Year Festival preparations were taking place even at midnight when we arrived. We tried to catch up on as much sleep as we could that night given that we hadn't slept much in the days prior to leaving LA preparing for our travels and packing up our show for hit road. But we didn't want to miss anything. Neither of us have been to a Lao New Year Festival before, and Northern CA has one of the biggest Laotian communities in the country. Plus we had to get our Ajan/Ajan scene up and running for the festival. We haven't performed that scene since Alaska so we only had enough me to run our lines once on the drive up from LA and once again on the drive from the house to the festival. We finally got to the San Pablo City Hall where the festival was in full swing. As we walked up to the event I felt totally under dressed. To me, from Hawai'i, festival means shorts and slippers. Not at the Lao New Year! Women were in their beautiful Lao costumes, men work silk and Lao sashes. We missed the morning ceremonies but got there just in time to eat some food, help at the booth, great our family and friends, and quickly throw on some costumes. Before I know it I hear the hosts introduce "Ova Saopeng and Leilani Chan," and then Ova's voice over the mic saying something about how were are married and he loves Lao food, and so do I (his wife). My comeback, "yeah, I like spicy, that's why I married him!" And we were just warming up. To our surprise the audience was listening! Outdoor festivals are usually the hardest audience to play for. It's hard to compete with a beautiful day, food, games and socializing. But this crowd was listening, laughing, and a applauding at places we'd never got applause before. It was a truly magnificent experience to perform for the first time to such a large crowd of Laotian Americans who knew exactly what we were talking about. Even when we brought up some potentially political issues, one of the Ajan told the other "that's very political Ajan, this is a family festival we don't want any fighting" we got a laugh and even some applause I believe. It was truly amazing and a gift to be able to perform for such a crowd. Many elders came up to us after the show to thank us and tell us they'd never seen something like that before, about them! Then of course we told them that they only saw 10 minutes and they should come see our full show at La Pena Cultural Center! But no promises yet. I'm hearing that most Lao don't want to leave Richmond even to go ten minutes to Berkeley! Let's prove 'em wrong people! Come see the show that is about you!
The festivities continued with Lao music, dancers, performers, and then we found out why it's called a water festival. This venue was chosen not just for the outdoor courtyard, but for it's central waterfall. It's amazing how the Spanish architecture of this San Pablo City Hall was converted for the day into a magical Lao fountain, representation of life along the Mekong river, and well, the place for people tog et water to throw on each other. Luckily we were warned to bring a change of clothes, because we were drenched (thanks to Vinya the who dumped water on anyone who was dry. He even dumped water on our Director Alex who we'd just met in person). Lao people don't mess around! As we paraded around the fountain I saw two guys, grown men, someone's uncle and grandpa, fight over a hand gong. Why? Because one was a musician holding the gong, the other wanted to use it to toss water. The musician lost the battle. (wish I had a picture of this, but it would have been to dangerous to have a non-waterproof camera anywhere near that!) - Note to self for next Water Festival - size matters - bring bowls not cups to get people wet! What topped our day was that our favorite niece (our only niece) and her mom could celebrate with us. Check out this picture, lots to see, they guys in the fountain splashing water on the crowd, the parade circling the crowd, and look in the lower left hand corner, Ova, our niece Asia, and her mom Vantha.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

And...we're back!

Everyone must be wondering what is going on? What has happened to Refugee Nation since Alaska? Well, a lot. We apologize first and foremost to those that have been reading up on us and wondering when is Refugee Nation coming to our city? town? home? Well, to be honest we needed to take a long break. Just consider for a moment all that traveling: planes, trains and automobiles from June to December in and out of town from New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Alaska, the miles, the people, the energy and effort, the changes in time and weather...it's exhausting! It's work!! So we felt we needed to take a breather. Calm ourselves. Be with ourselves. Be down with ourselves and during that time we took time to evaluate 2007 and all it's struggles and successes and take that knowledge to plan out the 2008 series of Refugee Nation events to come. We hope you follow us again because our batteries are fully charged and we look forward to making impact with people, places and things...promise. So come along for the ride or better yet come see us in person when we are in town. It's a lot nicer face to face, smile to smile.

As you can see we will be in Northern California this month and am very excited about the incredible opportunity to put what we've learned in our growth last year into practice. I call it the creative trinity. The creative trinity is the interconnected efforts to make a residency and performance effective in any town we come upon. The creative trinity are 1.Artists (that's us) 2. Presenter or venue 3. Community coordinators and in a sense we are all producers in this jigsaw puzzle of getting this production running and gunning. With these three parts in communicato, planning, meeting, calling, strategizing, decision-making; together with one vision we can accomplish anything. It's like a tripod...without one leg, whatever it's holding will fall. So in terms of this visit to Northern California we have La Pena Cultural Center as our presenter, Vinya Sysamouth & Khammany Mathavongsy & Phoumy Sayavong who have stepped up to be our community coordinators. (I consider them like the three-headed elephant of old Laos)

So the creative trinity came together and met in February to discuss the way we will make Refugee Nation as successful as it can be in the Bay Area. We are now putting into action the plan and look forward to how it will unfold, as we rally each other THE Refugee Nation NoCal Team. (as I call it) San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond...here we come!!!

There are other highlights and activities to note as well like: How did a 7 year old Lao-Chinese-American child empowered herself with her family's story? What happened to Refugee Nation at Lowell, MA...wasn't that suppose to have happened? What was Ova and Leilani doing in Pioneer Valley aka "Happy Valley" in western Massachusetts? What is the Lao'd and Proud club? Hmmm...the queries of the mind? But I'll save that for another entry.