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, September 16, 2009

Spreading Wings in San Francisco

The great visit to the Bay Area to participate in the 1st Annual banquet for the Center for Lao Studies could not be any better. We had a wonderful time seeing old friends and family and meeting new people. The long drive to share a little piece of Refugee Nation was very worthwhile. We impressed so many people who attended the event from collegiate academics as well as community members that they want more. So look for us to return to the Bay Area in some form or another at the local universities or a Northern California town. The crowd of about 200 or more filled the Women's Building in the Mission District of San Francisco and we had a very successful event to help celebrate, fundraise and dine with CLS supporters. Following are just some highlights:

Day 1.
Driving up along the scenic route of the 101 and PCH from Los Angeles to San Francisco we stopped at several places. One of which is the sand dunes of California at the seaward edge of Santa Maria in a town called Guadalupe. It was one of the locations where Pirates of the Caribbean 3 was filmed.

Day 2.
Our home away from home when we visit the East Bay we stay at Lao central a.k.a. Phoumy and Toni's house in Richmond. They are such wonderful people and pillars of the community. We got to meet an addition to the family: Suriya our first 5 month old Refugee Nation baby modeling the Lao'd and Proud onesie. She is incredibly cute not to mention very amicable with strangers.

Day 3.
Our NEW home away from home is the Center for Lao Studies Headquarters a.k.a. Vinya and Thang's new house in S. San Francisco where the action took place preparing for the CLS event. We were lucky enough to witness the transformation and transition from non-furnished to fully furnished home.

Day 4.
Took a walk to Oyster Point and practice my crane technique to focus before the show. Balance Ova-san...balance...

Day 5.
The 1st Annual Center for Lao Studies Banquet:Spreading Wings brought many people from all over Northern California from San Jose, Sacramento and the Central Valley.

Day 6.
Saying good-bye to NoCal friends and driving home after a long, successful and eventful night. Clouds hover in the sky along I-5 in the Central Valley. We were happy, content and filled with good spirit after such an incredible journey.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

San Francisco Events

Leilani and I have been invited to perform excerpts of Refugee Nation alongside other incredible Lao talent at the Center for Lao Studies' First Annual Banquet:Spreading Wings The fundraiser on September 12, 2009 will highlight two programs of CLS. First is the completion of the Study Abroad in Laos pilot program otherwise known as SAIL, and secondly the launch of the Lao Oral History Archive or LOHA for short. Center for Lao Studies came about three years ago beginning at a conference at the University of Illinois, Dekalb. Without it Refugee Nation and Legacies of War and many other Lao-American organizations, individuals and academics would not have met. Leilani and I will share the stage with songstress Ketsana, dance troups Lao Seri Nattasin, and pageant winner Ms. Asian America Amy Chanthaphavong. So please join us.

I've also been asked to emcee the celebration of Southeast Asian Resource Action Center 30th year in existence. SEARAC serves the interest of Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Americans through leadership development, capacity building, and community empowerment. Beyond the Mekong will be held on September 26, 2009. It will be quite an honor for me to participate because thirty years ago marks my arrival as a refugee into the United States.

Hope to see some of you readers at either of these events in Northern California.
For more information please click on the links in the blog. Huk peng everyone.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Inner Strength

I'm a pretty open person. I have a giving and kind personality. I'm also a very grounded person...at least right now at this stage of my life. With that said...I am glad for those traits because a few weeks ago I was attacked by a friend. Well, I thought the person was a friend and it really made me sad. Especially, especially because well...the person is Lao. We are a part of the same group of people within the community and in all my years that I have known this person, I always thought...I know them. We are family. Together as 1.5 generation Lao-Americans we've created this "family" and what unifies us is the yearning to grasp our lost history. The yearning to find fulfillment alongside fellows who understand the experiences we've gone through AND are going! Well, unfortunately a different side of the person came out and it really was ugly. This person has a PERSONAL PROBLEM with ME; accusing me of self promotion, egotism and thievery. Riddled with F-bombs and cuss words and filled with emotion this person attacked the work I do, my commitment to the community, and my determination to succeed in a complex industry. My initial response was "You gotta be joking me?!" but after rereading the email I realized the seriousness of this person's emotions. I was flabbergasted. Not only because it was a surprise to know that this person felt this way but also because the person had the audacity to share their thoughts publicly with others on the list! Knowing full well the email was and should have been simply directed at me. So...what did I do? THANK YOU TRAITS! I could have easily flamed the fire and responded back with defensive and accusatory thoughts of my own. But instead...I took a moment to contemplate my response, to which I simply reached out to this person and asked them to consider a dialogue and discussion with me, wherever and whenever. So far...I've not heard a reply.

So...I asked myself WHY? Why in the world? In 5 years after hanging out, sharing stories, eating meals, taking road trips, making new friends, TOGETHER. Where in the world was this litany of pain coming from? Knowing this person and after reading the email again I had an inkling. The hurt was due to the economic hardship, the lack of opportunity and a deep emotional depression. It's a sad state of affairs. I know...I've been in the same boat. I still am. Life is what you make of it. I want you to know that I am here for you when you are ready to connect with me. You've got my info.

Why is it that the LAO community, OUR community, MY community finds it such a challenge to unite and support one another as one solid unit. Well circumstances like these, that's why! The crabs in a bucket mentality, that's why! Jealousy and Envy, that's why! Ego, that's why! We've got to stop this cycle of bashing and beating down on each other. It does us no good as a community. It is better to support, praise, validate, recognize, help one another to move forward and get to the next level. We've got to EDUCATE each other. Young and old. Friends and foe. Mistrust in the community is such a big problem, especially for the generation that has seen the ugliness of humanity in war. Our parents, our grandparents who have a very powerful voice have lost it to fear. Who can you trust? You can't even trust your own family! Well, it's time for us to shift our paradigm. Shift our perspective and be open to dialogue and discussion. Be open to help improve each others lives by coming together and building a new link of trust. We've got too. We need too. United we stand, divided we fall. Lao'd and Proud.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Khmer Konnection

It's been a long time since I've written on this blog. Mostly, it's because I have been on break and yes, I agree it has been quite long. In our daily grind to live as artists we've had to buckle down and confront the economic difficulties but we've managed to keep going, re-focus and find abundance in activity. I've been teaching acting classes and TeAda is preparing for the next season. Refugee Nation went on break for a while and we are gearing up again to make it better and tour more cities. San Diego was quite a treat...both in experiencing the struggles and also the impactful return from the Lao community. Now, we look at the present moment and plan forward.

I must remind myself how important our work is...AGAIN. I keep saying that because there are moments when Leilani and I ask ourselves "WHY?" Why do we do this? Pay is horrible. Touring is disorienting. Creating is painful. The answer comes down to our love for performance, our need to share our stories, our value to educate others through theater.

I was just at a birthday party in Upland, CA. A friend of mine by the name of David Prak. He just turned mid-forties, small in stature, passionately loyal and has an amazing spirit. He's also got a great laugh. I met him on Pirates of the Caribbean. Well, Prak is a Cambodian American actor who just recently returned to Cambodia and built a house for his parents. Now, I've never had a chance to sit and discuss with him about his experience from Cambodia to the United States...but I would guess it probably would be intriguing. Nonetheless, my Lao buddy Litdet and I are driving all the way from West Los Angeles to Upland to show up for Prak's birthday party. We roll up and the party is a good mix of folks but made up primarily of Khmer. Sitting at the dining table as we enter his suburban 4 bedroom home in Upland next to Rancho Cucamonga, are lovely ladies hanging. So Litdet and I join the table with food on our plates and we start to meet and greet. Come to find out this ladies are dancers with the Khmer Arts Academy in Long Beach. In our conversation I realized how we knew little of each other but because of our experiences as refugee-Americans we bonded in no time. One thing I discovered was how even Khmer folks didn't know much about Laos and I guess vice-versa. Yet, we experienced the same experience. I was blown away that one party-goer said that there wasn't a war in Laos!? Are you kidding me?! So I had to edu-ma-cate him with a little knowledge from our show Refugee Nation about how Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, France and US were connected in that War. It was just amazing to be able to educate. Deepen each other through important discussions about our histories, our experiences and our connections. What a small world it was to be in a room with the managing director, Serey Tep, of Khmer Arts Academy...who of course knew Prum Ok, an incredible Khmer young dancer an acquaintance of ours, currently attending UCLA World Arts and Culture. But the connections. The importance of our stories. The importance to speak about our experiences. We were all high on great conversation about Southeast Asia. Khmer, Lao, Lao, Khmer. Seeking pride in ourselves and wanting better for our communities and wondering what happened? What happened to our people? We even jokingly went through a little recap of the history of the Southeast Asia about French colonialism, Indo-Chine, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and we all agreed that it's time for payback. Let's kick Frenchies ass for making a hell-hole in Southeast Asia. At that moment, Quang, a Vietnamese friend of Prak walks in and lo and behold our triangle is complete. We had the Khmer, Lao, Vietnamese brotherhood gathered together in one place in Upland, USA. All victims of French colonial stupidity. And who of course should Quang bring with him...a Frenchie by the name of Stephano! History repeats itself?! NO. Not that night. We had a blast just enjoying our conversation and ignored the Frenchie! Humph...take that you disgusting bastards.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

LAO'd and Proud! Not just for the Lao New Year!

Sunday, day 2 of the Lao New Year Festival Nicole is one of the lucky people to have bought our first LAO'd & Proud t-shirts! We sold out on Friday night even before the festival began!

Here's Ova getting the crowd to chant "I'm Lao and I'm proud, even if you're not Lao say it with me, I'm Lao and I'm proud!"

If you want to be LAO'd & Proud all year long you can get one th ese shirts and www.blacklava.com and support Refugee Nation as we get back to work planning and organizing our shows for the Fall.
We need your support so we can keep performing this show and bring it to a theater near you!
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A Day of Festivities and Refugee Nation for families!

After a few hours at the booth and enjoying the festival, it's back to the theater to perform Refugee Nation, the family friendly festival version just 30-45 minutes. The LA Lao'd & proud crew drove down! thanks for the support Bangbay, Chay, Brian & Nakhone! And Jim and Chiaw came the night before - you guys rock! After the show it's back to the booth. Pida greets us outside his booth dressed like the King of Laos! As the days festivities wind down, it's back to the theater for us for another evening show for families who came from as far away as Riverside and Oklahoma and as near as two blocks away.
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Setting up for the Saturday Festival and Performances

After a long Friday of performances and events, we all got up early to set up for the opening of the festival. Ova and Litdet hang the Refugee Nation banner outside the theater. While Marie-reine and Leilani set up the booth to sell t-shirts and tell folks about our shows.

From the booth we see the Legacies ladies arrive on the scene. Once everyone is set up the Festival begins with a parade across the bridge from the theater to the festival grounds.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hard work pays off!

You may think all artists have to do is show up and like magic, there's a show. But there is a LOT of preparation weeks prior. And for this show there were a lot of challenges. But in the end it all paid off as one of our most successful events to date where over 1000 people mostly Laotians attended our shows and programs. A quick recap of the last week:

Wednesday, April 1 - Ova and Leilani drive down to San Diego to lead a workshop with SDAYO - San Diego Asian youth Organization at the San Diego Police Department Multicultural storefront. Officer Somsack Thongchanh introduces us and we get started.

Thursday, April 2 - First day in the space, we have been told that we are the first theater company to be in the space. SURPRISE - they have no lights! So we had to rent light and load them in ourselves. Luckily Litdet had a truck to haul it all in. But then, turns out the electrical in the "state of the art" facility can't handle the lights. So when the electricity goes out on the outlets, we wait for the electrician toshow up and help. Ova and Litdet start working on some new performance ideas...

Hey, where did Ova go?
Oh, Ova's under the stage looking for alternative outlets for the lights. This takes "find your light" to a whole new level for this actor!

Marie-Reine ignores it all... "must find people to come to the show, must tell people about the show, must get people to the show..." she types away getting the word out to the press and theater community about tomorrow night's performances.

Friday, April 3 - Opening Night!
More tech rehearsal. Lights to hang, Ed our sound guy comes in. We're ready for Dress Rehearsal, and pow. lights go out again! Ed to teh resuce with the proper connectors that the "state of the art facility" does not have and the "light kit" does not provide. Whew! Crisis averted, 1 hour before the doors open! Yikes, put on the costumes, get backstage.... And....WOW! People start arriving. 300 chairs have been set up. but now they are full! Roque and the Jacob's center staff scrmble to pull out more chairs! 400? 500? people? All Laotians of all ages! It's are larges audience ever and the most Laotians to see the show at once. LEgacies of War makes their presentation and people view the exhibit. Then our show goes up (the half hour family friendly version). Laughter and applause in places there never had been before. When the Elder (Ova) tell the Youth (Leilani) in Lao that she should speak Lao ther eis thundersous applause and it takes a good minute for themt os top before Leilani can say her next line. The show ends with Ova chanting "I'm Lao and I'm proud" to audience debuting our new "LAO'd & Proud" shirts and the audience joins in! Success! And a whole bunch fo new fans...

Couldn't have done it without this crew! Sakuna, Somsack and Channapha and Islanda (not in pic)!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

GETTing READY! Lao Pii Mai San Diego '09

Refugee Nation and Legacies of War troupes setting up in Celebration Hall of the Jacobs Multicultural Center, San Diego. Everything went soooo "smooth"...OK, just kidding. I'd be up for an "Oscar" if you believed me. Besides the lights, schedule, time, vehicle complications, communication...it all went Great! All the events of the Lao New Year festival took place at Market Creek Plaza and the Jacobs Multicultural Center. Amidst the wild and perilous journey from Los Angeles(gigantic pot holes, jay-walkers, the smog-Force, elderly drivers) to San Diego, shimmering rays of sunshine(April, Pida, Paul, Antoine, SomSack, and many others), shined the pavement for our safety.
Notwithstanding the many obstacles and difficulties, every person's Dedication, Hard Work and Will Power pulled together and got the show going...to the very last minute - Lights, Camera, Action! Wait, no Lights!!!

Maybe if these guys knew what to do with the equipment?!?


Hard Work!(Marie-Reine)
Will Power!(Pida and April)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Meeting OGs a.k.a. the REAL Ajans

Last weekend, the weekend before the Lao New Year, we drove down to San Diego to spread the word about our show. First stop was the San Diego Police Department Multicultural Center also known as "the storefront." There Ajan Somsack kept a captivated audience of this year's Lao Beauty Pageant contestants and supporters while he was going over the preparations for the Lao New Year Festival. We arrived just in time for Ova to tell the 40 or so people assembled about the show that was coming to San Diego for the Festival as well. The place was a buzz with all the activity, Fashion Show practice was in the next room along with the break dancers rehearsing. We then drove to April's house, our coordinator, and she drove us to all the Lao businesses in San Diego. Seven o'clock rolls around and then we get a call. Ajan Somsack asks "Where are you guys?" We reply "We're on our way, you said 7:30" Then he says "You need to get here soon!" So we make our last stop and head over to Ajan Bounmy's house. There we were, Ova, Leilani, and our patient friend Bangbay who joined us for the ride. The house was FULL of Ajans, husbands and wives. And after dinner we were requested to perform an excerpt of our show. We were nervous. So busy with production we haven't had much time to rehearse. And here we were before a room full of elders and not just any elders, these were the first wave founding members of the Laotian Community in San Diego, educators, doctors, people who really know all there is to know about Laos. So in the living room with about 20 Ajans and family looking on, we performed the first 5 min of our scene Ajan/Ajan. After the performance, there was silence, a pause, and then, clapping. Then Ajan Bounmy raises his hand, "Can I ask a question?" So, Ova in his best Lao-glish proceeded to answer the many questions from the Ajans. "Why do we do this? How did we get started? Why haven't we seen anything like this before." A theater piece about our people? About Laotians? And so, we stayed until at least 11pm when despite the offers of glasses of wine, we said our goodbyes got promises that they would come see the show and bring everyone they know, and hit the road back to Los Angeles for our two hour drive. Getting home at 1:30AM! Now that's what we call OUTREACH!

Proof positive that we ventured into the depth of Lao San Diego.

1. Ova and Mr. Somsack at a dinner party with San Diego AJANS!
2. Muang Luang Imports off of Market St.
3. Lunch at Sang Dao restaurant.
4. A visit to one of the Lao temples.
5. Mekong Village where food and fun happens.