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"In The Silence Of The Heart," family drama written and directed by Joanna Chan
Play was created for the inmates in Sing Sing Correctional Facility
and was first produced there by Rehabilitation Through The Arts.
In English/Spanish with Chinese subtitles.
WHERE AND WHEN:
May 28 to June 14, 2009
Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (at East Tenth Street), Johnson Theater
A Yangtze Repertory Theatre Production presented by Theater for the New City
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm, Sunday at 3:00 pm.
$20 general admission; seniors/students: $15.00.
Box office www.theaterforthenewcity.net; reservations: 212-254-1109.
Tickets can also be reserved via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Running time 2 hours. Critics are invited on or after May 30.
DETAILS:Joanna Chan, Artistic Director of Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America (www.yangtze-rep-theatre.org), is an author of numerous plays about epic events of Chinese history. She breaks her usual form with "In The Silence Of The Heart," a new family drama set in the U.S., dealing with racial biases, the concept of family and the nature of forgiveness. The play was created for the inmates in Sing Sing Correctional Facility and was first produced there by Rehabilitation Through The Arts in November 2008. The work will now have its premiere run May 28 to June 14 at Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, Manhattan, directed by the author. The play will be performed in English and Spanish with Chinese subtitles.
Since 2002, Chan has been working with Rehabilitation Through The Arts at Sing Sing, teaching playwriting and coaching the inmates in acting. Her directing projects there have included August Wilson’s "Jitney" (2004) and an acclaimed production of Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex" (2006).
"In The Silence Of The Heart," set on Labor Day weekend in 2008, tells of a fictional African-American family that has adopted a young Chinese boy ten years earlier. The boy's father had served in the same firehouse as the father of the black family, but was killed on duty. Soon after the tragic incident, the father of the black family left home and had not been seen again until his sudden appearance on this holiday weekend. The ensuing revelation and conflict throw the tightly knit family into turmoil. The production's multi-ethnic cast, headed by African-Americans, includes actors from Japan, China and Vietnam.
Chan writes, "This work was created as a token of my gratitude to all the inmates I’ve been working with since the spring of 2002 in Sing Sing Maximum Security Correctional Facility, from whom I’ve learned much about courage, kindness and generosity in immensely adverse circumstances, especially in face of injustice, grief, loneliness and despair. As with the experience in the past few years, the work marks a crossing of boundaries. Once crossed, however, one finds that there are actually no boundaries at all because just as fear and cowardice know no color, so do loyalty, goodness, self-giving and nobility of soul."
She adds, "After having tackled immense historic topics such as China’s Cultural Revolution, the civil war between Mao and Chiang, Great Leap Forward and the human cost of the country’s one-child policy, I think of this work of a small family story as the culmination of my 33 years writing career. To the individuals I’ve been privileged to work with in Sing Sing, I owe my eternal gratitude."
Chan's 1998 drama, "Crown Ourselves With Roses," has been selected as one of 23 most significant works in Chinese theater in the past 100 years for An Anthology of Modern Chinese Theater to be published by Columbia University Press later this year. An English version of Chan's 1985 drama, "Before the Dawn-Wind Rises," was included in An Oxford Anthology of Chinese Contemporary Drama (1997).
Reviewing Chan's "Oedipus Rex" at Sing Sing in 2006, Michael Millius wrote in the (Bedford, NY) Record-Review, "You might think I’d have seen some great theater over the years with my aunt, Michael Strange being married to John Barrymore, or my work with Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber as creative director of MCA Music. But still, even after all that, and more than half a century of theatergoing, I was not prepared for the experience of seeing a performance of "Oedipus Rex" by inmates at Sing Sing prison. When written by Sophocles circa 430 B.C. (and considered by the ancient Greeks to be his best work), the author couldn’t have imagined how his play would enjoy one of its finest hours 2,500 years later, being rendered by inmates in a maximum-security prison."
Chan's theater company, Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America (www.yangtze-rep-theatre.org), was founded in 1992 to produce works for and by Asian artists. Since then, it has become New York's most significant entry point for dramatic works from Chinese-speaking countries and a place of collaboration for artists from various parts of Asia. Her own plays also include the political and controversial drama, "The Soongs: By Dreams Betrayed." Her "One Family One Child One Door," a black comedy on the human cost of China's one-child policy, premiered in 2001 and was revived twice. It was a finalist in the Jane Chambers Playwriting Contest.
The large cast, headed by Tamala Baldwin, Carl Hendrick Louis, Hector L. Hicks, Bruce Le and David Brandon, also includes Corey Campbell, Conrado De La Rose, Rachel Filsoof, Mimi Jefferson, Dennis Johnson, Michael A. Jones, Ming Kwai, Victor Landol, Saoko Okano, Annie Q and Sen Yang. Set design is by Pavlo Bosyy; lighting design is by Joyce Liao, costume design and choreography are by David Chien-Hui Shen and live accompaniment is by Su Sheng. Original songs are by Kenyatta Hughes; original raps are by Jemaine Archer and Clarence Maclin.
Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) originated in Sing Sing in 1996 and currently operates creative arts programs in five men's and women's prisons in New York State. Through workshops and productions in theatre, art, dance and creative writing, RTA offers incarcerated men and women the opportunity to build social, communication, language, literacy and leadership skills, and to gain knowledge and respect for self and community. The life skills built through the arts are necessary to succeed in any vocational, academic or enrichment program offered in prison and to help prepare the prisoner to reenter society more successfully.
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