Entertainment Spotlight

  • Catching Up: Santana, Taj Mahal and a déjà vu ‘Blue Christmas’

    Posted by Ben Fong-Torres

    By Ben Fong-Torres It’s short shrift time. I have a life that’s ripe (and slightly wrinkled) for blogs and tweeting; for facebooking and updating. I’m just no good at it. My last column here on AsianConnections was about the memorial in late July for my sister Shirley. My last posting on the authors’ site, Redroom, was about a radio promo tour I did (20 stops, all on the phone...

Backstage Pass Articles

  • David Henry Hwang wins $200,000 prize - Chinglish Extended to Oct. 21 at Berkeley Rep

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    Congratulations to Tony award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang for winning the Steinberg award, the largest prize in theater.

    The playwrighting award of $200,000 was announced by the Harold and Mimi Charitable Trust on Wednesday August 22. 2012. The Charitable Trust's annoucement recognized Hwang's 32 years of provocative satires and dramas (“Chinglish,”“M. Butterfly”) that brought more Asian and Asian-American characters to Broadway and other stages."

    Hwang's Chinglish, which made its New York Broadway debut last year, opens on the West Coast August 24 in Berkeley, California.

    Michelle Krusiec and Alex Moggridge lead the cast of the West Coast premiere of David Henry Hwang’s recent Broadway comedy Chinglish, in the Roda Theatre of the Tony Award-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre, August 24-October 7, 2012. Chinglish received its Broadway premiere in Fall 2011, was named “Best American Play of 2011” by TIME magazine, and as one of the Top 10 Broadway shows of the year byBloomberg Radio, NY1 and WNYC.The cast of Chinglish also features Vivian Chu, Celeste Den, Austin Ku, Brian Nishii and Larry Lei Zhang.

    Michelle Krusiec (Photo by Lia Chang)

    David Henry Hwang won three Obies and the Tony Award for Best Play with M. Butterfly and FOB. Now he’s back with a canny comedy of cross-cultural errors. Two-time Obie-winner Leigh Silverman returns to the Roda Theatre to stage the twists in a terrific play she took to Broadway. Love is on the line, and laughter fills the ledger in Chinglish, a co-production with South Coast Repertory, where it will play in 2013.

    "I’m always looking for smart comedies to share with our audience,” says Tony Taccone, artistic director of Berkeley Rep. “David brokers the comic gap between what words mean and how they’re translated. Before our eyes, a delightful farce subtly transforms into a timely and treacherous dissection of two cultures entwined in misunderstanding. I’m delighted to welcome David back...

  • Actress Michi Barall is in the ensemble cast of stop.reset. a new play by Regina Taylor

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    Photo by Lia Chang of Michi Barall, Actress

    New York City

    stop. reset., a new play written and directed by Regina Taylor which has performances in The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York through September 29, 2013, tackles powerful questions of legacy, identity and survival in a world where the real and the virtual are more closely tied than we think.

    Photo by Joan Marcus of Teagle F Bougere as Chris, LaTanya Richardson Jackson as Jan, Donald Sage Mackay as Tim and Michi Barall as Deb in Signature Theatre’s world premiere of Regina Taylor’s stop. reset.

    Photo by Lia Chang of Ismael Cruz Cordova in stop. reset, written and directed by Regina Taylor. 

    In stop.reset., e-books are outselling printed books, and Alex Ames (Carl Lumbly), the owner of Chicago’s oldest African American book publishing company, is faced with the task of questioning each of his employees, Deb (Michi Barall), Chris (Teagle Bougere), Jan (LaTanya Richardson Jackson) and Tim (Donald Sage MacKay), to determine who is still relevant in a rapidly changing world. When he meets J (Ismael Cruz Cordova), a mysterious youth plugged into the future, Mr. Ames is forced to discover just how far he will go to survive.

    Photo by Lia Chang of castmembers LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Michi Barall starring in Regina Taylor’s stop. reset. on September 21, 2013. 

    Photo of Lia Chang of Michi Barall. 

    Signature alum Michi Barall, and member of the ensemble cast of stop.reset. is a native of Toronto, is an actor, playwright, professor and scholar-in-training. She last starred at Signature at The Peter Norton Space in the world premiere of Queens Boulevard (the musical) by 2007-2008 Playwright-in-Residence Charles Mee, her husband of ten years.

    As an actor, Michi has worked predominantly on new plays by American writers –including Julia Cho, Philip Kan Gotanda, A.R. Gurney, John Guare, Naomi Iizuka, Han Ong, Jose Rivera, Sung Rno, Paul Rudnick, Charles Mee, Sarah Schulman,...

  • Sept. 24 - Oct. 27: Gettin’ The Band Back Together Featuring Manu Narayan, Alison Fraser, Mitchell Jarvis, Garth Kravits, Jay Klaitz and More at George Street Playhouse

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    Manu Narayan Photo by Lia Chang

    The George Street Playhouse kicks off its fortieth season with a new musical, Gettin’ The Band Back Together(formerly titledGarage Band), helmed by Tony Award-winner John Rando (Urinetown, GSP’s The Toxic Avenger). Gettin’ The Band Back Together, a rockin’ valentine to the Garden State, begins preview performances on Tuesday, September 24, at the George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ., and continues through Sunday, October 27. Opening night is set for Friday, October 4. Gettin’ The Band Back Togetheris performed by special arrangement with Davenport Theatrical Enterprises, Inc. and Roy Putrino.

    Mitchell Jarvis

    The cast of Gettin’ The Band Back Together includes Broadway veterans Manu Narayan (Bombay Dreams), Heather Brave (Circle of Friends), Evan Daves (The Coast of Utopia), Michelle Duffy (Leap of Faith), Ryan Duncan (Soul Doctor), two-time Tony nominee Alison Fraser (GSP’s Lend Me a Tenor, Gypsy on Broadway), Deidre Goodwin (A Chorus Line), Christopher Gurr (Memphisnational tour), Mitchell Jarvis (Rock of Ages), Jay Klaitz (High Fidelity), Garth Kravits (The Drowsy Chaperone), Adam Monley (Mamma Mia!), Emily McNamara (NEWsical the Musical), Tad Wilson (Wonderland), and Brandon Williams (TV’s “Entourage,” Stay at Home Dad).

    Alison Fraser

    Gettin’ The Band Back Together is the tale of Mitch – recently forty and cut loose from his job on Wall Street. Forced by finances to move back to his childhood home in Sayreville, NJ, Mitch – a fine musician thought to be the next Bon Jovi – reunites with his high school band mates in a high-stakes battle of the bands. Best buddies, old girlfriends, high school bullies who never grew up and one hot New Jersey momma make for fast times and the ultimate “do-over” for this Jersey Boy.

    Gettin’ The Band Back Togetherboasts a book by Ken Davenport and The Grundelshotz, with additional material by Sarah Saltzberg, and music...

  • André De Shields, Mary Zimmerman, Akash Chopra, Richard M. Sherman, Anjali Bhimani, Nehal Joshi and More Celebrate The Jungle Book Opening at Huntington Theatre

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    I had a grand time at Huntington Theatre Company’s opening night performance of the world premiere adaptation of Disney’s The Jungle Book, written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, which began previews on September 7, and opened on Wednesday, September 18, 2013, on the Huntington’s main stage, the Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave in Boston. Check out the photos from the afterparty held in the Scene Shop adjacent to the theater.

    Larry Yando (Shere Khan), Mary Zimmerman (Director/Playwright), André De Shields (Akela/King Louie) and Anjali Bhimani (Mother Wolf). Photo by Lia Chang

    Usman Ally (Bagheera) and his wife Malena Mai. Photo by Lia Chang

    The Jungle Book transfers from and is produced in association with Chicago’s Goodman Theatre where it was extended three times due to popular demand and is the company’s highest attended musical production in its history. The Huntington production features the entire original cast including Two-time Tony Award nominee André De Shields (Full Monty, Play On!, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Wiz) as King Louie, Kevin Carolan as Baloo, Larry Yando (Candide) as Shere Kahn, Thomas Derrah (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) as Kaa, Usman Ally as Bagheera and Akash Chopra and Roni Akurati as Mowgli.

    (L to R): Glory Curda (Little Girl), Roni Akurati (Mowgli), and Akash Chopra (Mowgli).(© Lia Chang)

    Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Peacock & Others), Alka Nayyar (Doe, Insect, and Monkey), Timothy Wilson (Wolf and others), Victor Wisehart (Wolf & Others), Govind Kumar (Wolf, Vulture, and others), Nehal Joshi (Rama (a wolf and others), Anjali Bhimani (Raksha (a wolf and others), Monique Haley (Insect and others), Jeremy Duvall (Insect and others), Ed Kross (Colonel Hathi and others), Geoff Packard (Lieutenant George, Giddha (a vulture), and others), Glory Curda (Little Girl), Nebi Berhane (Ensemble) round out the cast.

    L to R: Nebi Berhane (Wolf, others), Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Peacock, others), Andre De...

  • Aug.22: National Geographic Photographer Mike Yamashita Shares His Shangri-la at the AAJA Convention in New York

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    On Thursday, August 22, 2013, don’t miss Elusive Paradise: National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita’s Shangri-la at 10:00am at the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) Convention at the New York Hilton.

    National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita at a book signing at the Asia Society on February 21, 2013 for his new book Shangri-LA. Photo by Lia Chang

    Yamashita will start off the session with a short presentation on putting together and selling a book project, followed by a slideshow of his images of a rare and fast-disappearing view of Tibet which are featured in his new book, Shangri-La (along the tea road to Lhasa).

    Yamashita fell in love with the region over fifteen years ago, and his photographs offer a record of a way of life that has flourished in the rarefied heights of the Himalayas for centuries but is now threatened with extinction.

    AAJA-NY chapter members Michael Yamashita, Lia Chang, Henry Moritsugu, Marilynn K. Yee and Stan Honda at the opening reception for the AAJA Convention at The New York Hilton on August 21, 2013.

    Michael Yamashita has been shooting for National Geographic magazine for over 30 years, combining his dual passions of photography and travel. After graduating from Wesleyan University with a degree in Asian studies, he spent seven years in Asia, which became his area of specialty. Returning to the United States fluent in Japanese, he began shooting for National Geographic as well as many other U.S. and international clients. Michael is known for epic stories that retrace the paths of famous travelers, like Marco Polo, the Japanese poet Basho, and the Chinese explorer Zheng He. His feature documentary, The Ghost Fleet, won the Best Historical Documentary prize at the New York International Independent Film Festival. His National Geographic Channel documentary, Marco Polo: The China Mystery Revealed, received two Asian Television and Film Awards and was also included in the top 20 most...