The rest of the week features readings of Naomi Iizuka's 36 Views, Edward Bok Lee's St. Petersburg, Sung Rno's wave, Sunil Kuruvilla's Rice Boy, Alexander Woo's Forbidden City Blues, and Alice Tuan's Hit.
"There's a great breadth of work," says Merv Antonio, literary manager for the Public. In choosing the plays, he and the rest of the Public's literary staff read through a plethora of scripts. "We wanted to sculpt during the week the different perspectives, different points of view, different cultural vantage points that a lot of these writers are coming from," says Antonio. "Not all of them will be Asian identified. Not all of them will be strongly politicized. A lot of the playwrights grew up in the Midwest or East Coast surrounded by white people. So although they're Asian-American by name and color and surface quality, their influence in terms of environment was strongly American, or white."
In conjunction with the New Work Now! festival, there is also a series of cutting-edge work called Performance Now! at the Public's cabaret/performance space, Joe's Pub. Several Asian-American performers are featured, with a special focus given to Asian American composers. Second Generation Productions will present songs from its rock musical, Making Tracks, on Friday, April 21. Excerpts from Leon Ko's new musical, Heading East, will be performed on Saturday, April 22. And on Tuesday, April 25, composer Fred Ho leads a musical ensemble in excerpts from Night Vision, billed as a "Third to First World Vampyre Opera."
Ho's composition, written with the librettist Ruth Margraff, is distinctly different from the other two works, which fall squarely in the musical theater tradition. "I'm on the radical edge," says Ho. "My aesthetics are pan-Asian, inspired by Asian folk and music-theater traditions, combined with world music influences, as well as the most volatile of 20th-century African-American music."
The Public's New Work Now! focus wraps up on Sunday April 23 with a playwrights roundtable (moderated by the author of this article). Following that session will be a closing panel on "Re-Imagining Asian America: Current Trends and Future Hopes." Included on the panel are playwrights Jessica Hagedorn and Alice Tuan; David Eng, assistant professor of English and Asian American Studies at Columbia University; Welly Yang, producer and co-founder of Second Generation Productions; and Chay Yew, playwright and director of the Asian Theatre Workshop at the Mark Taper Forum.