The Japanese American National Museum on Oct. 10 presented “Marvels & Monsters Unbound,” a showcase of short performances inspired by the new exhibition “Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986.”
Both the exhibit and the performances were curated by Jeff Yang, who writes the “Tao Jones” blog for The Wall Street Journal. The mini-plays were based on the exhibition’s eight categories of Asian archetypes found in American comics — the Lotus Blossom, the Alien, the Brute, the Manipulator, the Brain, the Kamikaze, the Temptress, and the Guru.
Maritess Zurbano, a practicing magician, presented “Magical Girl,” about her experiences performing in Japan, and “Tommy the Adequate,” based on her old-school magician mentor.
Carin Chea, a member of the Cold Tofu improv comedy group, wrote and performed in “Jumper,” which also featured Victor Chi and Robert Covarrubias. She played a grouchy senior citizen trying to talk a man out of committing suicide.
Joey Damiano, who has worked with East West Players, wrote “The Audition,” in which Greg Watanabe plays a Japanese American applying to join a league of superheroes.
Mark Brown, writer of the musical “China — The Whole Enchilada,” wrote “Evil Is a Yellow Face,” featuring Marcus Choi as Ming the Merciless and Jon Jon Briones as Fu Manchu.
Robert Allison, who recently completed his first screenplay, wrote “Overwrite,” featuring Grace Li and Steven Chan. The skit involves a man shopping for a new personality.
Raymond Hui, a sketch/improv performer based in Chicago, wrote “X-Wings of Defeat,” featuring Harrison Pak, which puts an Asian American spin on a famous scene from “Star Wars.”
Deanna Myers, a member of the Chicago-based Asian American sketch comedy group Stir Friday Night, wrote and performed “Cute Asian Girl,” in which she reacts to a white guy’s “missed connection” ad that is full of stereotypes of Asian women.
The performances were followed by a Q&A with the authors and actors. The reception was hosted by JANM’s Young Professionals Network.
In addition to Yang, speakers at the reception were JANM President and CEO Dr. Greg Kimura, JANM Board of Trustees Chairman Gordon Yamate, YPN President Kira Teshima, and NYU Asian Pacific American Institute Office and Gallery Manager Ruby Gomez.
“Marvels & Monsters” will be on view until Feb. 9, 2014. For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo