Remembering June 4, 1989

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Radmar Jao (center) as Deng Xiaoping, surrounded by the hardliners played by (from left) Nancy Lam, Carissa Dizon, Jason Ko, Marc Oka, Cailan Rose and Jay Gamboa in East West Players’ musical “Beijing Spring,” playing through June 15.

Radmar Jao (center) as Deng Xiaoping, surrounded by the hardliners played by (from left) Nancy Lam, Carissa Dizon, Jason Ko, Marc Oka, Cailan Rose and Jay Gamboa in East West Players’ musical “Beijing Spring,” playing through June 15.

By TIM DANG, Producing Artistic Director, East West Players

The days of June 3-5, 1989, are forever ingrained in global history. The stark image of tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square to clear protesters, and the image of the lone man standing up against the tanks will never be forgotten by those of us who watched from our TV screens.

Qiao (Nicole Barredo) and Xian (Daniel May) look out across Tiananmen Square in awe of how the student movement has grown in East West Players' musical “Beijing Spring.”

Qiao (Nicole Barredo) and Xian (Daniel May) look out across Tiananmen Square in awe of how the student movement has grown in East West Players’ musical “Beijing Spring.”

I was inspired to write the musical “Beijing Spring” because I was struck by young student leaders challenging the government leaders on corruption and the concentration of power in the hands of a few. Major change can be slow in coming, but these students took their future into their own hands for democracy and freedom.

We have brought “Beijing Spring” back to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising, or as it is known in China, the “June 4th Incident.” We have had the chance to speak with patrons who have experienced the performance, and the stories shared with myself and the staff have been very moving.

A group of visiting LGBT interns from China were emotionally distraught after the show — they learned about a piece of their history that they cannot talk about when they return to China. While here in the U.S., they can live and be “free” but they must go back to being silent — about their history and identity — when they return to their home.

A graduate student who was eight years old at the time living in China knew of the protests in Beijing through her father who was a professor at the University. Now living in the U.S., watching the musical brought her back to her childhood, and she remarked how “courageous” this production was in telling this story, because they do not speak about it.

Sometimes when doing a play or musical, there are other access points to the story that we don’t consider. I guess that is why we, as storytellers, do more than just entertain. We help open a world to dialogue and discovery.

We urge you to experience this musical. Bring young people so that they can know about this major world event, know the power of storytelling beyond entertainment, and know that they too, have the power to make change.

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East West Players is located at 120 Judge John Aiso St. in Little Tokyo. Remaining performances of “Beijing Spring” are Thursday, June 12, at 8 p.m. (balcony $41, orchestra $46); Friday and Saturday, June 13-14, at 8 p.m. (balcony $46, orchestra $51); Sunday, June 15, at 2 p.m. (balcony $46, orchestra $51). Student and senior discounts: $5 off regular price. Special group rates for 10 or more. Info: (213) 625-7000, www.eastwestplayers.org.

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