Asian American Theater Festival Hosts Three Performances in One Show


Denise Uyehara (Photo by Jen Long)

As part of the third National Asian American Theater Festival, three short performances will be presented together: “Archipelago: Islands of Land, Water and Legend” by Denise Uyehara, “Encounter” by Navarasa Dance Theater, and “Pull” by Kennedy Kabasares and Traci Kato-Kiriyama.

The performances will be held on Thursday, June 23, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, June 25, at 9 p.m. at Inner-City Arts Rosenthal Theater, 720 Kohler St. in downtown Los Angeles between East 7th Street and East 8th Street.

• “Archipelago” is a new multi-disciplinary work directed and performed by Uyehara in collaboration with video artist Adam Cooper-Terán, with appearances by Natalie Brewster Nguyen and Marcos Najera. Through a nexus of video, monologue, music and ritual, it remixes ancient origin myths of Okinawa and native people of the American Southwest, situating them in contemporary times.

For over two decades, Uyehara’s work has investigated what it means to be a woman, an Asian American, a bisexual and a human being, not necessarily in that order. A founding member of the Sacred Naked Nature Girls, she conducts workshops for artists and the community, lecture/demonstrations, and other residency activities. She frequently teaches at UC Irvine.

Cooper-Terán is an award-winning visualist and performer from Tucson, Ariz., best known for his collaborations with the critically acclaimed Verbo•bala Spoken Video and infamous United Satanic Apache Front.

Nguyen is a performance artist, actor, acroyogi and musician, as well as a writer for film, visual theater, and print.

Najera is an actor and journalist from Phoenix. He serves on Center Theatre Group’s teaching artist faculty and as East L.A. Rep’s director of education. He also works as an artistic associate with Anna Deavere Smith on her national tour of “Let Me Down Easy.”

• “Encounter” explores the different kinds of encounters in contemporary human life: encounter of the human soul with the divine, encounter with memory, encounter with lover, encounter with gravity and encounter with the military. It was conceived by Aparna Sindhoor and S. M. Raju, choreographed by Sindhoor and Anil Natyaveda, and directed by Sindhoor.

Sindhoor, Raju and Natyaveda are important artists of contemporary Indian dance who have created innovative dance theater works with unique original movement and vocabulary. Trained in various arts such as Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Kalari Ppayattu, Malkhambh, yoga, music and theater, the choreographer and writer team has created an evening-long work that will mesmerize the audience with its virtuosity and intensity of dance, live singing and theater.

Navarasa Dance Theater (NDT) was founded by Sindhoor in 1991 in Mysore, India. It has a wide repertoire of solo and group works in classical and contemporary dance and theater and is known for its work with themes that deal with human issues in a meaningful way that makes audiences feel entertained and touched at the same time.

Kennedy Kabasares and Traci Kato-Kiriyama (Photo by Ami Patel)

• “Pull,” conceived and performed by Filipino American aerial artist, actor and writer Kabasares and Japanese American multidisciplinary artist, arts producer and community organizer Kato-Kiriyama, incorporates monologues, recorded interviews, and aerial arts to tell stories of people’s obsessions, from the mundane to the supernatural. It examines the effects they have on people’s lives and relationships. When do we pull them back?

Kabasares has worked with a diversity of theater companies, including Tongue in a Mood Theater, East West Players, Center Theater Group, performance trio zero3, and Kinetic Theory Circus Arts. An encounter with a circus school in Los Angeles led to several years of training with world-class coaches such as Eric Newton (Cirque du Soleil’s “Quidam”), Karyn and Sara Steben (Cirque du Soleil’s “Saltimbanco”) and Rachel Walker (Cirque du Soleil’s “Kooza”).

Kato-Kiriyama is the founder of the Tuesday Night Cafe Project, a multi-disciplinary, free-to-the-public performance space that gathers local Los Angeles artists and the Aslan Pacific Islander community in the downtown and Little Tokyo regions of the city. She recently published a poetry collection, “Signaling.”

Kabasaras and Kato-Kiriyama previously toured with their collaborative inter-disciplinary theatrical show, “Zero3: Stage and Spoken Word Superheroes.”

Funding for the National Asian American Theater Conference and Festival is being provided, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, James Irvine Foundation, California Community Foundation, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, and Los Angeles County Arts Commission. Additional sponsors are the Japanese American National Museum, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, and Inner-City Arts. Media Sponsors are The LA Weekly, The Rafu Shimpo and Hyphen Magazine.

Tickets for “Archipelago,” “Encounter” and “Pull” are $12 to $15 and can be purchased online at, by phone at (213) 625-7000, in person at the East West Players box office (120 Judge John Aiso St.), or at the performance venue one hour prior to showtime.

Other performances in the festival: “Dancing on Glass” (June 23 at 9 p.m., June 25 at 7 p.m.), “Dictee” (June 24 at 9 p.m., June 26 at 2 p.m.), “Jukebox Stories” (June 24 at 7 p.m., June 26 at 4 p.m.), “A Number” (June 23 at 7 p.m., June 25 at 9 p.m.), “The Passion of El Hulk Hogancito” (June 24 at 9 p.m., June 26 at 2 p.m.), “Sunoh! Tell Me Sister” (June 24 at 7 p.m., June 26 at 4 p.m.), “Ten Reasons Why’d I’d Be a Bad Porn Star” (June 23 at 9 p.m., June 25 at 7 p.m.).

Partner performances: “Krunk Fu Battle Battle” (through June 26), “Extraordinary Chambers” (through July 3), “Year Zero” (through July 3), “A Book by Its Cover” (June 24 to July 23), “Sun Sisters” (July 30 to Aug. 28, open rehearsal on June 22).

The Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists envisions a strong and sustainable Asian American theater community that is an integral presence in national culture. Its mission is to advance the field of Asian American theater through a national network of organizations and artists. It collaborates to inspire learning and sharing of knowledge and resources to promote a healthy, sustainable artistic ecology.


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