Staged Reading of Velina Houston’s ‘Empress Lily’


Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble will present a staged reading of Velina Hasu Houston’s new play “Empress Lily,” directed by Gregg T. Daniel, on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the Jason & Yvonne Lee Geffen Playhouse Annex, 950 Westwood Blvd. in Los Angeles (next to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf).

Velina Hasu Houston (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Velina Hasu Houston (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

What if King Lear was Japanese and it wasn’t 8th-century Britain but 21st-century Los Angeles? Inspired by Shakespeare’s adaptation “King Lear,” Houston reconceives the legend with a Japanese female Lear and her three daughters, one of them mixed race, in a cultural arena where filial obligation is a tie that binds.

Yuriko Yoshida (played by Jeanne Sakata), also known as Lily or Empress Lily, retires from leading her globally successful corporation on the occasion of her 70th birthday. Testing her three daughters Karu (Yvonne Lagramada Huff Lee), Goma (Fiona Cheung), and Ren (Jennifer Chang) on how much they love her, she banishes the filial Karu and leaves Yoshida Corporation to Goma and Ren.

Lily experiences how tarnished the golden years can be and wonders, “Did I make the right choice?”

The cast also includes Brent M. Jennings as Kelford, Ryan Napier as Edmund, Kate Lee as Yo, and Sean Walton as Edison.

Breaking Ground is a five- to six-day workshop designed to create new work or develop a work in progress. LDTE brings together theater artists from different disciplines, including actors, directors, playwright and dramaturge, to help shape and mold the theater of the future. It culminates in a free-to-the-public staged reading. Audience participation is invited during the post-show discussion led by a dramaturge.

Houston is professor, associate dean of faculty, resident playwright, and founder/director of the undergraduate Playwriting Program and Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing at the University of Southern California. Her work focuses on the shifting boundaries of identity with regard to gender, culture, and ethnicity, often embracing a transnational view of identity based upon her own Japanese and American background. Her works’ themes also have extended beyond these issues to explore stories related to women in society. She is perhaps best known for her play “Tea,” which portrays the lives of Japanese war brides who move to the United States with their American servicemen husbands.

For tickets, click here.



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