CHINGLISH Receives West Coast Premiere at Berkeley Rep This August
The Tony Award-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre kicks off its new season in August with the West Coast premiere of Chinglish. David Henry Hwang won three Obies and the Tony Award for Best Play with popular scripts like M. Butterfly and FOB. Now he's back with a canny comedy of cross-cultural errors. Two-time Obie-winner Leigh Silverman returns to the Roda Theatre to stage the play.
A co-production with South Coast Repertory, where it will play in 2013, Chinglish starts previews in Berkeley on August 24, opens August 29, and runs through October 7, 2012. The executive producers of the local run are Gail and Arne Wagner. For the eighth straight year, BART and Wells Fargo serve as the official sponsors of Berkeley Rep's season. The season producers are Marjorie Randolph, Jack and Betty Schafer, and the Strauch Kulhanjian Family.
"I'm always looking for smart comedies to share with our audience," says Tony Taccone, artistic director of Berkeley Rep. "David brokers the comic gap between what words mean and how they're translated. Before our eyes, a delightful farce subtly transforms into a timely and treacherous dissection of two cultures entwined in misunderstanding. I'm delighted to welcome David back to the Bay Area, and to bring Leigh – a terrifically talented director – back to our stage with a crackerjack cast and creative team."
"In a time when Americans both admire and fear the rising power of China, the journey of Chinglish has been so gratifying to me," Hwang comments. "First in Chicago, then on Broadway, I've seen non-Asian, Asian American, and Chinese audience members, sitting in a theatre, watching a comedy set in today's China – and laughing together. I'm so excited we're now bringing Chinglish to its natural home on the West Coast, which has long understood the often-hilarious mishaps that can occur when East and West meet. I hope Berkeley Rep's smart and sophisticated audiences enjoy learning to speak Chinglish."
In Chinglish, an American businessman heads to Asia to score a lucrative contract for his family's firm – but the deal isn't the only thing getting lost in translation as he collides with a Communist minister, a bumbling consultant, and a suspiciously sexy bureaucrat. "Hilarious," raves Variety. "This well-made comedy takes a poignant view of the profound isolation and terrible vulnerability of people who are lost without their native language." "I haven't heard an audience laugh that much in years," agrees the Chicago Sun-Times. "There's sex, heartache, even a bit of song and dance… Hwang takes a situation that worries most Americans – China's rise – and the impossibility of understanding each other, particularly in languages as different as Chinese and English, and builds a marvelous comedy."
David Henry Hwang's plays include Bondage, The Dance and the Railroad (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination), Family Devotions (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination), FOB (1981 Obie Award), Golden Child (1997 Obie Award, 1998 Tony Award nomination), M. Butterfly (1988 Tony Award, 1989 Pulitzer Prize finalist), and Yellow Face (2008 Obie Award, 2008 Pulitzer Prize finalist). He also wrote the libretti for three Broadway musicals: Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida (co-author), Disney's Tarzan, and Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (revival, 2002 Tony Award nomination). In opera, his libretti include four works with composer Philip Glass – 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, Icarus at The Edge of Time, Sound and Beauty, and The Voyage – as well as Howard Shore's The Fly, Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar (two 2007 Grammy Awards), and Unsuk Chin's Alice in Wonderland (Opernwelt 2007 World Premiere of the Year). Hwang penned the feature films Golden Gate, M. Butterfly, and Possession (co-author), and co-wrote the song "Solo" with Prince. He sits on the Council of the Dramatists Guild, and served on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities by appointment of President Clinton.
Leigh Silverman directed the world-premiere production of Lisa Kron's In the Wake at Berkeley Rep in a coproduction with Center Theatre Group. The play went on to The Public Theater, where she received an Obie Award and Lucille Lortel nomination for outstanding direction. Chinglish marks the second time she has premiered a play by David Henry Hwang, having previously directed Yellow Face at CTG and The Public. Silverman also directed the world premieres of Beebo Brinker Chronicles at Hourglass Group/37 Arts, Blue Door at Playwrights Horizons and Seattle Repertory Theatre, Coraline at MCC/True Love, Creature at New Georges/P73, From Up Here at Manhattan Theatre Club (Drama Desk nomination), Go Back To Where You Are at Playwrights Horizons (Obie Award), Hunting and Gathering at Primary Stages, Jump/Cut at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company/Theater J and Women's Project, Oedipus at Palm Springs at New York Theatre Workshop, The Retributionists at Playwrights Horizons, and Well at The Public, the Huntington Theatre Company, and American Conservatory Theater. She also staged Wit in the West End and Danny and the Deep Blue Sea at Second Stage Theatre.
The West Coast premiere of Chinglish features an ensemble of seven talented actors:
· Vivian Chiu (Zhao) was a member of the original company of Chinglish on Broadway. A native of Taiwan, her New York credits include Agamemnon at Vortex Theater Company, Limbs: A Pageant at HERE Arts Center, and an off-Broadway revival of Night Over Taos, directed by Estelle Parsons at Intar Theatre.
· Celeste Den (Miss Qian / Prosecutor Li) appeared in the world premieres of 11 Septembre 2001 and Peach Blossom Fan at Center for New Performance; Between Two Friends and Island at Actors Theatre of Louisville; Spit, Shine, Glisten at Cotsen Center for Puppetry and the Arts; and Wild Swans at American Repertory Theatre and Young Vic Theatre in London.
· Michelle Krusiec (Xi Yian) has appeared in many films from Sweet Home Alabama to What Happens in Vegas. She is best known for her starring role opposite Joan Chen in the romantic comedy Saving Face, which garnered her a Chinese Language Oscar, also known as the Golden Horse, for Best Actress. On stage, she has performed her solo show Made in Taiwan at the 2002 HBO Aspen Comedy Arts Festival, the 2003 LA Women's Theatre Festival, the 2005 New York Asian American Theatre Festival, and the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival and Fringe Encores.
· Austin Ku (Bing /Judge Geming) has performed at the Hangar Theatre, Kansas City Starlight Theatre, the New York Musical Theatre Festival, Ogunquit Playhouse, and Walnut Street Theatre. He also appeared off Broadway and in the new musical Tokio Confidential. Locally, Ku has been seen at 42nd Street Moon, Marin Theatre Company, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, San Jose Stage, TheatreWorks, and the Willows Theatre.
· Alex Moggridge (Daniel) portrayed Andrei in Berkeley Rep's recent production of Three Sisters. In the Bay Area, he has performed at ACT, Aurora Theatre Company, Center Rep, the Magic, MTC, San Jose Repertory Theatre, SF Playhouse, and Shotgun Players. His regional credits include shows at Artists Repertory Theatre, B Street Theatre, MCC Theater, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, and Utah Shakespeare Festival.
· Brian Nishii (Peter) is a trilingual performing artist from Tokyo. He has collaborated with New York dance and theatre companies such as Crossing Jamaica Avenue, Fluid Motion Theater & Film, Great Jones Repertory Company at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, Imua! Theatre & Film Company, Maura Donohue/In Mixed Company, Project 400 Theatre Group, Robert Wilson, the South Wing, and VeloCity Theatre Company.
· Larry Lei Zhang (Minister Cai Guoliang) is an original cast member of Chinglish. Locally, he performed in Don Giovanni Meets Xi-men Qing at the Chinese Culture Center with San Francisco Opera, Blue and Black at the Palace of Fine Arts, and Long Day's Journey into Night at Tao House. A graduate of Shanghai Theatre Academy, his Shanghai credits include Emperor Romulus and Mourning at Theater Academy, Mei Lanfang at the Majestic, and Yin and Yang at the Lyceum.
The creative team behind the Broadway production of Chinglish reunites for this production:
· David Korins (scenic design) designEd Berkeley Rep's productions of Finn in the Underworld, In the Wake, and Passing Strange. His Broadway credits include Bridge & Tunnel, Bring It On, Chinglish, An Evening with Patti LuPone & Mandy Patinkin, Godspell, Lombardi, Magic/Bird, and Passing Strange, as well as upcoming productions of Annie and Motown. He has received a Drama Desk Award, two Hewes Design Awards, a Lucille Lortel Award, and the 2009 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Design.
· Anita Yavich (costume design) designed Dael Orlandersmith's costume for Berkeley Rep's world premiere of Black n Blue Boys / Broken Men. Yavich also designed the Broadway productions of Anna in the Tropics, Chinglish, and Venus in Fur. An Obie Award recipient, her other New York credits include shows at Classic Stage Company, MCC Theater, the New Victory Theater, The Public/New York Shakespeare Festival, Signature Theatre Company, and Theatre for a New Audience.
· Brian MacDevitt (lighting design) has designed more than 60 productions on Broadway including The Book of Mormon, for which he earned a Tony Award. His recent New York credits also include the Broadway productions of Chinglish, Death of a Salesman, and The Mountaintop, as well as The Enchanted Island and Le Compte Ory at the Met. MacDevitt is the recipient of a Bessie Award, a Drama Desk Award, a Hewes Award, an Obie Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and five Tony Awards.
· The work of Darron L West (sound design) has been heard in more than 500 productions nationally and internationally, on Broadway and off. His previous credits at Berkeley Rep include Compulsion, Finn in the Underworld, and To the Lighthouse. His accolades include the AUDELCO Award, thE Eddy Award, two Hewes Awards, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Obie Award, the Princess Grace Award, and the Tony Award.
· Jeff Sugg (projection design) designed video and projections for Berkeley Rep's production of Compulsion. Among his many credits, he earned a Hewes Award, a Lortel Award, and an Obie Award for his work on The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island with Vineyard Theatre and another Hewes Award for 33 Variations (Broadway, Arena Stage, and La Jolla Playhouse).
· Shawn Duan (projection design) has countless credits including Assassins at 2nd Avenue Theatre, Benjamin Button the Opera at Symphony Space, Chinglish on Broadway, Citizen Ruth the Musical at Minetta Lane Theatre, Knickerbocker at The Public, Most Happy Fella at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, Mr. Joy at Riverside Church, Prima Donna at New York City Opera, and The Who's Tommy at Abrons Art Center.
The stage manager for this production of Chinglish is Michael Suenkel, Berkeley Rep's resident production stage manager.
During the run of Chinglish audiences can enjoy many special events:
· Low-cost previews take place on Friday, August 24; Saturday, August 25; Sunday, August 26; and Tuesday, August 28.
· Opening-night festivities are held on Wednesday, August 29 with a pre-show dinner for donors at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza and a post-show party for the audience featuring wines from Raymond Vineyards.
· Teen Night begins at 6:30 PM on Friday, September 7 and includes dinner, a presentation by a member of the artistic team, and a performance of the show. Tickets are only $10 for high-school students. For details, call (510) 647-2973 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
· Post-play discussions moderated by theatre professionals follow the 8:00 PM shows on Thursday, September 13; Tuesday, September 18; and Friday, September 28. Post-show discussions with Berkeley Rep's docents take place after all weekend matinees.
· Free 30-minute docent presentations are also offered at 7:00 PM every Tuesday and Thursday evening.
In the last six years, six shows developed at Berkeley Rep have ended up on Broadway. Eight more landed off Broadway, two turned into films, and others have toured the nation. So don't miss the new season of exhilarating plays at the Theatre. In October, Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare deliver a visceral new version of An Iliad, and then Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman gives the Bay Area a beautiful gift for the holidays with The White Snake. Dan LeFranc greets the New Year with the exuberant world premiere of Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright. Next Pulitzer Prize-winner Lawrence Wright teams up with legendary director Gregory Mosher for the world premiere of Fallaci before Berkeley Rep brings the Bard back with a bang in MarK Wing-Davey's production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Finally, in May, two beloved collaborators – Sarah Ruhl and Les Waters – reunite for the West Coast premiere of Dear Elizabeth.
Get the best seats for all these shows at the consistently lowest prices by subscribing to Berkeley Rep. Choose three or more plays and guarantee your seats for events that are sure to sell out. Ticket packages begin as low as $81 – and, in addition to significant savings, subscribers receive valuable benefits such as the right to reschedule for free, discounts when purchasing tickets for friends, and the opportunity to secure seats before the general public for special events like Mikhail Baryshnikov's In Paris. Subscriptions are selling fast because of last season's string of hits – so order now for the best seats.
Individual tickets to Chinglish start at only $29. Additional savings are available for groups, seniors, students, and anyone under 30 years of age – meaning discounted tickets can be obtained for as little as $14.50. The Roda Theatre is located at 2015 Addison Street, near bus lines, bike routes, and parking lots – and only half a block from BART. For tickets or information, call (510) 647-2949 or simply click berkeleyrep.org.