Pan Asian Repertory Theatre Announces Passing of Founding Member Ernest Abuba

He was an Obie Award recipient, actor, director, playwright, performance artist, and teacher whose career spanned over 50 years and appeared in 100 productions.

By: Jun. 21, 2022

Pan Asian Repertory Theatre Announces Passing of Founding Member Ernest Abuba

Pan Asian Repertory Theatre announced today the passing of founding member and company senior artist Ernest Abuba, the award-winning actor, playwright, screenwriter, and director on stage, film, and television, following a brief illness. He is survived by his ex-wife Tisa Chang and their son Auric Abuba. A memorial service will take place later this summer or early fall.

Ernest Abuba was born in Honolulu on August 25, 1947 and raised in Texas and San Diego. He met his ex-wife and co-founder of Pan Asian Rep, Tisa Chang, in the 1972 Off-Broadway production of Widow's House followed by the bi-linqual adaptation of A Midsummers Night's Dream for Ellen Stewart at LaMama. They married in 1976 founding their dream theater company Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, the oldest and first of its kind on the East Coast, while he was appearing in the Broadway premiere of Pacific Overtures. For 37 years, Mr. Abuba was a member on the Board of Directors of the HT Chen & Dancer's, a multi-racial modern dance company.

He was an Obie Award recipient, actor, director, playwright, performance artist, and teacher whose career spanned over 50 years and appeared in 100 productions on the stage, in film and on television. His accolades include a Rockefeller Playwright Residency; five New York State Council on the Arts Grants for Playwriting and Directing; a Creative Artists Public Service Grant 1979 (CAPS); NEA as Playwright for Pan Asian Rep.; the Lila Kan Red Socks Award at Pan Asian Rep; Best Actor Focus Press Award-Buffalo Studio Arena-1976; and a nomination for Best Supporting Actor-Old Globe Theatre 1967.

Broadway credits include Pacific Overtures, directed by Hal Prince, Shimada, with Ben Gazzara, Estelle Parsons, Ellen Burstyn, Mako, Loose Ends, with Kevin Kline, Zoya's Apartment, directed by Boris Morozov of the Maly Theatre in Moscow, and the national tour of The King and I. He was last seen in The Oldest Boy at Lincoln Center Theatre.

His Off-Broadway credits include Yellow Fever (Obie Award), Three Sisters (Pan Asian Rep), Leir Rex, Mishima, The Caucasian Chalk Circle (La MaMa E.T.C.), Prometheus (Guggenheim Theater), Long Day's Journey Into Night (National Asian American Theatre Co.), Chang Fragments (The Public Theatre), the lead as the Reciter in Pacific Overtures (Revival, York Theatre Company/Promenade Theatre), among many more. He was the first Asian-American to play Sakini in Teahouse of the August Moon, as well as the first Asian-American as MacBeth in Shogun Macbeth.

This past fall, he appeared at the Chinatown Arts Week: Chinatown in Door Jam where he performed and read selections from his original play Poetry & Excerpt from his memoir's addressing the "flight" of the first Filipino Sojourners to America and the Universal issue of Global Cultural Persons and Immigration.

Film and television credits include 12 Monkeys, King of New York, Article 99, Apostasy, Hamlet, Call Me, Forever Lulu, "New York Undercover," "New York News," "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues," "Counterstrike," "Adderly," "Vestige of Honor," "Intimate Strangers."

Plays he has written include Kwatz! The Tibetan Project, Eat A Bowl of Tea, An American Story, The Dowager, Dojoji: The Man Inside the Bell, Cambodia Agonistes, Papa-Boy, Nightstalker, Lier Rex, and co-created Baudelaire: La Mort with Shigeko Suga. He is the author/co-director of six Educational Short Screenplays aired/produced by WING Productions CBS/PBS and is the voice of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama on the audiobook The Art of Happiness.

Pan Asian Repertory Theatre is the most veteran Asian American theatre company on the East Coast. Tisa Chang founded Pan Asian Rep in 1977 at Ellen Stewart's La Mama ETC with the vision to promote equity and access that Asian Americans artists can equally follow, focusing on stories of probing social justice issues with distinctive Off-Broadway Productions, Tours, National Outreach, and Community Service. Mel Gussow of The New York Times described it as "A Stage for All the World of Asian -Americans" and wrote that "Before Pan Asian Rep, Asian Americans had severely limited opportunities in the theater...." The company has nurtured thousands of artists and is a "who-is-who" of Asian American theatre history, with notable alumni/ae: Ako, Ernest Abuba, Tina Chen, Philip Gotanda, Wai Ching Ho, David Henry Hwang, Daniel Dae Kim, Lucy Liu, Ron Nakahara, R.A. Shiomi, Lauren Yee, and Henry Yuk.

Pan Asian Rep Programs are made possible, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; and major support from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Shubert Foundation, NY Community Trust COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund, Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels, Lucille Lortel Foundations; and many generous individuals.

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