Ping Chong and Company Reveals New Artistic Leadership Team

The appointment of Harris and Wilks to join Jung and Zatz on the Artistic Leadership Team is effective February 1, 2023.

By: Jan. 12, 2023
Ping Chong and Company Reveals New Artistic Leadership Team
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Performer and director Nile Harris and playwright, director, and dramaturg Talvin Wilks-visionaries of different generations, both with multifaceted skill sets as artists, producers, and strategic thinkers-will join Ping Chong and Company Managing Director Jane Jung and Associate Director Sara Zatz to form the pioneering organization's new Artistic Leadership Team. The team will steward the Company through a three-year transition surrounding the retirement from PCC, at the end of 2022, of Founder and Artistic Director Ping Chong and his longtime professional partner, Executive Director Bruce Allardice. In a new-to-PCC model of collaborative leadership, the Artistic Leadership Team will work together to develop and realize a vision for the future of the organization.

The appointment of Harris and Wilks to join Jung and Zatz on the Artistic Leadership Team, effective February 1, 2023, represents a pivotal moment in PCC's multi-year transition from a company identified with a single artist into one that supports a new generation of interdisciplinary artists. The transitional leadership structure is a reflection of this shift, and gives central roles to two artists with deep connections to the Company, alongside existing company leadership. Wilks has been a longtime collaborator of Ping Chong and Company since 1994. He has worked on multiple Undesirable Elements productions and co-wrote and directed the Collidescope series with Ping Chong. Nile Harris is the recipient of a 2022 PCC Creative Fellowship, through which he was in residence with the Company, engaging with the PCC archive and developing new work.

As they join the Artistic Leadership Team, Jane Jung and Sara Zatz will retain their current managerial, administrative, and artistic roles, in addition to taking on new responsibilities. Christina Bixland will also continue to lead the company's Education programs.

Nile Harris

stages meditated confrontations between performer and audience that collage various modes of communication: choreography, reappropriated and scripted text, improvisation, spatial design, and clowning. His work has been presented at the Palais de Tokyo, The Watermill Center, New York Live Arts, Volksbühne Berlin, Prelude Festival, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Otion Front Studio, Grace Exhibition Space, and Movement Research at Judson Church. As a performer, Harris has originated roles in works by Crackhead Barney, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, 600 HIGHWAYMEN, Tina Satter, Robert Wilson, Young Boy Dancing Group, Nia Witherspoon, slowdanger, Lilleth Glimcher, Malcolm-x Betts, and Miles Greenberg. He is currently in rehearsals for the world premiere of Agnes Borinsky's The Trees, directed by Tina Satter and co-produced by Playwrights Horizons and Page 73, February 12-March 19.

Harris was a 2022 recipient of the PCC Creative Fellowship, which commissions artists to create new work inspired by, and in response to, the Ping Chong and Company's past works. The Public Theater, in association with PCC, will present his Testify (the worst is yet to come), a lecture and solo performance about "absence, abjection, and American nationalism," January 19 & 22 as part of the 2023 Under the Radar Festival. Harris's this house is not a home, a new work co-commissioned by PCC and building on the themes of Testify..., premieres at Abrons Art Center, July 14-16, 2023.

Harris says, "When I look back on Ping's singular 50-year career and Ping Chong and Company's vast history, I marvel at the depth of collaboration they have sustained among artists and cultural institutions worldwide. As we all navigate our way out of a treacherous past few years, the company is uniquely positioned to meet the moment by modeling new methods and systems that prioritize interdependence among artists and cultural institutions alike. Collaboration, which has always been a central tenet of this organization's work, is essential to a sustainable future for the downtown New York creative community."

Harris adds, "Through the years, Ping Chong and Company afforded Ping with an infrastructure that allowed him to pursue ambitious projects in multiple mediums over multiple decades. I know first-hand how transformative the company's support is for younger artists in particular, and I'm excited now to be part of the team imagining new ways for Ping Chong and Company to provide similarly impactful opportunities to other artists, for years to come."

Talvin Wilks

is a playwright, director, and dramaturg based in Minneapolis and New York City. He has served as a co-writer/co-director/dramaturg for Ping Chong and Company's ongoing Undesirable Elements series and four productions of Collidescope: Adventures in Pre- and Post-Racial America. In 2022, Wilks directed the world premiere productions of Parks by Harrison David Rivers at the History Theatre in Minneapolis, MN, Cannabis: A Viper Vaudeville by Baba Israel, Grace Galu and Soul Unscribed at LaMama/Here Arts, and the three-play saga The Till Trilogy by Ifa Bayeza at Mosaic Theatre in Washington, DC. Since 2014, some of his most acclaimed directorial work has been centered at Penumbra Theatre Company including The Ballad of Emmett Till and Benevolence by Bayeza, This Bitter Earth by Rivers, The Owl Answers by Adrienne Kennedy and The White Card by Claudia Rankine. His critically acclaimed direction of The Peculiar Patriot by Liza Jessie Peterson is featured in the documentary, Angola Do You Hear Us? by Cinque Northern, which was recently short-listed for an Academy Award. He also served as dramaturg for Camille A. Brown's Broadway Revival of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf and for the world premiere of Dreaming Zenzile by Somi at New York Theatre Workshop/National Black Theatre. Other dramaturgy credits include Between the World and Me (The Apollo), Scat!/Walkin' with 'Trane/Hep Hep Sweet Sweet (Urban Bush Women), ink/Black Girl: Linguistic Play/ Mr. TOL E. RanCE (Camille A. Brown and Dancers), and In a Rhythm/A History/Necessary Beauty/ Landing-Place/Verge (Bebe Miller Company). Wilks is an Associate Professor in the Theatre Arts and Dance Department, University of Minnesota/Twin Cities and is a 2020 McKnight Theater Artist Fellow and a 2022 McKnight Presidential Fellow.

Wilks says, "Ping Chong and Company has been a place for discovery, mentoring, and expanded artistry for me since 1994, when I first worked with Ping on Undesirable Elements: Seattle. I have grown and evolved and become a better artist-more visionary and more expansive-because of the opportunities provided by the company. Over a 50-year history, Ping and his many collaborators have built an incredible legacy that I'm excited to advance for future generations."

Jane Jung

became Managing Director of Ping Chong and Company in 2019. She previously served as the company's Director of Planning and Operations (2018-19) and as its General Manager (2010-14). From 2014-17, she was Managing Director of The Civilians, an investigative theater company based in Brooklyn, NY. She is a board member of Musical Theater Factory, Radical Evolution, and Network of Ensemble Theaters and was Producing Fellow for the Broadway musical KPOP. Jung is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and Mount Holyoke College.

Jung explains, "When faced with the decision to move forward as a Company after Ping's retirement, we were guided by the question: What would Ping Chong and Company look like if it launched anew at this moment in time? For 50 years, Ping Chong has worked with a clear worldview stemming from a complex understanding of history and identity, and has created a rich body of work guided by the values of artistry, precision, humanity, and social justice. As we move beyond Ping's and Bruce's retirement, our task is to transform legacy into practice by supporting the next generation of critically minded, socially engaged, experimental artists in working sustainably while pursuing their creative impulses with integrity. The most exciting thing about the future of the company are the artists we will be supporting, and the new work we will create together."

Sara Zatz

joined Ping Chong and Company In 2002. As Associate Director, she leads the company's community engagement and training programs and manages fundraising and development areas. Over the last 20 years, Zatz has been the lead artistic collaborator with Ping Chong on the Undesirable Elements series, leading the creation of dozens of works in the series, working with partner organizations ranging from regional theaters to community-based arts organizations. Recent productions include Generation Rise and Generation NYZ (New Victory), Face to Face: Hmong Women's Voices (Park Square Theatre), (Un)Conditional, with individuals living with chronic illness (Profile Theatre), Inside/Out: Voices from the Disability Community and Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity (national touring). She has spoken and presented workshops on community-engaged theater at many conferences and universities. She holds an M.Phil in Irish Theatre Studies from Trinity College, Dublin, and an AB from Bryn Mawr College.

Zatz says, "To me, Ping Chong and Company means Art. Dialogue. Community. Listening. Change. Connection. I don't know what exactly the future will bring, but I know we will continue to build and foster a holistic organization that is a truly welcoming home for artists-one that creates room for growth, risk, learning, and evolution. Talvin, Nile, Jane, and I will challenge and balance each other while asking, together, what stories need to be told, and imagining how we will make space for those stories in innovative new ways that evoke and honor Ping's legacy while forging new paths forward. I feel grateful, hopeful, and honored to be part of this group, and to have Bruce and Ping's blessing as we move, with thought, care, and intention, in new and unknown directions."

Says Bruce Allardice,"Talvin Wilks, Sara Zatz, and Jane Jung have contributed mightily to the success of Ping Chong and Company as artists and administrators in recent decades, and Nile will bring a fresh contemporary perspective to the mix. I'm confident the company will remain open and responsive to the evolving aesthetic and political conversations of our times, and will always value people first and foremost. I am filled with awe and gratitude as I step aside for new leadership. But I am aware of the challenges that remain ahead in this complicated time. I am fond of saying 'There is no road until you make the road.' I look forward to supporting my friends and colleagues at Ping Chong and Company as they boldly make their road."

Ping Chong adds, "Ping Chong and Company is my life's work, but its future is now Talvin's, Sara's, Jane's, and Nile's to make."

The formation of the new leadership team is a key step in a three-year transition plan supported by $900,000 from the Mellon Foundation, which provided lead funding in a $1.5 million budget. The Company is currently in the first year of the process, which is being led by the Board of Directors and a Strategic Planning Task Force consisting of Jane Jung, Sara Zatz, and PCC Board Members Kim Chan, Lillian Cho, and Cathy Barbash. The task force is managed by Boo Froebel with support from the consulting firm Leading Changemakers.

Amy Chin, President of the Ping Chong and Company Board, says, "This moment is especially meaningful, as Ping Chong and Bruce Allardice hand over the reins of the Company to the next generation of artists and leaders-Nile Harris, Talvin Wilks, Jane Jung, and Sara Zatz-who will carry forward the ethos and values of Ping's visionary work. Ping Chong and Company continues to inspire audiences to think deeply about the world and move beyond our personal cocoons. Through new work generation, support of artists, and the Undesirable Elements series, the organization is pushing back against the increasingly divided and antagonistic society we live in to build connection and seek common truth. The future is bright because we stand on the shoulders of giants like Ping and Bruce."

Emil Kang, Program Director for Arts and Culture at the Mellon Foundation, has said, "Ping Chong forged new paths in multidisciplinary artmaking and contemporary theater practice and his work continues to expand our collective understandings of identity, otherness, and being. His lasting legacy is a testament to his expansive vision, deep intellect, and imagination; all attributes that he holds humbly, generously, and honestly. We are honored to support the next chapter for Ping Chong and Company as they honor the rich legacy of Ping Chong and Bruce Allardice while creating space for a new generation of creators."

Ping Chong and Company will pay public tribute to its outgoing leaders with All Islands Connect Underwater: a Celebration of Ping Chong and Bruce Allardice, hosted by playwright, author, and performance artist Jessica Hagedorn, and taking the form of a party punctuated by brief performances, takes place on Wednesday, January 25, 2023, from 6-9pm, at Chelsea Factory (547 W 26th St, New York, NY 10001). Chinese Theatre Works, Fogo Azul, Meredith Monk, Muna Tseng, and The Jazz Passengers will perform, and other luminaries will toast Chong and Allardice at the event. Tickets can be purchased here.

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About Ping Chong and Company

Ping Chong and Company (PCC) creates theater and art that reveal beauty, invention, precision, and a commitment to social justice. Founded in New York City in 1975 by leading theatrical innovator and National Medal of Arts recipient Ping Chong, the company engages multigenerational interdisciplinary artists to build on and expand a prolific catalog-at the root of which is Ping Chong and his singular and visionary body of work. The company's work centers innovation, collaboration, community engagement, and amplifies underrepresented voices.

Across nearly five decades, the New York City-based company has now created over 110 original theater productions, ranging from intimate interview-based works to large-scale multidisciplinary projects featuring puppets, performers, and full sound and projection scores. Reaching audiences throughout New York, the United States, and the world, PCC transcends boundaries, exploring interconnectedness of cultures and how intersectional identities are addressed in society. The company's work often seeks to excavate and question dominant historical narratives.

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