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Asian Arts Initiative & InterAct to Launch New Play-Reading Series Next Month

Nationally recognized for his work in Asian American theater, playwright and director Rick Shiomi will visit Philadelphia to direct a new play-reading series, "The Way Home," co-presented by Asian Arts Initiative and InterAct Theatre Company on select Monday evenings this spring. Through contemporary performance, the free series explores diverse perspectives on what "home" means to the Asian American community and its constituents.

Asian Arts Initiative will host two of the series' four readings this spring. Mia Chung's You for Me for You (March 17) explores the cyclical nature of immigration in a surreal story of two sisters trying to cross from North to South Korea. When one sister falls into a well, the other must prove her nationality in a series of bizarre symbolic gestures. Chung will be in attendance to answer audience questions after the reading. Later in the spring, Michael Golamco presents Cowboy Versus Samurai (May 19), an Asian American take on Cyrano de Bergerac that critiques racial identity in the middle-class Midwest, where the residents assume that two Asian Americans living in an otherwise all-white town must end up together.

In addition, InterAct (2030 Sansom St.) will host Mike Lew's Tiger Style! on Feb. 10 and Boni Alvarez's The Special Education of Miss Lorna Cambonga on April 21. (Full schedule follows.)

Shiomi, founder of Minneapolis-based Mu Performing Arts, created "The Way Home" as part of a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation-funded InterAct artist residency focusing on raising the profile of Asian American theater in Philadelphia. "Rick Shiomi and Mu Performing Arts have contributed to a theater scene that is flourishing in Minnesota," says Asian Arts Initiative executive director Gayle Isa. "'The Way Home' is part of Shiomi's effort to replicate that model here in Philadelphia, and we're excited to present these fresh playwrights' work to local audiences for whom Asian American theater might be a brand-new and inspirational experience."

"The Way Home" leads up to the next National Asian American Theater Festival and Conference, to be produced by the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists (CAATA), of which both Shiomi and Isa are board members. The Festival and Conference will be held Oct. 8-12, 2014.

In addition to "The Way Home," Asian Arts Initiative continues its mission to foster dialogue among Philadelphia's diverse Asian American populations with the series Family Style Open Mic. Open to the community at 7:30 p.m. on the third Friday of each month, Family Style opens the floor to all attendees to share their experiences in a 5-minute spot through original stories, song, dance or poetry (participants are encouraged to sign up in advance online). A free pre-reception for all open-mic guests and performers offers refreshments starting at 7 p.m.

"The Way Home" and Family Style Open Mic take place at Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St., Philadelphia, PA 19107. In addition to these programs, Asian Arts Initiative hosts artists' residencies, exhibitions and ongoing youth workshops. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 12-6 p.m., and by special appointment. Admission to the gallery is free. For more information, call 215-557-4055 or visit

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