Studio Theatre's VIETGONE is a Refugee Romance and Madcap Road Trip With Comic Book Sensibilities
Vietgone by Qui Nguyen is the Vietnamese-American playwright's own creation story-a telling of his parents' 1975 refugee camp romance in a "geek theater" spectacle that's at turns affecting, sage, raucous, and fantastical. A screenwriter for Marvel Studios and founder of Obie Award-winning company Vampire Cowboys, Nguyen's work champions representation and diversity on stage while dripping with pop culture nods, contemporary music, and action-adventure narrative. The production pairs this Studio-commissioned playwright with director and Studio Cabinet member Natsu Onoda Power. Drawing on Vietgone's comic book aesthetics, Studio's Stage 4 is transformed into a garage concert with a live band and original funk-rock-punk-n-roll score, giving audiences a front row seat to this anything-but-typical story of boy meets girl."This is Qui's sex comedy about his parents' courtship in an Arkansas refugee camp after they each left Vietnam. It's a madcap road-trip play about being strangers in a very strange land, about missing your old home and making a new one," says Studio Artistic Director David Muse. "Qui writes for Marvel Studios, and his comic book sensibility brings something hilarious and true to this story of new Americans. Natsu Onoda Power is the perfect director for this piece-a match in sensibility and huge-heartedness. It's going to be a really good night in the theatre." In this high-octane comedy, playwright Qui Nguyen recreates (and kinda makes up) his parents' reluctant courtship: Fresh from Saigon, they meet in an Arkansas refugee relocation camp in 1975. Vietgone follows these new Americans through a bewildering land in a story full of lust and heartache, cowboys and motorcycles.Qui Nguyen is a playwright, screenwriter, and co-founder of the Obie Award-winning Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company in New York. His plays include Vietgone (2016 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, 2016 LADCC Tim Schmitt Award, 2016 Edward M. Kennedy Prize finalist); War is F**king Awesome (Frederick Loewe Award); She Kills Monsters (2014 AATE Distinguished Play Award, 2012 GLAAD Media Award nom); Soul Samurai (2009 GLAAD Media Award nom), and the critically-acclaimed Vampire Cowboys shows: The Inexplicable Redemption of Agent G, Alice in Slasherland, Fight Girl Battle World, Men of Steel, Six Rounds of Vengeance, and Living Dead in Denmark. Recent awards include a 2016 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Preschool Animated Program (Peg+Cat) and a 2015 New York Community Trust Helen Merrill Playwriting Award. He is proud member of the WGA, The Dramatists Guild, The Playwrights Center, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and The Ma-Yi Writers Lab. He's an alumnus of New Dramatists and Youngblood. For television, he's written for PBS's Peg+Cat and SYFY's Incorporated. Currently, he's a screenwriter for Marvel Studios. Natsu Onoda Power has been writing and directing comics-inspired performances since 2001. As a founding member of performance group Live Action Cartoonists, she has devised plays and held artists' residencies at various venues including Storefront Theatre (Chicago), Gu-Ling Street Avant-Garde Theatre (Taipei), Asian Art Museum (San Francisco), and Louisiana State University. Since relocating to Washington, DC in 2005, she has directed Young Jean Lee's Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven and her own Astro Boy and the God of Comics for the Studio 2ndStage and several productions at Georgetown University, including adaptations of The Omnivore's Dilemma and Madness and Civilization. Her recent credits as a set designer include Kafka's Metamorphosis (Synetic Theatre), bobrauschenbergamerica and Mad Forest (Forum Theatre). She holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Program in Theater and Performance Studies at Georgetown University. Her 2009 book, God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post World War II Manga (The University Press of Mississippi), is the first full-length academic study of Tezuka in the English language. Marc De La Cruz (Quang) will make his Studio Theatre debut in Vietgone. Some of his New York credits include the Broadway production and tour of If/Then; Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage; Three Days to See with Transport Group; Prison Dancer at the New York Music Festival (Winner, Outstanding Ensemble); Suits by Sondheim at Lincoln Center; Oklahoma! at Acorn Theatre; and Julius Caesar at Leviathan Lab. His regional theatre credits include Allegiance at The Old Globe; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at San Jose Rep; Miss Saigon at Casa Manana; and, A Funny Thing Happened...Forum at 5th Avenue. Regina Aquino (Tong) returns to Studio Theatre after appearing in Red Light Water, Dog Sees God (Helen Hayes Nominee for Best Ensemble), and Polaroid Stories. Other local credits include Woolly Mammoth's production of The Arsonists; Where Words Once Were with Kennedy Center TYA; brownsville sone (b-side for tray) at Theater Alliance; Synetic Theater's productions of A Christmas Carol and The Little Mermaid; Twelfth Night with Shakespeare Theatre Company and The Kennedy Center; Brainpeople at Rorschach Theatre; We Are Not These Hands at Catalyst Theatre; Discovery Theater's productions of Seasons of Light and Tigers, Dragons, and Other Tails; and Top Girls at Fountainhead Theatre. Eileen Rivera (Huong/Ensemble) will be making her Studio Theatre debut in Vietgone. Her New York theatre credits include King Lear at Cherry Lane Theatre; A Fable at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre; Twelfth Night at Leviathan Lab; Best at New York Theatre Workshop; Dogeaters at The Public; Sides: The Fear is Real... with The Culture Project; and, Pan Asian Rep's productions of Shanghai Lil's and Cambodia Antagonists. Her regional theatre credits include White Snake and It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at Baltimore Center Stage; The Comfort Team at Virginia State Company; and The Long Season at Perseverance Theater. Rivera's film and television credits include NBC's Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Conviction; ABC's All My Children; and, The Barrelman Caper.Joe Ngo (Nahn/Ensemble) will be making his Studio Theatre debut in Vietgone. His theatre credits include The King of Yees at ACT Theatre Seattle; The White Snake at Baltimore Center Stage; Henry IV: Part I at Seattle Shakes; Hamlet with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival School Visit Program; The Taming of the Shrew at Island Stage Left; Blood Wedding with Odyssey Theatre Ensemble; Marvin's Room at Covina Center Performing Arts; Evita! with Broadway at the Gardens; Shakespeare by the Sea's productions of Twelfth Night and Julius Caesar; and Miss Nelson is Missing at Lewis Family Playhouse. Jacob Yeh (Playwright/Ensemble) will be returning for his third Studio Theatre production. Some of his theatre credits include Studio's productions of Chimerica and Edgar and Annabel; 410[gone] at Rorschach Theatre; Yellow Face at Theater J; Imagination Stage's productions of Anima Momotaro, Cinderella: The Remix, and P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Folger Theatre; A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre; 1st Stage Tysons' productions of Shakespeare's R&J, Take Me Out, Trevor, Fuddy Meers, and The Game of Love and Chance; Journey to the West at Constellation Theatre; and, Beertown with dog & pony dc.Keith Butler (Musician) makes his Studio Theatre debut with Vietgone. Local credits include Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill at Creative Cauldron, while his North Carolina regional credits include Memphis at Thalian Hall, Carrie The Musical and Triassic Parq at City Stage, and Bukowsical at The Beam Room. Butler has also performed and recorded extensively with North Carolina artists including Mike Blair & The Stonewalls, Justin Lacey & the Swimming Machine, Temple5, and Onward, Soldiers. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, he earned his BA in Parks & Recreation Management (Travel & Tourism). Tony Cisek (Set Design) has designed for more than 150 productions. His work has been seen in many of the area's premiere theaters, notably the Helen Hayes winning productions of The Judas Kiss (Rep Stage), Leaving the Summer Land (Tribute Productions), Much Ado About Nothing (Folger Theatre), and the premiere of Things that Break (Theatre of the First Amendment). His work has been nominated for 12 Helen Hayes Awards, in addition to Barrymore Award (Philadelphia) and Drammy Award (Portland) nominations. He returns to Studio Theatre after designing the set for The Cripple of Inishmaan in the 2003-2004 Season.Heather Gilbert (Lighting Design) is an award-winning lighting designer based in Chicago. Her work includes the London production of Our Town at the Almeida Theatre, following runs in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Kansas City. Her designs for Sean Graney's production of Pirates of Penzance were recently seen in New York and Los Angeles. Regionally, her designs have been seen at Magic Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Huntington Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Kansas City Rep, Alley Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Court Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Writers Theatre, and Chicago Children's Theatre. Other international credits include Pedro Páramo with Teatro Buendia in Montreal and A Perfect Ganesh at Singapore Repertory Theatre. Gilbert works frequently with acclaimed directors such as Devon DeMayo, Joanie Schultz, Jonathan Berry, David Cromer, Sean Graney, and Ron OJ Parson. Since 2006, she has served as the head of the lighting program at Columbia College Chicago. Lauren Halvorsen (Dramaturg) is in her seventh season as Associate Literary Director of Studio Theatre. Her dramaturgy credits at Studio include The Wolves, Skeleton Crew, The Father, Three Sisters, The Hard Problem, Hand to God, Between Riverside and Crazy, Chimerica, The Wolfe Twins, Belleville, Water by the Spoonful, Tribes, The Real Thing, The Motherfucker with the Hat, The Aliens, Bachelorette, The Big Meal, and Time Stands Still. Previously, Halvorsen spent three seasons as Literary Manager of The Alley Theatre. She was the Artistic Associate of the WordBRIDGE Playwrights Laboratory for six years and has worked in various artistic capacities for City Theatre Company, O'Neill Playwrights Conference, First Person Arts Festival, and The Wilma Theater. Halvorsen is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College.Jonathan Hawkins (Musician) joins Studio Theatre after three years living on the road performing music for the national touring companies of Mamma Mia!: Farewell Tour; Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway; and Flashdance: The Musical. Residency credits include Man of La Mancha for Ohio Valley Summer Theater; Hands on a Hardbody, Les Miserables, and Shrek: The Musical for Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater; and the All-New Piano Men at the Palace Theatre. Hawkins is also a featured soloist and orchestra member onboard Princess Cruise Lines, as well as various roles "behind the booth" and in-studio as a performer and engineer/arranger for artists including A.J. Clarke (Acoustic A.J); Bryce Duncan (The Low Beat); Tribe of the Elk (In Velvet); and noone Productions (Microcosm: Original Soundtrack; Footsteps); and Isabella Jones (Teatime for Tyranny: Original Soundtrack). Frank Labovitz (Costume Design) returns to Studio Theatre for Vietgone, having previously designed Wig Out!, Cloud 9, Silence! the Musical, Laugh, Torch Song Trilogy, and Dirt. His other design credits include The Threepenny Opera and Dreamgirls for Signature Theatre, NSFW and Ordinary Days for Round House Theatre, Guards at the Taj and The Totalitarians for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and The Tale of The Allergist's Wife and The Religion Thing for Theater J. Labovitz is a company member of Pointless Theatre, where his designs include Gimme a Band, Gimme a Banana and Doctor Caligari. Labovitz received his MFA in costume design from The University of Maryland. Lauren Pekel (Stage Manager) returns to Studio Theatre with Vietgone. Other Studio credits include The Hard Problem, Cloud 9 and Straight White Men. Regionally, Pekel has worked in opera, theatre, and dance with The American Conservatory Theatre, the San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program, Skylight Music Theatre, Your Mother Dances, and Oni Dance Company, among others. She holds a BFA in Stage Management from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and was Studio's 2016-2017 season Stage Management Apprentice. Jeff Song (Sound Designer/Composer/Music Director) has been active in the jazz, rock, funk, and contemporary improvisation scenes in the Boston and New York areas since 1982. He is well known for his contributions to the growing body of creative music by Asian Americans. Primarily a cellist and bass guitarist, he has also performed and recorded on the kayagum, a Korean 12-string zither. Previously, Song served as composer, Music Director, and musician with Natsu Onoda Power's production of The White Snake at Baltimore Center Stage.
In its eighth season under the leadership of Artistic Director David Muse, Studio Theatre is Washington's premier venue for contemporary theatre, "where local audiences will find today's edgiest playwrights" (Variety). Muse is joined by Managing Director Meridith Burkus. One of the most respected midsized theatres in the country, Studio Theatre produces the work of today's greatest writers, augmented by occasional productions of modern classics, performed by acclaimed actors in intimate spaces. Throughout the Theatre's 39-year history, the quality of its work has been recognized by sustained community support as well as with 376 nominations and 68 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in professional theatre.Photo Credit: Teddy Wolff