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Mia Katigbak and Alok Tewari in NAATCO's 2015 production of Clifford Odets' "Awake and Sing!" (Photo by William P. Steele)

NAATCO Announces Partnership With 4 Theatres to Foster Asian American Stage Inclusion

Four theatres will join the New York-based company in programming work centering Asian American artists and performers.

NATIONWIDE: The National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO) founder and artistic producing director Mia Katigbak has announced the creation of the NAATCO National Partnership Project (NNPP), a national theatre initiative intended to “ingrain the inclusion of Asian American theatre artists, technicians, administrators, and community members in the American theatre,” as a press release put it.

With this program NAATCO plans to establish relationships with theatres around the country to implement strategies for the inclusion of Asian Americans in all aspects of its partners’ practices. NNPP’s initial anchor partners include two Off-Broadway companies, New York Theatre Workshop and Soho Rep, as well as Connecticut’s Long Wharf Theatre and New Jersey’s Two River Theater. A new cohort of theatre partners is planned to be announced next fall.

“A spotlight shines on ‘inclusion and belonging’ in American culture today,” said Katigbak in a statement. “Yet despite an ever growing national movement among Asian American theatre artists and companies to establish strong, sustainable communities, Asian Americans remain on the margins of this light, continuing to be represented in stereotypical and formulaic ways, when represented at all. Our partners will join our efforts to foster and create more expansive representations of Asian Americans, on stage as well as behind the scenes. Together we will augment and fortify these efforts to reflect the multiplicity of cultures, races, and ethnicities that defines this country and keeps our theatre vital.”

In a statement, Long Wharf artistic director Jacob Padrón said his theatre is “honored to partner with the venerable National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO) as they launch this thrilling initiative to amplify the voices of Asian American artists across the country. Through the brilliant leadership of Mia Katigbak, NAATCO has been steadfast in their commitment to build a more inclusive American theatre, and we at Long Wharf are inspired by this call to action. We must work together, in community, to support NAATCO’s necessary expansion and we look forward to this meaningful partnership.”

Added Meropi Peponides, Soho Rep’s director, artistic development and producing, in a statement, “We look forward to building on our existing relationship with NAATCO through this visionary partnership. Mia has always been a role model for me personally, as an artist, producer, and advocate, so it’s a dream to be able to collaborate with her and NAATCO to develop and produce the work of Asian American playwrights here at Soho Rep. NAATCO has led the way in representation of Asian American performers in classic plays, and we’re excited to be a part of this new expanded vision for Asian American representation in our field.”

The NNPP’s partners have committed to four actions:

  1. Collaboratively select a production guided by the parameters of NAATCO’s programming, which are: staging European and American classics with all-Asian American casts; adapting of these classics by Asian American playwrights; staging new plays by non-Asian Americans with non-Asian or Asian American subject matters or characters realized by all-Asian American casts; developing and producing new plays by Asian American playwrights that incorporate other performative arts and media. This fourth category of work, which is new for NAATCO, is designed to advance the transformational work NAATCO has been doing for the past 29 years.
  2. Plan a series of pre- or post-performance events supplementing the productions and highlighting Asian or Asian American panelists and speakers.
  3. Institute a plan for outreach to Asian Americans in the partners’ local communities to encourage their participation in all aspects of the partners’ operations.
  4. Take the next step towards sustaining Asian American presence in the partners’ programming by announcing one or more productions for upcoming seasons that conforms to one of NAATCO’s four emphases. This announcement should occur by the end of the first collaboration.

The NNPP plans to contribute funding to each of its partners to support their efforts.

NAATCO was founded in 1989 to assert the presence and significance of Asian American theatre in the United States, demonstrating its vital contributions to the fabric of American culture, and has received the Obies’ Ross Wetzsteon Award, the Lucille Lortel Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women for their work “highlighting the multi- and intercultural dynamics of our society,” and the Rosetta LeNoire Award from Actors’ Equity Association in recognition of its contribution toward increasing diversity and non-traditional casting in American theatre.

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