NEW YORK CITY: Roundabout Theatre Company has announced the third year of their Refocus Project, a multi-year initiative to elevate and restore marginalized plays to the American canon. This year’s focus—after the first year’s readings of neglected Black plays and last year’s of Puerto Rican/Latinx works—will be on Asian American and Pacific Islander playwrights. The readings will be held May 22-June 26.
“When Todd Haimes created the Refocus Project three years ago, the goal for Roundabout was to shift the theatrical canon by allowing theatremakers, industry leaders, and educators to see works by underrepresented artists,” interim artistic director Scott Ellis said in a statement. “With Todd’s recent passing, all of us at Roundabout are firmly committed to his vision of spotlighting these incredible plays. We sincerely hope these efforts will inspire adoption of these titles in theatrical seasons and curricula across the country.”
This year’s reading series will feature works by Prince Gomolvilas, Velina Hasu Houston, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, and Anuvab Pal. Additionally, the Refocus Project will offer artistic support for plays by Jeannie Barroga, Philip Kan Gotanda, Edward Sakamoto, and Wakako Yamauchi in the essay series “Literary Ancestry Series: Responses from Ma-Yi Writers Lab,” in partnership with Ma-Yi Theater Company.
The series will begin with Kneubuhl’s OLA NĀ IWI (THE BONES LIVE) on May 22. The 1994 play about a Hawai’ian woman reclaiming Hawai’ian bones from a German museum was first produced by Kumu Kahua Theatre in 1994. Cara Hinh will direct Roundabout’s reading.
The Refocus Project will continue with Pal’s Chaos Theory on June 5. The play follows two friends in academia who emigrate from India to the United States to become professors. Chaos Theory was first produced at the ArtWallah Festival in 2005. Arpita Mukherjee will direct Roundabout’s reading.
The next reading will be Gomolvilas’s 1998 play Big Hunk O’ Burnin’ Love (June 12), directed by Eric Ting. The play follows Winston, who learns a surprising family secret that sends his life up in flames just before turning 30. The play was first produced by East West Players in 1998.
The series will conclude with Houston’s TEA on June 26, directed by Jess McLeod. The 1987 play follows four Japanese women who come to Junction City, Kansas after marrying American soldiers. Manhattan Theatre Club first produced the play in 1987.
The Refocus Project will also lend additional support to Gotanda’s 1988 play Yankee Dawg You Die; Yamauchi’s 1980 play The Music Lessons; Sakamoto’s 1987 play The Life of the Land; and Barroga’s 1989 play Walls. The project was launched in 2021 in association with Black Theatre United to spotlight Black plays of the 20th century. The second year was produced in partnership with Pregones/PRTT and featured Latinx artists.
The Refocus Project will also an online resource library available to both industry professionals and the public, as well as community and education events. All readings will be free, and free recordings of the readings will be available to stream in the fall.
Roundabout Theatre Company celebrates the power of theatre by spotlighting classics, cultivating new works, and educating minds. Roundabout collaborates with a diverse team of artists to build educational experiences, support talented playwrights, and archive over five decades of production history.
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