A-Squared Asian American Performing Arts Festival 2018 Performances

Thursday 11/8 & Saturday 11/10 @ 7:30pm


By Preston Choi

A parent-teacher conference becomes a debate about whether Asian Americans should forgive Dr. Seuss for his racist political cartoons in this short play.This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

A-Squared Theatre was founded in December 2006 by a collective of Asian American theatre artists based in Chicago. Noting that many important Asian and Asian American plays, both new and old, have never been produced in Chicago, these artists united for the common goal of bringing these stories to the Chicago stage. In doing so, the founders pledged to showcase the talents of Asian American theatre artists who they believe were underrepresented and misrepresented in Chicago theatre. https://www.asquaredtheatre.org/

Preston Choi is a Chicago based playwright/actor from Atlanta. His plays have been developed/produced with Silk Road Rising, A-Squared Theatre, Artists at Play, CAATA, Victory Gardens, G45 Productions, Wave Productions, Purple Crayon Players and Vertigo Productions. He received the Agnes Nixon Playwriting Award for his play A Great Migration. He was the recipient of an Undergraduate Research Grant from Northwestern University for research into plastic surgery, aesthetic beauty, and reality television. He graduated from Northwestern University in 2018 with a BS in Theatre within the Playwriting Module.

Carol Ann Tan is a Singapore-born, Chicago-based director, writer, and dramaturg. Her work focuses on issues surrounding race and immigration, particularly those involving the Asian diaspora. She is the resident dramaturg at Silk Road Rising, an artistic associate with The Comrades, and a 2017/18 Directors Inclusion Initiate with Victory Gardens. She has also worked with Writers Theatre, First Floor Theater, TimeLine Theatre, Haven Theatre, Sideshow Theatre, SoloChicago Theatre, Artemisia Theatre, Otherworld Theatre, Three Cat Productions, Pivot Arts, and Genesis Theatrical Productions. The latest mainstage production she directed,Warrior Class, is produced by The Comrades and runs through November 11 at Greenhouse Theater Center.www.carolanntan.com

Sarah Lo is so excited to be working with A-Squared Theatre for the first time! Chicago credits include M. Butterfly (Kurogo dancer) at Court Theatre, South Pacific (Liat) at Drury Lane Oakbrook, the 41st e.t.c. revue Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno (performing understudy) at Second City, You For Me For You (u/s Junhee, Minhee) at Sideshow Theatre, Eleemosynary (Echo), 1984 (Julia) at AstonRep Theatre, and Don’t Look Back/Must Look Back (devising ensemble) at PivotArts. Sarah is a proud graduate of the School at Steppenwolf, Black Box Acting, and the University of Chicago. Thank you forever to those who I call family, by blood and by luck. Enjoy the show!

Helen Youngis excited to again be part of A-Squared’s uber-relevant-to-our-time’s mission. Helen is an actor and director. Recent work includes Chicago PD, episode #4 (actor), workshop readings of the 1-woman show from SoloChicago’sHello Kitty Must Die(actor), Silk Road Rising’sNew China Festivalplay reading series (lead director), Sue Pak’sThe Fixer(director) for Our Perspectives and Chicago Dramatist’s play reading series. Other directing and related credits include:Wild Boar(director, Silk Road Rising),American Hwangap(director, A-Squared/Halcyon),The Audience(associate director, TimeLine),Hundred Flowers Project(assistant director, Silk Road Rising) along with readings at Silk Road Rising, TimeLine, Artistic Home, Artemesia, Broken Nose, and Polarity Ensemble. As an actor, Helen has worked with SideShow, TimeLine, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Polarity Ensemble, Muse of Fire, Side Project, and Stage Left. Helen is a member of SAG/AFTRA.

Irene Hsiao (photo by Rudi Amedeus)


By Irene Hsiao

Ethnically Chinese, nationally Thai, poet and painter Tang Chang distilled writing to its emotional and physical impulses, ritualistically copying over words until they formed landscapes and geometric forms, stripping calligraphy down to the abstract trace of the body on canvas. DancerIrene Hsiaotakes the energetic impulses he leaves behind in his work and reads them as a score for movement, embodying these traces in our space and time, considering questions such as, what is the difference between writing and painting? When does the mark erase? How Chinese is this work? What does it mean to write, again and again, “person”?

Irene Hsiao is a dancer, writer, and art enthusiast. In addition to this piece, inspired by The Painting That Is Painted With Poetry is Profoundly Beautiful, the first American solo exhibition of Thai artist Tang Chang at the Smart Museum of Art, Irene’s recent work includes Dialogo Dialogo, in/on/at/with Virginio Ferrari’s sculpture Dialogo, accompanied by composer and carillonneur Joey Brink, and The Radiant and the Dead, a site-specific collaboration with Connor Plunkett and India Weston on Emmanuel Pratt’s Radical (Re)Constructions installation, both presented by the Smart. She has also danced with the fish in Philippe Parreno’s My Room Is Another Fish Bowl at the Art Institute, with the monsters in the Smart’s Monster Roster. As a dancer, she has worked with Kinetech Arts, Alma Esperanza Cunningham Movement, Labayen Dance/SF, Lenora Lee Dance, Winifred Haun & Dancers, Erica Mott Productions, South Chicago Dance Theatre, Yin He Dance, and projects by Yael Vidan, Carole McCurdy, Nejla Yatkin, and others. Her writing has appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, SF Weekly, Chicago Reader, KQED Arts, Bay Area Reporter, Newcity, Cambridge Quarterly, Victorian Poetry, Multi-Ethnic Literature of the US, Literary Imagination, Modern Philology, Word Riot, elimae, A Clean Well-Lighted Place, and Sweet, as well as in the book Peter Pan In and Out of Time. Her picture book Letter from Taipei was published in 2014. Irene is on staff in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Chicago.


Helen Lee

a glimpse of me, my mom

By Helen Lee

Performance artist Helen Lee unpacks family history and investigates home, identity, memory, travel, migration, immigration, displacement, belonging, guilt, shame and what it means to be American through performance, storytelling, video, animation and installation.

Helen Lee was born and raised in Chicago, after her parents immigrated from South Korea in the mid-1970s. She attended the University of Hawaii where she studied dance and theatre and was first introduced to Butoh. She has performed at Hamlin Park, Links Hall, Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA), in New York and Germany. Currently she is an MFA candidate at SAIC in the Performance Department. In 2007, Lee received the Dance Bridge Residency at the Chicago Cultural Center and performed at various Michigan lighthouses from 2011-2016. She was mentored by Noémie Lafrance to create, direct and choreograph a short experimental dance film for Experimental Film Virginia. The short film was presented by Dance Film Association in New York and for Chicago Onscreen at Northerly Island Park. Lee was an Awardee for Chicago Moving Company’s D49 program and had the opportunity to present a new work, Watermelon Graveyard, with Carl Wiedemann as an Affliate Artist for Dance Shelter 2016. Lee has been teaching yoga since 2007 and has taught in China, Belize, India, Italy and Mexico.


Friday 11/9 @ 7:30pm

Natya Dance Theatre


By Natya Dance Theatre

The two dance works, rooted in Bharata Natyam classical Indian technique, describe the six incarnations or transformations of the god, Vishnu.

Natya Dance Theatre (NDT), under the artistic leadership of Hema Rajagopalan, is one of the most critically acclaimed and culturally treasured Indian dance companies in the United States. Natya was founded in 1974, in Chicago, IL. The highly innovative work of NDT offers profound and subtle expressions of humanity’s deepest questions and values in the context of our present-day lives. Rooted in Bharata Natyam, one of the great classical dance forms of India, NDT preserves and perpetuates Bharata Natyam in all its classical rigor, and moves the art form in innovative directions to foster cultural exchange through dance. NDT’s contemporary interpretations incorporate dynamic body movement, rhythmic footwork, hand gestures and facial expressions to convey meaning and emotion that create rasa, aesthetic experiences that spiritually transform audiences worldwide.

Audiences and critics worldwide have recognized the artistic excellence of the NDT Company, which The New York Times hailed as, “Triumphant…an enticing mixture of restraint and abundance.” Recent celebrated performance highlights include: performances with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble before an audience of 13,000 in Chicago’s Millennium Park; NDT’s selection as the first American company ever to appear at the prestigious World Music Institute in New York City; and serving as the only dance company selected to create an original work for performance at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. NDT is a six-time recipient of the Chicago Reader “Critic’s Choice Award”. In 2003, NDT was the first Indian dance company to receive the prestigious Chicago Dance Award, and is a 2004 recipient of the Paul Berger Arts Entrepreneurship Award from Columbia College Chicago. NDT was featured in 2005 in The Chicago Dance Project, a 13-part series produced by PBS, and in 2006 in Arts Across Illinois CenterStage on WTTW Channel 11, and in a 1994 PBS production, World Stage Chicago, for which Hema Rajagopalan received an Emmy award.

NDT has been presented regularly at some of the Chicago area’s finest venues including the Ravinia Festival, the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, and McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage. National and international presentations include performances at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the Avignon Festival in France, and the Music and Dance Festival in Madras, India, among other major venues. Furthering the belief that cultural exchange and artistic collaboration are vital to expanding expression and understanding, NDT has created works with numerous partners, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lookingglass Theater Company, and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

Natya Dance Theatre is a 501(c)(3) organization partially supported by: the Alphawood Foundation, a CityArts grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, a State agency, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince, Polk Bros. Foundation, and by the generosity of individual donors.


Stir-Friday Night!

Stir Friday Night is a nonprofit Asian-American theater company, that specializes in sketch comedy and improv. Their mission is to affect the perception of Asian Americans, improve representation, and provide opportunities for minority artists. Through comedy, they seek to create greater understanding and justice in the world.

Stir-Friday Night!is a 23-year-old Asian-American comedy group, based in Chicago. We’ve performed all over Chicago, including at Second City, iO, Annoyance, andSteppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre. Stir Friday Night has also toured and performed atfestivals around the country. Some of our alumni include Danny Pudi from Community,and Steven Yeun from The Walking Dead. We’re also a nonprofit theater company,specializing in sketch comedy and improvisation. And we also offer touring shows andworkshops for schools, companies, and organizations. For more info,go to stirfridaynight.org. If you’d like, you can make a tax-deductible donation, and find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@stirfridaynight).

DACEY ARASHIBA writes and performs with Stir Friday Night, and sings in a punk rock choir called The Blue Ribbon Glee Club. Also, a family of peregrine falcons took over his apartment balcony for four years. BBC Nature camped out in his living room for 40 days, and shot a documentary to be released in 2018. In addition, he has a metal song 17 minutes into D2: The Mighty Ducks 2. None of this is made up.

ERICA GEISER is an improviser and writer based in Chicago. She has trained at the Washington Improv Theater (WIT) in Washington, D.C., and at iO Theater in Chicago. Erica currently performs with Stir Friday Night and High Wasted, and has previously performed with the WIT Harold team Richie, and the indie teams Asian Moms and Happy Gilmore Girls.

HARRISON HAPIN is a member of Stir Friday Night, and an actor / improviser from the California Bay Area. He’s a graduate of the Columbia College Theatre program, and has performed at Silk Road Rising, Chicago Dramatists, Teatro Vista, and The Goodman Theatre. Harrison also enjoys performing around town with his improv teams, Human Resources and Almost Frisco. His favorite instrument is the Pacific conch shell.

RAY HUI occasionally performs comedy. Tonight is one of those occasions. He writes, performs, directs, produces videos, and sometimes does fight choreography. Ray has performed in four Stir Friday Night sketch revues, and in 2016, he was a recipient of the Second City Bob Curry Fellowship. You can follow him on Instagram @rayhui_.

CLAUDIA IAO is super excited to be anywhere, but especially with Stir Friday Night! She also performs with Fire & Beer, The Annoyance Theatre house ensemble, and has trained at iO, Annoyance, Second City Conservatory, Acting Studio Chicago, and Vagabond School of the Arts. Credits include Toured: A Comedic Web Series, Gabby Antonio Smashes the Imperialist, White Supremacist, Capitalist Patriarchy!, and Apartment 101. In her free time, she likes to eat cookies. Follow her on Twitter @claudiayiao.

BROOKE MONTOYA is an actor, comedian, writer, storyteller, and burlesque performer in Chicago, and she has studied at DePaul University, Second City Conservatory, iO, and Annoyance. She performs with Fire & Beer, the Annoyance Theatre house ensemble, and is the creator and producer of In Any Language, a variety show featuring silent and multilingual performance. Her other credits include Ingebor in Splatter Theater, Lethal Action Force at iO, and Caliber at ComedySportz. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter @brookeym3.

Mai Sugimoto

Sugimoto/Hatwich Duo

Saxophonist Mai Sugimoto on inspiration: “As improvisers, anything and everything can be an inspiration: the sounds we create on our instruments, the acoustics of the room, the surroundings. Our core inspiration is in each moment.”

Mai Sugimoto is a Japanese born saxophonist and composer living in Chicago, IL. As a child growing up in suburban Tokyo, Sugimoto was surrounded by her dad’s record collection. This soundtrack to her childhood, everything from classical to Motown to jazz, was seminal in her early development. She still remembers the moment that changed everything: hearing Eric Dolphy’s At the Five Spot for the first time. Fast forward to the present and one can find Sugimoto playing her own saxophone, striving for the same musical magic that moved her to be a musician in the first place. She performs frequently throughout the Chicagoland area and is a member of Hanami, a quartet that features her original work and arrangements of Japanese music. She has also performed with the great Chicago bassist Tatsu Aoki and his projects: a collaboration of Japanese traditional instruments and improvisational music. Sugimoto credits this experience for moving her to want to rediscover her Japanese roots and the nostalgic sounds she grew up with. Sugimoto draws additional inspiration from Lennie Tristano and his improvisational approach, 90’s and early 00’s J-pop, the Beatles, Glenn Gould, and the creative music scene of Chicago. She continues to channel these inspirations and others into writing for her new quartet which she debuted in 2016. The debut album of Sugimoto’s quartet music will be released on November 17, 2018 as part of the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival at Elastic Arts.


Bassist, composer, and improviser Anton Hatwich has lived in Chicago since 2003. He was born and raised in Rockford, IL, growing up in a musical family. Anton moved to Iowa City, IA in 1995 and lived there until 2002, earning a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Iowa. After graduation Hatwich taught for two years as Visiting Artist in Music at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, IA. At the UI he studied bass with Dr. Diana Gannett, jazz and improvisation with John Rapson, and also gained valuable experience playing with the school’s renown Center for New Music, under the direction of David Gompper. Outside of class, Anton was active in the local music scene. Of particular lasting importance was his work with clarinettist, saxophonist, and composer Robert Paredes, with whom Anton took first steps in the world of free improvisation.

In late 2002 Hatwich started spending large amounts of time amongst Chicago’s improvised music community, hanging out all night with his new friends at concerts and bars, and crashing on his brother’s couch. One thing led to another, and by spring of 2003 he was playing so much in Chicago that it made sense to move there. Since that time he has played in endlessly varied groups of (mostly) improvising musicians, with some combinations sticking around longer than others. A partial list of his collaborators includes Frank Rosaly, Keefe Jackson, Aram Shelton, Nick Mazzarella, Russ Johnson, Tim Daisy, Jason Stein, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Josh Berman, and Paul Giallorenzo. With the bands that lasted, Anton has recorded a number of critically acclaimed albums and toured nationally and internationally. He has appeared at a handful of the major jazz festivals, including the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Ring Ring Festival in Belgrade, the Umbrella Festival, and the Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon Festival in Austria.

In addition to his performance work, Anton maintains a small private teaching studio.