Washington’s Village Theatre presented a New York City industry reading of the new musical Broken Ground on May 6 at Open Jar Studios. The work features a book and lyrics by Christine Toy Johnson with music and lyrics by Jason Ma.
The reading featured an all Asian-American cast and creative team. The cast includes Ali Ewoldt, Diana Huey, Kennedy Kanagawa, Hazel Anne Raymundo, Delphi Borich, Kevin Schuering, Brian Kim McCormick, Cáitlín Burke, and Alan Ariano. Alan Muraoka served as director, and Fiona Santos as music director.
18-year-old Xuě Lán sets out on the path created for her, by both tradition and her family, to marry a young soldier. The musical follows her as she grieves her mother and twin brother, and the journey she goes on after she looks to Guān Yīn, the goddess of compassion, and the spirit of her mother for guidance. Her reality shifts due to an embroidered story in NüShū, the centuries-old writing system created by and exclusively for women, where she discovers how to honor the path set for her and the one she wishes to forge herself in 1912 as a new era in China dawns.
Village Theatre is based in Issaquah, Washington, and has been producing shows since 1979. Within the region, it is recognized for its work, which also includes helping develop new musicals through its Village Originals program. Over 175 new works have been supported by the theatre company to date.
Christine Toy Johnson is an award-winning playwright, actor, director and advocate currently serving as treasurer of the Dramatists Guild, and is a founding steering committee member of the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC). Her written works have been produced and/or developed by the Roundabout, Village Theatre, Barrow Group, Prospect Theatre, Weston Playhouse, O’Neill, The Abingdon, Greater Boston Stage Company and more and are included in the Library of Congress’s Asian Pacific American Performing Arts Collection (Playwrights Division). Host of the Guild’s podcast The Dramatist Presents: Talkback on Broadway Podcast Network. She is the founder of The Asian American Musical Theater Writers Project. She is the recipient of the Rosetta LeNoire, JACL, Asian American Arts Alliance, Obie awards for advocacy in diversity and inclusion. Details: www.christinetoyjohnson.com. Twitter/Insta: @CToyJ
Jason Ma (⾺智培) is a son of an immigrant family and a grateful descendant of a long line of those who were able to persist, overcome, and succeed on their way to becoming Americans. In addition to writing, he is an actor who has performed extensively on Broadway and off-Broadway stages, in regional theaters, and in many international venues. Ma has received two ASCAP Foundation Awards – the 2021 ASCAP Foundation Harold Adamson Lyric Award, and the 2017 ASCAP Foundation Cole Porter Award for his work as a composer/lyricist, and he wrote the music, book, and lyrics for Gold Mountain. Utah Shakespeare Festival presented the World Premiere of Gold Mountain in November. www.goldmountainthemusical.com.
Lia Chang is a Chinese-American actor, a multi-media content producer, an award-winning filmmaker, and a photo activist and documentarian, who lifts up and amplifies BIPOC communities and artists and the institutions that support them.
Lia moved to New York from her home in San Francisco when she was 17 years of age and made her stage debut as Liat in a national tour of South Pacific with Barbara Eden and Robert Goulet. She spent many years working extensively Off-Broadway, including Signature Theatre’s revival of Sam Shepard’s Chicago. Her film work includes Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon. The decades of being viewed by others through the narrow lens of “Asian actor” in the industry brought Lia to a turning point, and she picked up her camera, determined to create awareness by documenting the work and the lives of her BIPOC colleagues, resulting in the creation of thousands of photographs and pieces of video. Her photo archives are housed in the AAPI collection in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room under “Lia Chang Theater Portfolio collection,1989-2011” and in the “Lia Chang Photography Collection” in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library.
Lia’s awards include the 2022 Prospect Muse Award, the 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award and the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media. She is also an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate, a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age, a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media, and a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
More recently, Lia co-founded Bev’s Girl Films, which makes films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. She executive produced and starred in the indie films Hide and Seek (AA Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Best Actress Nomination), Rom-Com Gone Wrong, and When the World Was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative). www.liachang.com, www.liachangphotography.com