On June 2, the National Asian Artists Project (NAAP) invited guests to At The Corner of Chinatown and Broadway – Returns!, their annual Gala Benefit and honored Lori Tan Chinn, Virginia Wing, and Henry Yuk, three pioneering American actors of Chinese Descent who have broken boundaries in film, television and theatre and continue to inspire the next generation of Asian American performing artists, with 2023 NAAP Awards.
Special recognition awards were also presented to Peter Pileski and the late Bob Avian and to Cassey Kivnick and the late Susan Kikuchi, for their unwavering support of NAAP through the years.
NAAP co-founders Steven Eng, Nina Zoie Lam and Baayork Lee hosted the Benefit held at Golden Unicorn in New York Chinatown.
More than 200 NAAP friends and supporters gathered for cocktails, a traditional 8-course Chinese Banquet, followed by an evening of entertainment and the presentation of the awards. We devoured so many of my favorite dishes – Peking Duck, Orange Flavor Beef, Jumbo Shrimp with Walnuts, Bak Choy with Mushroom, Twin Lobsters with Ginger and Scallion, Crispy Skin Chicken, Vegetable Fried Rice, and Vegetable Fu Longevity Noodles.
I was in attendance with many of my collaborators – my Gold Mountain the Musical family, including Gold Mountain creator, Jason Ma, Alan Ariano, Eric Bondoc, Eymard Meneses Cabling, Eric Elizaga, Steven Eng, Liesl Hara, Jonny Lee Jr., and Kelvin Moon Loh.
It was also wonderful to continue the celebration of Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month into June with my frequent collaborator, Laine Sakakura (Corner of Bitter and Sweet), and Liz Casasola, Ann Harada, Devin Ilaw, Brian Jose, Karin Kawamoto, Valerie Lau-Kee, and Kevin Schuering.
“At The Corner of Chinatown and Broadway – Returns!”, directed by Ms. Lee and Richard Jay-Alexander, with music direction by Joey Chauncey, featured special guest performers Ann Harada, Devin Ilaw and Brian Jose, the award-winning Theatre Club from P.S. 124, and the NAAP Broadway Community Chorus.
National Asian Artists Project (NAAP) is a community of artists, educators, administrators, community leaders, and professionals. It is a not-for-profit organization that recognizes the need to build bridges between the work of artists of Asian descent, and the many communities that the work can serve, from underserved primary school students to seasoned arts patrons. www.naaproject.org
Gala dinner committee members included Raymond Won and Linda Lew Woo. Gala committee members included Baayork Lee, Alan Ariano, Linda Collins, Travis M. Hicks II, Janice Won, Ray Won and Linda Lew Woo.
Lori Tan Chinn
Conceived three months in Hoisan, South China (that’s the first Chinese to arrive in America), lived in her mother’s womb during the three-month ship ordeal to America, and three months later, born as a near-Yankee baby on July 7th – the year doesn’t matter – in Seattle, WA! Lori first had ambitions to become a gymnast, or a costume designer, a violinist, but ended up a writer, self-taught actor, dancer, singer, celebrating her 54th year in all these combined passions on January 17th, the day the Greyhound Bus rolled into NYC and to the YWCA. She quickly landed her first show, on Broadway, in the chorus of Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen, a musical adaptation of The Teahouse of the August Moon. She was quickly plucked out of the chorus and cast as the female comic lead when choreographer, Ron (Broadway Cabaret, the film, New York, New York) Field created a five-minute dance solo for her. Nine years and many bread & butter jobs later, she landed her second Broadway show, G.R. Point, opposite Michael Moriarty, and another nine years later, landed her third Broadway show, M. Butterfly, which introduced and skyrocketed the career of newcomer, BD Wong.
The latest pre-Broadway gig, Half Time, the project that the late Marvin Hamlisch had worked on before his death, starred the late Georgia Engel, Donna McKechnie, Andre De Shields, Lillias White, and Lori (finally getting front billing, after 48 years) had its out-of-town presentations in Chicago, then at NJ’s Paper Mill Playhouse, but didn’t quite make it to the Great White Way…yet. In between these intervals, there was Off-Broadway: The Primary English Class, opposite Diane Keaton, seven seasons at the famed O’Neill Playwrights Conference, working with fellow rising-star actors: Meryl Streep, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary Alice, some television gigs: “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific”, starring Glenn Close, Harry Connick, Jr. (she is the first actress to be cast, racially correct, as the Chinese/Vietnamese/Tonkinese Bloody Mary) in that television production, as well as, three subsequent stage productions, one of which remains her favorite, choreographed by Baayork Lee, at Washington, DC’s Arena Stage, which garnered her the Helen Hayes Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, Resident Theatre); as Iris, second-season semi regular on “Roseanne”; seven seasons as Mei Chang in Netflix’s first original streaming show: “Orange is the New Black”; films: Pixar’s recently Oscar-nominated animation film, Turning Red, Late Bloomers, She-Devil, What About Bob?, Mickey Blue Eyes (her single scene with Hugh Grant was included in a collection of funniest comedy scenes).
The joy and privilege of being within the cast of “Awkwafina is Nora From Queens”, originating the role of her Grandma, rounds out the Celestial Cycle of affectionately-proclaimed “Asian-American Meteorics” – ones who shot up like meteors from their early beginnings, in all directions of the arts. What a thrill, what an honor, this ride! Speaking of rides, stay tuned for new film directorial debut by Adele Lim (co-writer, Crazy Rich Asians): Joy Ride, due out in theaters this July, and later, two animated television series, and one Netflix animation film, starring some exciting new, and also established co-stars: Awkwafina, Bowen Yang, Ali Wong, Ashley Park, Stephanie Hsu, Bryan Cranston, Jack Black and two wild animation productions opposite our illustrious elder, Mr. James Hong.
Virginia Wing is an American singer and actress of Chinese descent, whose ancestors came to the “Gold Mountain” from Canton (now Guangdong) in the mid-1800s, lured by the Gold Rush and the building of the railroads. She is currently writing about growing up Southern in the segregated Mississippi Delta, where she was born and raised, titled “Chop Suey Chittlins and Apple Pie.” Her first paid appearances were at the age of three, standing on the ice cream box in her family’s grocery store and singing for the salesmen, who applauded and rewarded her with nickels and pennies! Professionally, she has run the gamut from opera, theatre, cabaret, TV, film, playwriting, directing and producing to script analysis. She modeled in her youth and is in the Breck Girl Hall of Fame. She was the model in the Mitsouko by Guerlain ad in the 60s, which won awards internationally. She was a nominee for Best Actress in the Hollywood NAACP Image Awards. She won the Inspirational Artist Award in 2021 for her work in the short film When the World Was Young at the Disorient Film Festival. Her proudest role to date is Grandmother – to three fabulous grandchildren. https://performingartslegacy.org/wing/
Henry Yuk is a native New Yorker, from Brooklyn. He has worked extensively with Pan Asian Rep (including Yellow Fever, Teahouse,Yellow Is My Favorite Color), as well as with NAATCO (The Cherry Orchard, You Can’t Take It With You, Awake and Sing!) and Ma-Yi Theatre Co. (The Square, No Foreigners Beyond This Point). His film work includes Kundun (directed by Martin Scorsese), Brooklyn Lobster and the cult classic,The Last Dragon. His TV work includes “The Sopranos,” “Cosby,” “Dellaventura,” various “Law and Order” episodes. Most recently he appeared in Marvel’s “Iron Fist” and “Warrior” on HBO Max. He last worked with New Federal Theatre in Gong Lum’s Legacy, which won the 2022 AUDELCO Award for Best Play. He is relishing his current role as Gung Gung to his grandchildren. www.henryyuk.com
An extra special shoutout to June Jee, who got to celebrate her birthday with 200 people.
A special thanks to photographers Eric Bondoc and Karen Zhou.
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Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer, activist, documentarian and an Award winning filmmaker and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Lia is also the host and Executive Producer of BACKSTAGE PASS WITH LIA CHANG, an Arts and Entertainment and Lifestyle program that airs on Sundays at 6:30pm on FIOS 34, RCN 83, Spectrum 56/1996 and streams on MNN2. Lia was recently profiled on Asian American Life. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. www.liachang.com www.liachangphotography.com
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