Category Archives: Photography

Bev’s Girl Films Produces BALANCING ACT Starring Lia Chang and Liam Quill Kong, for Justin Lin’s 2016 INTERPRETATIONS 2.0 Short Film Initiative

Lia Chang and Garth Kravits during Facebook live interview. Photo by Geoffrey Guerrero
Lia Chang and Garth Kravits during Facebook live interview. Photo by Geoffrey Guerrero

It’s a wrap for Balancing Act, a new short film by Bev’s Girl Films team Lia Chang and Garth Kravits, created for Justin Lin’s Interpretations Short Film Contest for Asian American Filmmakers.

Lia Chang (Big Trouble In Little ChinaNew Jack CityKing of New York) stars in Balancing Act, a film she co-produced, co-wrote and co-directed with Garth Kravits (The Drowsy Chaperone, “The Blacklist,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Hostages,” “Civil”). The cast also features Liam Quill Kong, Pamela Bob, Dave T. Koenig, Laura Hall and Virginia Wing.Balancing Act Poster Final copy

SYNOPSIS – How does a single mother balance her life, work and child?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Balancing Act is the second short film created by Bev’s Girl Films, dedicated to making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. We wanted to show, not only the struggle that working, single mothers face each day, but also show the joy and love that is often taken for granted.

Liam Quill Kong in BALANCING ACT. Photo by Lia Chang
Liam Quill Kong in BALANCING ACT. Photo by Lia Chang

You can check out Balancing Act at www.yomyomf.com, click on Interpretations and choose all entries.

Balancing Act Facebook Page

Fun in the sun with mom and sister Tami in Lake Tahoe in 1970. Photo by Russell Chang
Fun in the sun with mom and sister Tami in Lake Tahoe in 1970. Photo by Russell Chang

Bev’s Girl Films is named after Lia’s mother, Bev Umehara, and this film was created to honor her, her father, Russell Chang, and all the single parents navigating their own ‘Balancing Act’.

Lia Chang, Marissa Chang-Flores, Russell Chang, Asia Flores, Tami Chang and Carlos Flores at the 2016 FIDM Graduation at the STAPLES Center in LA on June 20, 2016. Photo by Lia Chang
Lia Chang, Marissa Chang-Flores, Russell Chang, Asia Flores, Tami Chang and Carlos Flores at the 2016 FIDM Graduation at the STAPLES Center in LA on June 20, 2016. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia received a Best Actress nomination for her debut short, Hide and Seek, a top ten film in the Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition. She is also a photographer and an award-winning multi-platform journalist who writes about Arts and Entertainment and Asian American issues on her Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

Edited by: Garth Kravits
Screenplay: David Henry Hwang
Director of Photography: Christopher Plunkett
Original Score – Scott CHOPS Jung

Special thanks to Joan Leviton Kagan, Erin Quill and Chil Kong.

Erin Quill and her son, Liam Quill Kong, on the set of BALANCING ACT. Photo by Lia Chang
Erin Quill and her son, Liam Quill Kong, on the set of BALANCING ACT. Photo by Lia Chang

YouoffendmeYouoffendmyfamily.com (YOMYOMF), the blog and entertainment website devoted to Asian American culture founded by Hollywood director Justin Lin (BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, FAST AND FURIOUS series, STAR TREK BEYOND) has launched the second edition of the highly successful INTERPRETATIONS Initiative that was previously held in 2010 to find the next generation of Asian American filmmakers. Comcast and NBCUniversal are lead sponsors of the initiative.

Judging will commence in July and August with the announcement of the Top 15 on September 6, with online voting kicking off that day through October 6. The final 3 winners will be announced online on October 10 and they will be invited to attend the NBCUniversal Short Film Festival on October 19 at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles. Participants must be a resident of the United States of America and at least 13 years old.

What is Interpretations?
INTERPRETATIONS is a way of encouraging aspiring filmmakers to develop their own original and unique voice. All participants will “interpret” a four line script, and can produce and shoot it any way they wish. The only caveat is that the lines are static and must be in that order and the actual film itself is no more than 3 minutes long. Therefore, everyone is shooting their films from the same material and leveling the playing field in a way that traditional filmmaking competitions cannot. Three shorts will be selected from the entries and these winning filmmakers will have an opportunity to produce a project for one of the Comcast or NBCUniversal platforms under the mentorship of Justin Lin and other industry professionals.

The first Interpretations Initiative kicked off in the spring of 2010 with nine commissioned shorts by the likes of YouTube stars Wong Fu ProductionsDanny Pudi (NBC’s COMMUNITY), Far East Movement, and other industry professionals, to showcase the varied interpretations of the same script. In the end, over 275 shorts were submitted online and was whittled down to five winners.

Justin Lin. Photo by Lia Chang
Justin Lin. Photo by Lia Chang

“The first Interpretations Initiative was such a success that I am very excited to be launching it again and with a stronger fortitude to really make this more than just a contest but an opportunity to actually incubate potential careers for budding filmmakers.” says YOMYOMF founder Justin Lin, who is currently in post-production on his latest tentpole film, STAR TREK BEYOND (coming out this July). “Interpretations 2016 is a part of the bigger picture of YOMYOMF 2.0, where we want to establish and nurture an Asian American creative community of content creators and enthusiasts where ideas and collaboration is exchanged regularly and we can see what projects we can develop with emerging talent. I never had something like YOMYOMF when I first started my career. It’s an exciting time to be an emerging filmmaker.”

David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang
David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

For this edition of Interpretations, the 4-line script was written by Tony Award winning playwright and screenwriter David Henry Hwang  (M BUTTERFLY, CHINGLISH, Showtime’s THE AFFAIR). “It’s not as easy as one would think to just come up with 4 lines of dialogue.” says Hwang. “The script needs to be broad and fluid enough so that one director could craft a comedy from it, another a speculative fiction story, another an action film, another an experimental work of animation, and so on.”

Here’s this year’s four-line script:
Don’t do that.
Of course.
I have my doubts.
What is it?

As lead sponsors for this year’s Interpretations Initiative, Comcast and NBCUniversal intend to support new talent and discover new opportunities for various elements of Comcast and NBCUniversal.

Lia Chang in BALANCING ACT
Lia Chang in BALANCING ACT

Facebook Live Interviews: 2016 Katra Film Series – 2nd Round Finalists; 14 Films Compete for $2000 in Prizes on July 16
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

 

Advertisements

Photos: Kristen Bond, Alexis Sims, Marisha Wallace, Clinton Greenspan, Derrick Davis, Eric LaJuan Summers and More in DTC’s DREAMGIRLS through July 24

Dallas Theater Center is presenting the award-winning hit musical Dreamgirls through July 24, helmed by director and DTC Associate Artistic Director Joel Ferrell. Tickets to Dreamgirls are on sale at www.DallasTheaterCenter.org and by phone at (214) 880-0202.

Production Photos by Karen Almond; costumes by Karen Perry.

Kristen Bond, Alexis Sims and Marisha Wallace in Dreamgirls. Photo by Karen Almond
Kristen Bond, Alexis Sims and Marisha Wallace in Dreamgirls. Photo by Karen Almond

Dreamgirls features book and lyrics by Tom Eyer, music by Henry Krieger and choreography by Rickey Tripp. Take a trip back to the seminal music scene of the 1960s, when young women sang their way to musical prominence in a man’s world. Set in the Motown era that brought us powerhouse voices like Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross-and ultimately Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé-Dreamgirls explodes from the stage with legendary songs and timeless appeal.

Marisha Wallace as Effie White. Photo by Karen Almond
Marisha Wallace as Effie White. Photo by Karen Almond

Starring as the talented trio is Alexis Sims as Deena Jones, Marisha Wallace as Effie White and Kristen Bond (Stagger Lee) as Lorrell. Joining them is Derrick Davis as Curtis Taylor Jr., Traci Elaine Lee (Stagger Lee, LES MISERABLES, The Fortress of Solitude) as Michelle, Eric Lajuan Summers as James Thunder Early and Clinton Greenspan (Romeo and Juliet) as C.C. White.

Clinton Greenspan as C.C., Derrick Davis as Curtis Taylor Jr., and Eric LaJuan Summers as Jimmy Early. Photo by Karen Almond
Clinton Greenspan as C.C., Derrick Davis as Curtis Taylor Jr., and Eric LaJuan Summers as Jimmy Early. Photo by Karen Almond

Brierley Resident Acting Company members Hassan El-Amin (All the Way, The Mountaintop, Colossal) will play the role of Marty, and Alex Organ (All the Way, Sense and Sensibility, LES MISERABLES) will be a part of the Male Ensemble.

The cast of DREAMGIRLS. Photo by Karen Almond
The cast of DREAMGIRLS. Photo by Karen Almond

Fellow actors in the Male Ensemble are Christopher Figaro Jackson, Joshua Keith, Walter Lee, Willie Smith III, Jay Staten (Stagger Lee), Jeremy Davis, Gabriel Lawson and Micah Ndiba. The Female Ensemble includes Tiana Kaye Johnson (The Mountaintop, The Book Club Play), Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Ayanna Edwards and Gabrielle Reyes.

The cast of DREAMGIRLS. Photo by Karen Almond
The cast of DREAMGIRLS. Photo by Karen Almond

The creative and design team includes choreographer Rickey Tripp,  music director Michael O. Mitchell,  set designer Bob Lavallee (The Mountaintop, The Rocky Horror Show, Clybourne Park), costume designer Karen Perry (A Raisin in the Sun, The Trinity River Plays), sound designer Aria Music Design (LES MISERABLES, Cabaret), lighting designer Lap Chi Chu (The Good Negro, Fences) and wig designer J. Jared Janas.

The cast of DREAMGIRLS. Photo by Karen Almond
The cast of DREAMGIRLS. Photo by Karen Almond

DTC’s Come Early sponsored by Wells Fargo will take place one hour before every performance and DTC’s Stay Late presented by Dr Pepper Snapple Group will take place after each performance.

The cast of DREAMGIRLS. Photo by Karen Almond
The cast of DREAMGIRLS. Photo by Karen Almond

https://interactive.tegna-media.com/video/embed/embed.html?id=2228772&type=video&title=Dallas%20Theater%20Center%20presents%20'Dreamgirls'&site=287&playerid=6918249996581&dfpid=32805352&dfpposition=Video_prestream_external§ion=home

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Photos: Maulik Pancholy, Peter Gadiot, André De Shields, Telly Leung, Oliver Thornton and More in Ed Sylvanus Iskandar Helmed THE TAMING OF THE SHREW at Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC)

Peter Gadiot and Maulik Pancholy. Photo by Scott Suchman
Peter Gadiot and Maulik Pancholy. Photo by Scott Suchman

Stage and screen actors Maulik Pancholy (Broadway: It’s Only A Play“Weeds,” “30 Rock”) and Peter Gadiot (“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”) lead the cast as Katherina and Petruchio respectively in Ed Sylvanus Iskandar’s bold new interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC). Iskandar, known for his striking and immersive directorial style, completes STC’s 2015–2016 season with this production, playing in Sidney Harman Hall from May 17 to June 26, 2016.

André De Shields and Tom Story. Photo by Scott Suchman
André De Shields and Tom Story. Photo by Scott Suchman

The Taming of the Shrew began preview performances on May 17,  and celebrates Opening Night on Tuesday, May 24.  Performances continue through June 26 at STC’s Sidney Harman Hall (610 F Street NW). To purchase tickets or to learn more, patrons can call the box office at 202.547.1122 or visit ShakespeareTheatre.org.

Tom Story, André De Shields, Bernard White and Telly Leung. Photo by Scott Suchman
Tom Story, André De Shields, Bernard White and Telly Leung. Photo by Scott Suchman
Oliver Thorton and Telly Leung. Photo by Scott Suchman
Oliver Thorton and Telly Leung. Photo by Scott Suchman

The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare’s notorious comedy about courtship, marriage and individuality, last seen on STC stages in the 2007–2008 Season, also includes two-time Tony nominee André De Shields (Broadway: Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Wiz, The Full Monty, Play On!, STC’s Ghosts) as Gremio/Curtis/Vincentio; Oliver Thornton (West End: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the 40th anniversary production of The Rocky Horror Show, Children of EdenRentThe Phantom of the OperaLes Miserables and Chicago) as Bianca; Drew Foster (Broadway: Doctor Zhivago,  National tour of West Side Story) as Biondello; Rick Hammerly (a participant in STC’s 2015–2016 Directors’ Studio and last seen in Volpone) as Widow; Telly Leung (Broadway: AllegianceGodspellRentPacific Overture and Flower Drum Song) as Lucentio; Gregory Linington (STC’s OthelloThe Tempest and Tartuffeas Grumio; Matthew Russell as Tranio; STC Affiliated Artist Tom Story who has appeared in numerous STC productions, most recently in the Free For All remount of The Winter’s Tale as HortensioBernard White as Baptista; with James CrichtonStephen Elrod (STC’s Othello), Jamison ForemanJackson Knight Pierce (STC’s Othello), Brian Reisman (STC’s Othello) and Nicholas Yenson rounding out the Ensemble.

The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman
The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman

Spilling from the stage into the lobbies and the street, director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar’s production presents a provocative new approach to The Taming of the Shrew and an utterly unique audience experience. Iskandar will use an all-male cast to examine the fluidity of identity, the authenticity of self-performance and the economics of love in one of Shakespeare’s most notorious texts. Set in the arena of high fashion with influences from both Renaissance and 1950s Italy, Iskandar is working to craft a spectacular world for STC audiences.

Oliver Thorton and Maulik Pancholy. Photo by Scott Suchman
Oliver Thorton and Maulik Pancholy. Photo by Scott Suchman

Founding Artistic Director of the theatre collective Exit, Pursued by a Bear and an emerging artist noted for his innovative interpretation of classic texts, Iskandar creates performances that shift beyond the proscenium, reconnecting audiences and artists and working to establish a thriving social community within the theatre. Iskandar’s previous projects include the 2014 Drama Desk Award-winners The Golden Dragon and The Mysteries—a collaboration with 50 playwrights that reimagined the stories of The Bible over six hours—as well as These Seven Sicknesses, a five-hour adaptation of all seven of Sophocles’ plays, and Restoration Comedy, both Drama Desk Award-nominated.

André De Shields. Photo by Scott Suchman
André De Shields. Photo by Scott Suchman

Speaking about his concept for Shrew, Iskandar explains, “Shakespeare’s central narrative is about Kate, an ‘other’ who chooses to transform and rejoin society on her own terms. I want to create a world in which otherness can manifest in as visible a way as possible. I am interested in using a widely diverse canvas to express universality: the world will be specific, but the story no less universal.” Regarding his all-male cast, Iskandar continues, “With an all-male cast, we are attempting to shift the focus from the war of the sexes to the war within the self. The Public Theater has just announced an all-female production of Shrew in the Park with exactly the same running date as ours, which I can’t wait to see.” He concludes, “It seems a single-gender cast allows us to unlock this play in an important new way.”

The Taming of the Shrew company. Photo by Scott Suchman
The Taming of the Shrew company. Photo by Scott Suchman

Noted for his epic and immersive style, Iskandar will extend the world of the production beyond the stage, creating a deeply engaging experience for audience members. In line with this vision, STC will invoke the atmosphere of an Italian piazza (the Piazza d’Amore) in the Harman lobbies and will offer audience and community members the opportunity to engage with the performers of The Taming of the Shrew off-stage. Supporting Iskandar’s desire to create a community with theatre, STC has also invited local artists, makers and restaurants to lead a series of make-and-take workshops, life-hack seminars and tastings and demonstrations in STC lobbies during the run of the show. The workshop series, called The Padua Finishing School, is open to the public and can serve as a standalone event or can accompany a ticket to The Taming of the Shrew. Workshop fees range from $12–$65.

Rick Hammerly, Peter Gadiot, Maulik Pancholy and Oliver Thorton. Photo by Scott Suchman
Rick Hammerly, Peter Gadiot, Maulik Pancholy and Oliver Thorton. Photo by Scott Suchman

The exciting off-stage elements of this production echo Iskandar’s distinctive artistic approach to Shakespeare’s comedy. This production includes a musical intermezzo and will incorporate movement and contemporary pop music to complete the world. “I use three major elements to tell the story, of which text is the primary one;” Iskandar explains, “music and dance will also play major roles to create a richer world where each character in the show is treated as an individual with a full dramatic arc.”

The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman
The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman

Iskandar joins STC as the first director in the Clarice Smith Series: New Directors for the Classics, having been invited by STC Artistic Director Michael Kahn after Kahn saw Iskandar’s production of The Mysteries (The Flea, NYC). “I found his style appealing, profound and very moving,” Kahn explains. “His artistic choices, paired with STC’s engagement and outreach activities, will further humanize the characters on stage for our audiences—and I also believe his choices will create a dialogue about authenticity and identity, something which is particularly relevant in our times.”

The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman
The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman
Maulik Pancholy. Photo by Scott Suchman
Maulik Pancholy. Photo by Scott Suchman

Maulik Pancholy (Katherina) makes makes his STC debut, having recently starred opposite Martin Short and Matthew Broderick in the Broadway hit It’s Only a Play, directed by Jack O’Brien. Pancholy is best known for playing Jonathan on the Golden Globe® and Screen Actors Guild® Award-winning NBC comedy 30 Rock and for playing Sanjay on Showtime’s award-winning dramedy Weeds, in addition to many other voiceover, television, film and theatre credits.

Peter Gadiot and company. Photo by Scott Suchman
Peter Gadiot and company. Photo by Scott Suchman

Peter Gadiot (Petruchio) has appeared in the films The Forbidden GirlNight Wolf and 13 Hours. He plays Cyrus on television show Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and has also appeared in many other television and stage productions. Gadiot will soon star in the highly-anticipated new television show USA Network’s Queen of the South, set to air in the summer of 2016.

The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman
The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman

Ed Sylvanus Iskandar (Director) joins STC as the first in the Clarice Smith Series: New Directors for the Classics. Iskandar’s previous projects include the 2014 Drama Desk Award-winner The Mysteries, a collaboration with over 50 playwrights that reimagined the stories of The Bible over six hours. The Founding Artistic Director of theatre collective Exit, Pursued by a Bear, Iskandar has also hosted a series of labs and salons in his New York loft, featuring intimate performances and meals cooked by Iskandar himself. Combining theatre with food and community, Exit, Pursued by a Bear has become the talk of the New York theatre scene, utilizing a performance model as old as Homer and as radical as anything on stage today. While in New York, he has directed shows at myriad theatres including the Playwrights Realm, the National Asian American Theatre Company, The Flea Theater and The Play Company, as well as at his own collective. He is the winner of multiple awards including the Drama Desk Special Award for conception and direction of The Mysteries at The Flea Theater (in collaboration with 50+ playwrights) and The Golden Dragon at The Play Company, the National Theatre Conservatory Emerging Professional Award, the New York Theatre Workshop Emerging Artist Fellowship and the Drama League Directing Fellowship.

The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman
The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman

THE DESIGNERS
Iskandar brings a new and talented creative team to STC with Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood, Costume Designer Loren Shaw, Lighting Designer Seth Reiser, Sound Designer Jeremy S. Bloom, Choreography by Chase Brock, Music Supervisor/Arranger David Dabbon and Music Director Jody Schum.

The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman
The Taming of the Shrew Company. Photo by Scott Suchman

Duncan Sheik is best known as the composer of the 2006 Broadway musical Spring Awakening, as well as a pop songwriter and performer. His recordings include Legerdemain (2015), Covers 80s (Sneaky Records, 2011), Whisper House (Sony, 2009), White Limousine (Rounder, 2006), Daylight (Atlantic Records, 2002), Phantom Moon (Nonesuch, 2001), Humming (Atlantic Records, 1998) and Duncan Sheik (RIAA Certified Gold, Atlantic Records, 1996). For his work on Spring Awakening, Sheik won Tony Awards® for Best Original Score and Orchestrations and a Grammy Award® for Best Musical Theater Album. His self-titled album Duncan Sheik also earned him a Grammy® nomination for Best Male Vocal.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

THE ARTISTIC TEAM
The production team also includes Associate Costume Designer Dana Burkart and Assistant Lighting Designer Jimmy Lawlor. Iskandar is supported by Voice and Text Coaches Gary Logan and Ellen O’Brien, and assisted by Production Stage Manager Joseph Smelser and Assistant Stage Manager Robyn M. Zalewski. Craig Baldwin serves as Immersive Designer and Iskandar’s Assistant Director.

ABOUT THE SHAKESPEARE THEATRE COMPANY
Recipient of the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award®, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) is the nation’s leading premier classical theatre company. Today, STC is synonymous with artistic excellence and making classical theatre more accessible to audiences in and around the nation’s capital.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Kahn and Executive Director Chris Jennings, STC’s innovative productions inspire dialogue that connects classic works to the modern human experience. The Company focuses on works with profound themes, complex characters and poetic language written by Shakespeare, his contemporaries and the playwrights he influenced in order to preserve and promote classic theatre—ambitious, enduring plays with universal themes—for all audiences.

A leader in arts education, STC has a stable of initiatives that teach and excite learners of all ages, from school programs and adult acting classes to accessible community programming like play-relevant discussion series and the Free For All. For the past 25 years the Free For All program has offered an annual remount of a popular production completely free of charge to all audience members.

Located in downtown Washington, D.C., STC performs in two theatres, the 451-seat Lansburgh Theatre and the 774-seat Sidney Harman Hall. In addition to STC productions appearing year-round, these spaces also accommodate presentations from outstanding local performing arts groups and nationally renowned organizations. The Company has been a fixture in the vibrant Penn Quarter neighborhood since 1992.

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

EW.com: See exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from The Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China

Photo: Drew Struzan
Photo: Drew Struzan

When it was released three decades ago, John Carpenter’s modern Western-cum-martial arts epic Big Trouble in Little China was greeted by a tepid reception at the box office and often negative reviews (Roger Ebert began his assessment of the film with the words “It seems like a great idea” and then concluded it was not). But, like Carpenter’s 1982 horror film The Thing, this tale of a befuddled truck driver (Kurt Russell), his much more competent partner (Dennis Dun) and the monster-filled fantasia they encounter beneath the streets of San Francisco has been positively reassessed over time and is now regarded as a cult classic.

This August, BOOM! Studios is marking the 30th anniversary of the movie by publishing The Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China, which includes hundreds of never-before-seen photos and exclusive interviews with cast and crew members.

Click here to read the interview with authors Tara Bennett and Paul Terry, who talk about their book and their love for Carpenter’s weird, wonderful creation.

Video: HIDE AND SEEK Starring Lia Chang and Garth Kravits to Screen in 2016 Katra Film Series in New York on May 14; Complete Lineup
BLACK SALT Premiere and UASE Diversity in Action Panel Discussion featuring Warrington Hudlin, Lia Chang, Taimak, Kinyumba Mutakabbir, Mike Hodge, Kelly Edwards, Bobby Samuels and Vincent Lyn
Up Close and Personal with Actor Peter Kwong 
Photos: Inside HorrorHound and Son of Monsterpalooza with ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ stars Peter Kwong, James Hong and James Pax 
Photos: Traveling through the mouth of the Dragon with BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA’s James Hong, Peter Kwong, Lia Chang, Gerald Okamura, George Cheung, Al Leong, Jeff Imada, James Lew, Gary Goldman, Eric Lee ‪
lookitseugeneabano.wordpress.com: Big Trouble in Little China Revisited- Picture Heavy
Funko to Release Big Trouble in Little China Pop! and ReAction Figures

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Photos: Santino Fontana, André De Shields, John Larroquette, Nikki Renée Daniels, Bryce Pinkham, John Behlmann, Christiane Noll and More in New York City Center’s Encores! 1776 through April 3

Santino Fontana (John Adams), John Larroquette (Benjamin Franklin), John Behlmann (Thomas Jefferson). Photo by Joan Marcus
Santino Fontana (John Adams), John Larroquette (Benjamin Franklin), John Behlmann (Thomas Jefferson). Photo by Joan Marcus

The Encores! production of 1776, the classic Tony Award-winning musical about how the founding fathers drafted the Declaration of Independence and gave birth to a new nation, directed by Garry Hynes, featuring choreography by Chris Bailey and guest music direction by Ben Whiteley, is currently having a limited run tonight  at New York City Center, 131 W 55th St (btwn 6th & 7th) through April 3. Click here for tickets and more information.

Production Photos: Joan Marcus

Terence Archie (Dr. Joshiah Bartlett), André De Shields (Stephen Hopkins), Laird Mackintosh (James Wilson), and Bryce Pinkham (John Dickinson). Photo by Joan Marcus.
Terence Archie (Dr. Joshiah Bartlett), André De Shields (Stephen Hopkins), Laird Mackintosh (James Wilson), and Bryce Pinkham (John Dickinson). Photo by Joan Marcus.

The diverse cast of 1776 includes Santino Fontana as John Adams, John Behlmann as Thomas Jefferson, John Larroquette as Benjamin Franklin, André De Shields as Stephen Hopkins, Bryce Pinkham as John Dickinson, Nikki Renée Daniels as Martha Jefferson, Christiane Noll as Abigail Adams, Michael McCormick as John Hancock, Alexander Gemignani as Edward Rutledge, Robert Sella as Charles Thomson, and Jubilant Sykes as Richard Henry Lee.

Nikki Renée Daniels (Martha Jefferson), and Santino Fontana (John Adams). Photo by Joan Marcus.
Nikki Renée Daniels (Martha Jefferson), and Santino Fontana (John Adams). Photo by Joan Marcus.

The cast also features Wayne Pretlow as Roger Sherman, Terence Archie as Dr. Josiah Bartlett, Larry Bull as Col. Thomas McKean, Macintyre Dixon as Andrew McNair, John Hickok as Dr. Lyman Hall, John Hillner as Lewis Morris, Kevin Ligon as George Read, John-Michael Lyles as A Courier, Laird Mackintosh as Judge James Wilson, Michael Medeiros as Caesar Rodney, Tom Alan Robbins as Rev. Jonathan Witherspoon, Ric Stoneback as Samuel Chase, Vishal Vaidya as A Leather Apron, Nicholas Ward as Joseph Hughes, and Jacob Keith Watson as Robert Livingston.

Bryce Pinkham (John Dickinson) and company. Photo by Joan Marcus
Bryce Pinkham (John Dickinson) and company. Photo by Joan Marcus

1776 features such beloved songs as “Sit Down, John,” “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men,” and “He Plays the Violin.” Written by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone, 1776 opened on Broadway on March 16, 1969, and ran for 1217 performances.

John Michael Lyles (A Courier). Photo by Joan Marcus
John Michael Lyles (A Courier). Photo by Joan Marcus
John Behlmann (Thomas Jefferson), Wayne Pretlow (Roger Sherman), John Larroquette (Benjamin Franklin), Jacob Keith Watson (Robert Livingston), and Santino Fontana (John Adams). Photo by Joan Marcus.
John Behlmann (Thomas Jefferson), Wayne Pretlow (Roger Sherman), John Larroquette (Benjamin Franklin), Jacob Keith Watson (Robert Livingston), and Santino Fontana (John Adams). Photo by Joan Marcus.

Performance Schedule:
Wed and Thu at 7:30pm, Fri at 8pm, Sat at 2 & 8pm, Sun at 2 & 7pm

Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards
Book by Peter Stone
Based on a Concept by Sherman Edwards
Original Production Directed by Peter Hunt
Originally Produced on the Broadway Stage by Stuart Ostrow

1776 ARTISTS

John Behlmann (Thomas Jefferson), and Santino Fontana (John Adams) Photo by Joan Marcus.
John Behlmann (Thomas Jefferson), and Santino Fontana (John Adams) Photo by Joan Marcus.

John Behlmann (Thomas Jefferson) Broadway: Journey’s End. Off-Broadway: Important Hats… (MTC); Significant Other (Roundabout); Pretty Filthy (The Civilians); The 39 Steps (New World Stages); This Is Not J.A.W.S. (Dixon Place); and Wild Animals You Should Know (MCC). Ars Nova: Eager to Lose and Trapeze Hero! (ANT Fest 2013). Regional: Bull Durham (Alliance). Film: The Wolf of Wall Street and Revolutionary Road. TV: “I Shudder” (upcoming), “Blue Bloods,” “The Good Wife,” and “3 lbs.” Mr. Behlmann runs the trapeze theater company Fight or Flight. Training: NTC and Wesleyan.

Nikki Renée Daniels (Martha Jefferson) is currently appearing on Broadway as Nabulungi in The Book of Mormon. Other Broadway credits include The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (Clara); Les Misérables (Fantine); Promises, Promises; and Anything Goes. TV/Film: “Chappelle’s Show,” The Other Woman, and “The Sound of Music Live!” City Center Encores!: The Apple Tree. Ms. Daniels has performed as a soloist at Carnegie Hall and with symphony orchestras across the country. Her debut solo CD Home is available on iTunes and CDbaby.

André De Shields and Bryce Pinkham backstage after the dress rehearsal of "1776" at New York City Center on March 29, 2016. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields and Bryce Pinkham backstage after the dress rehearsal of “1776” at New York City Center on March 29, 2016. Photo by Lia Chang

André De Shields (Stephen Hopkins) has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, and educator in a career spanning 47 years. He has received the National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award and the Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. A multiple Tony Award nominee, Mr. De Shields is best known for his show-stopping performances in six legendary Broadway productions: Impressionism, Prymate, The Full Monty, Play On!, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and The Wiz.

Santino Fontana (John Adams). Photo by Joan Marcus.
Santino Fontana (John Adams). Photo by Joan Marcus.

Santino Fontana (John Adams) City Center Encores!: Zorba! and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (upcoming). Broadway: Act One, Cinderella (Tony Award nomination), The Importance of Being Earnest (Clarence Derwent Award), Billy Elliot, Brighton Beach Memoirs (Drama Desk Award), and Sunday in the Park with George. New York theater: Sons of the Prophet (Lortel and Obie Awards), The Fantasticks, and Perfect Harmony (co-writer). Regional: Six Degrees of Separation, Death of a Salesman, A Christmas Carol, As You Like It, Hamlet (Guthrie); Love’s Labour’s Lost, On the Verge, September 11th Project (Chautauqua Theater Co.) Film: Sisters; Frozen; Nancy, Please; and Jack Ryan: Shadow Hunter. TV: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Shades of Blue,” “The Good Wife,” “The Money,” “Royal Pains,” “Nurse Jackie,” and “Made in Jersey.”

Alexander Gemignani (Edward Rutledge). Photo by Joan Marcus
Alexander Gemignani (Edward Rutledge). Photo by Joan Marcus

Alexander Gemignani (Edward Rutledge) Broadway: Violet (Father), Chicago (Billy Flynn), Les Misérables (Valjean, Drama League Award nomination), Sweeney Todd (Beadle, Drama Desk Award nomination), Assassins (John Hinckley, Theatre World Award), The People in the Picture (Moishe), and Sunday in the Park with George (Boatman/Dennis). Off-Broadway: Road Show at The Public (Addison, Drama League Award nomination), Headstrong at Ensemble Studio Theatre (Nick), and Avenue Q at the Vineyard (Brian). As a composer/lyricist, he is currently developing three new musicals and has composed incidental music for a number of plays. Proud graduate of the University of Michigan.

Santino Fontana (John Adams), John Larroquette (Benjamin Franklin), John Behlmann (Thomas Jefferson). Photo by Joan Marcus.
Santino Fontana (John Adams), John Larroquette (Benjamin Franklin), John Behlmann (Thomas Jefferson). Photo by Joan Marcus.

John Larroquette (Benjamin Franklin), a five-time Emmy winner, has been a strong force in the television industry since 1975. Mr. Larroquette is best known for his role as Assistant District Attorney Dan Fielding on NBC’s “Night Court,” along with his comedic lead role in “The John Larroquette Show.” On the big screen, Larroquette starred in Richie Rich opposite Macaulay Culkin. He has also appeared on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Theatre World Award) and Gore Vidal’s The Best Man.

Christiane Noll (Abigail Adams), and Santino Fontana (John Adams)
Christiane Noll (Abigail Adams), and Santino Fontana (John Adams)

Christiane Noll (Abigail Adams) received Tony Award and Drama Desk Award nominations for her performance as Mother in the 2009 Broadway revival of Ragtime. Broadway/tour: Chaplin, Jekyll & Hyde, Urinetown, It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues, Miss Saigon, and City of Angels. Film/TV: “The Sound of Music Live!” and The King and I (singing Anna). City Center Encores!: Out Of This World and The New Moon. Other theater: Kid Victory (Signature) and Closer Than Ever (The York). She has performed at the Washington National Opera with Placido Domingo; in symphony concerts internationally and in all 50 states; and in Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series.

Bryce Pinkham (John Dickinson) and company. Photo by Joan Marcus
Bryce Pinkham (John Dickinson) and company. Photo by Joan Marcus

Bryce Pinkham (John Dickinson) Broadway: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations), The Heidi Chronicles (Drama League Award nomination), Ghost, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Off-Broadway: Love’s Labour’s Lost (Shakespeare in the Park) and The Orphans’ Home Cycle (Signature). TV: “The Good Wife” and “Person of Interest.” Film: The Comedian (with Robert De Niro, upcoming). Bryce is a proud Annenberg Fellow and a graduate of the Yale School of Drama. He is the co-founder of Zara Aina, a charity for at-risk children in Madagascar.

Jubilant Sykes (Richard Henry Lee) is an American baritone whose career has taken him from the Apollo Theater to the Met, from the New Orleans Jazz Festival to Carnegie Hall, and to theaters across the United States and Europe, where he has appeared with such artists as Julie Andrews and Renée Fleming. He starred in Daniel Beaty’s play Breath & Imagination (dir. Darko Tresnjak) at Hartford Stage, and was featured in the Cuba Gooding, Jr. film Freedom. Mr. Sykes is a Grammy Award nominee for his 2008 recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Garry Hynes (Director) was a co-founder of the award-winning Druid Theatre Company. She was Druid’s artistic director from 1975 to 1991, and again from 1995 to present. Ms. Hynes was the artistic director of Abbey Theatre from 1991 to 1994. She has also worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Royal Court, Second Stage, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Kennedy Center, the Center Theatre Group, and the Spoleto Festival. Ms. Hynes holds the distinction of being the first female to win a Tony Award for direction of a play.

Music Director Ben Whitely, Nikki Renée Daniels, André De Shields and Bryce Pinkham backstage after the dress rehearsal of "1776" at New York City Center on March 29, 2016. Photo by Lia Chang
Music Director Ben Whitely, Nikki Renée Daniels, André De Shields and Bryce Pinkham backstage after the dress rehearsal of “1776” at New York City Center on March 29, 2016. Photo by Lia Chang

Ben Whiteley (Guest Music Director) Broadway/national tours: The Addams Family, A Christmas Story, Spamalot, The Full Monty, Cats, Grand Hotel, Falsettos, and Big. Carnegie Hall: Sail Away with Elaine Stritch and Carnegie Hall Salutes Comden and Green. New York Philharmonic: Choral Direction for Carousel (PBS), My Fair Lady. Regional credits include the MUNY, Paper Mill Playhouse, and 5th Avenue Theatre. He has served as Associate Music Director and/or done choral preparation for over 25 Encores! productions, including The Most Happy Fella, Paint Your Wagon, and Merrily We Roll Along. Recordings: Allegro and Boardwalk Empire (Grammy Award).

Chris Bailey (Choreographer) Credits as a choreographer include Assassins (Menier Chocolate Factory), Cyrano de Bergerac (Roundabout), and Dancing Shadows (Seoul Arts Center). He was associate choreographer for Broadway productions of Promises, Promises; How to Succeed…; Evita; and Cry Baby; and for West End productions of Guys and Dolls, Evita, and Once in a Lifetime. He has been associate Choreographer for the Academy Awards for the last three years, and co-choreographed the 2013 Tony Awards. Film credits include Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and Ted 2.

The 2016 Encores! season is made possible, in part, by Stacey and Eric Mindich, Nathalie and Pablo Salame, The Shubert Foundation, and The Stephanie and Fred Shuman Fund for Encores!.

Theatermania.com: Preview Clips From the Starry 1776 Revival at City Center Encores!

Playbill.com: Diversifying 1776: “The Present Doesn’t Look Like a Bunch of White People”

Playbill.com: Casting Complete for Encores! 1776

Theatermania.com: Santino Fontana, André De Shields, John Larroquette to Star in Encores! 1776

Broadwayworld.com: Nikki Renee Daniels, André De Shields, John Larroquette & More Will Lead Starry Cast of Encores! 1776

André De Shields, John Behlmann, Nikki Renée Daniels, Santino Fontana, Alexander Gemignani, John Larroquette, Christiane Noll, Bryce Pinkham, Jubilant Sykes, and more will star in the Encores! production of 1776, directed by Garry Hynes, Mar 30—Apr 3

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek, which will screen at Asians on Film on March 10th, The Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia on March 13th and the Disorient Film Festival in Eugene Oregon in April. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2016 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at lia@liachangphotography.com

Multimedia: Garth Kravits Featured on Latest Episode of Joel B. New’s SOMETHING NEW Podcast

In Episode 406 of “Something New” — a musical theatre podcast that interviews artists and premieres original songs — award-winning songwriter Joel B. New sat down with Garth Kravits, co-creator and co-host of “Playball Podcast.”

Joel B New, Garth Kravits. Photo by Lia Chang
Joel B New, Garth Kravits. Photo by Lia Chang
Garth Kravits. Photo by Lia Chang
Garth Kravits. Photo by Lia Chang

Garth Kravits is an actor, singer, musician and composer and award-winning filmmaker. He made his Broadway debut in the musical The Drowsy Chaperone. Kravits has appeared in the Off-Broadway productions of Old Jews Telling Jokes and Toxic Audio Loudmouth; regionally in Gettin’ The Band Back Together, Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play, and It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, (Bucks County Playhouse); The Producers (Gateway Playhouse) and Happy Days: A New Musical (Goodspeed Opera House); and as Benny Southstreet in the regional tour of Guys and Dolls. On television, Kravits has guest starred on “30 Rock,”” The Blacklist,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Hostages,” “Tin Man” and “The Carrie Diaries”. He and Sean Dougherty host the “Playball Podcast,” where Broadway professionals get passionate about sports. For more info, visit www.garthkravits.com and www.playballpodcast.com.

Joel B New, Garth Kravits, Josh Kight. Photo by Lia Chang
Joel B New, Garth Kravits, Josh Kight. Photo by Lia Chang

For the live song portion of the episode, Mr. Kravits performed “The Night Cafe.” Music and lyrics by Joel B. New. Inspired by the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh. Accompanied by Josh Kight on piano. This performance can be heard on SoundCloud and seen on YouTube.

New is currently in pre-production for his solo EP Cabot Cove, a collection of songs inspired by book titles referenced to in the TV series “Murder, She Wrote,” starring Tony Award winner Angela Lansbury. The Kickstarter campaign to fund said album runs thru April 6th.

“Something New” is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

Joel B. New, Garth Kravits, Josh Kight. Photo by Lia Chang
Joel B. New, Garth Kravits, Josh Kight. Photo by Lia Chang

Joel B. New is the recipient of an American Theatre Wing Jonathan Larson Grant for his music and lyrics. His stage projects include TO HELL AND BACK, MACKENZIE & THE MISSING BOY, AWAKENING (book: Jenny Stafford, music: J. Oconer Navarro), STANDALONE, AGATHA IN THE ATTIC, and RSVP. Joel’s work has been seen and developed at Ars Nova, Lincoln Center, 54 Below, New York Theatre Barn, Prospect Theater Company, Musical Theatre Factory, and the 2015 New York Musical Theatre Festival. For more info, visit joelbnew.com.

Broadwayworld.com: Garth Kravits Featured on Latest Episode of SOMETHING NEW Podcast
Broadwayworld.com: TUNE IN TIME Returns to York Theatre Company Next Week
Broadwayworld.com: TAGE TUBE: Cut&Dry Films Releases OSCAR VOTE 2016
Broadwayworld.com: STAGE TUBE: Check Out Stage Vets Garth Kravits and Lora Lee Gayer’s #YEEHOCKEY Country Sports Musical Spoof
Garth Kravits and Benjamin Halstead win TUNE IN TIME Musical Theater Song Writing Competition at The York Theatre 
An Afternoon with Garth Kravits of Bucks County Playhouse’s ‘It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’
Photos: Garth Kravits, Michael Keyloun, Klea Blackhurst, Eloise Kropp, Maxine Linehan, and Aaron Ramey in GROUNDED FOR LIFE at The York

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek, which will screen at the Disorient Film Festival in Eugene Oregon in April. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2016 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at lia@liachangphotography.com

Joshua Henry, Gayle Turner, Robert McKay and Tracey Conyer Lee Visit Colman Domingo’s DOT at the Vineyard Theatre; Extended Run Ends on March 24

Marjorie Johnson, Lia Chang and Sharon Washington. Photo by Garth Kravits
Marjorie Johnson, Lia Chang and Sharon Washington. Photo by Garth Kravits

For most of the Sunday matinee of Colman Domingo’s new heartbreakingly funny play DOT at the Vineyard Theatre, starring  Marjorie Johnson, Sharon Washington, Colin Hanlon, Stephen Conrad Moore, Libya V. Pugh, Michael Rosen and Finnerty Steeves, I was on the verge of laughter and tears.

dotHelmed by Susan Stroman, DOT opened Tuesday, February 23rd and its extended run ends on Thursday, March 24th. The limited engagement was originally scheduled to run through Sunday, March 20th. The remaining performances are Monday, March 21th @ 7pm, Tuesday, March 22nd @ 7pm, Wednesday, March 23rd @ 7pm and Thursday, March 24 @ 2pm and 8pm.For tickets and information, visit www.vineyardtheatre.org or call 212-353-0303.

Finnerty Steeves, Libya V. Pugh, Robert McKay, Marjorie Johnson, Joshua Henry and Sharon Washington. Photo by Lia Chang
Finnerty Steeves, Libya V. Pugh, Robert McKay, Marjorie Johnson, Joshua Henry and Sharon Washington. Photo by Lia Chang

Washington’s former Scottsboro Boys’ cast mate Joshua Henry, who is currently starring on Broadway in Shuffle AlongRobert McKay (“Daredevil,” “Gotham”),  Gayle Turner (original Broadway cast of The Wiz) and Tracey Conyer Lee (Bedbugs!!!, Sistas: The Musical) visited with the cast backstage.

Tracey Conyer Lee, Gayle Turner and Marjorie Johnson. Photo by Garth Kravits
Tracey Conyer Lee, Gayle Turner and Marjorie Johnson. Photo by Garth Kravits

In DOT, the holidays are always a wild family affair at the Shealy house. But this year, Dotty (Marjorie Johnson) and her three grown children, Shelly (Sharon Washington), Donnie (Stephen Conrad Moore), Averie (Libya V. Pugh)  gather for the holidays with more than exchanging presents on their minds. As Dotty struggles to hold on to her memory, her children fight to balance care for their mother and care for themselves.

Sharon Washington, Marjorie Johnson, Finnerty Steeves. Photo by Carol Rosegg
Sharon Washington, Marjorie Johnson, Finnerty Steeves. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Kudos to the terrific cast and creative team for telling this very relevant, relatable and timely story.

My grandmother, Nancy Lee Chang celebrated her 90th birthday on July 16, 2011.
My grandmother, Nancy Lee Chang celebrated her 90th birthday on July 16, 2011.

I have first hand experience with Dementia and Alzheimer in my family, having witnessed the decline of my beloved feisty grandmother, Nancy Lee Chang. At 80 years of age, she was independent, self-sufficient, vital, strong as an ox and still going to the gym everyday, but after the unexpected death of my mother in 1999 and injuries related to being hit by a car, she began to change. Over the course of the play, I was in tears numerous times because of the all too familiar drama unfolding onstage.

Coming to America through The Angel Island Immigration Station

On Tuesday, March 22nd, DOT director Susan Stroman will be joined by Tony Award-winning actor and advocate David Hyde Pierce (Vineyard’s THE LANDING, director of Broadway’s IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU) for a discussion of themes raised by the play following the 7pm performance of DOT. Pierce has worked with The Alzheimer’s Association for nearly twenty years as a board member and national spokesperson. He has testified before Congress and served on the federal Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services, providing guidance to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. In 2010, he was awarded the Tony Awards’ Isabelle Stevenson Award for his work in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

Sharon Washington, Libya V. Pugh, Colin Hanlon, Stephen Conrad Moore. Photo by Carol Rosegg
Sharon Washington, Libya V. Pugh, Colin Hanlon, Stephen Conrad Moore. Photo by Carol Rosegg

WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING ABOUT DOT:

“CRITICS’ PICK!

UPROARIOUSLY FUNNY! DEEPLY MOVING!

A thoroughly entertaining comedy-drama, an impressive advance for Colman Domingo. Dotty is played with glowing warmth and sensitivity by Marjorie Johnson. THE CAST IS TERRIFIC.” – Charles Isherwood, The New York Times

“‘DOT’ IS DISARMINGLY FUNNY AND MOST REWARDING!

Kudos to the Vineyard Theatre’s highly engaging production, helmed by the celebrated Broadway veteran Susan Stroman. She strikes a most responsive chord. The ensemble of seven is ideal. Marjorie Johnson delivers beautifully!” – Roma Torre, NY1

“‘DOT’ IS ROLLICKING AND AFFECTING!

VERY FUNNY, VERY MOVING AND PROPELLED BY A WONDERFUL TEAM OF ACTORS.

Susan Stroman does a perceptive job with this comedy-drama. All seven actors gloriously shine. Sharon Washington is a thorough joy. Colin Hanlon and Michael Rosen give humorous and sensitive performances. Finnerty Steeves is uproariously funny. Colman Domingo provides the audience with NONSTOP LAUGHTER AND TENDER SENSITIVITY.” – Steven Suskin, The Huffington Post

“A MAGNIFICENT NEW PLAY! FULL OF LAUGHTER AND HEARTBREAK.

The actors knock it out of the park. Marjorie Johnson astounds us with her performance. Stephen Conrad Moore and Colin Hanlon are masters. Libya V. Pugh is just plain fun as Averie. Colman Domingo tackles the subject with intelligence, heart and humor. A CAPTIVATING PRODUCTION!” – Zachary Stewart,TheaterMania

Michael Rosen, Marjorie Johnson. Photo by Carol Rosegg
Michael Rosen, Marjorie Johnson. Photo by Carol Rosegg

“A GUT-WRENCHING DRAMA!

Colman Domingo is in his finest form yet as a playwright.” – Matthew Murray, Talkin’ Broadway

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek, which will screen at the Disorient Film Festival in Eugene Oregon in April. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2016 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at lia@liachangphotography.com

Actors James Hong, Tzi Ma and Elizabeth Sung Talk Shop

Elizabeth Sung, James Hong and Tzi Ma at the SIXTY Lower East Side Hotel in New York on December 11, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang
Elizabeth Sung, James Hong and Tzi Ma at the SIXTY Lower East Side Hotel in New York on December 11, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Veteran actors James HongTzi Ma and Elizabeth Sung were in New York in December to shoot the Season 4, episode 14 of “Elementary,” entitled, “Who Is That Masked Man?”,  which stars Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller, with Larry Teng at the helm. The episode aired on Thursday, February 25, 2016 on the CBS Television Network. For more information, click here.

Director Larry Teng, James Hong and Lucy Liu on the set of "Elementary". Photo courtesy of James Hong's Facebook Page
Director Larry Teng, James Hong and Lucy Liu on the set of “Elementary”. Photo courtesy of James Hong’s Facebook Page

When three gang members are murdered, Holmes and Watson are amazed when an elderly woman emerges as their prime suspect.

Lucy Liu and Elizabeth Sung in "Elementary".
Lucy Liu and Elizabeth Sung in “Elementary”.

The fact that they were working on the same set in the same city is a rare occasion. Their relationship is quite familial. They were gracious enough to sit down with me on their day off from shooting to talk about their collective histories in the business.

James Hong. Photo by Lia Chang
James Hong. Photo by Lia Chang

James Hong’s career as an actor, writer and producer spans seven decades. Hong has acquired credits of 500 roles in feature films and television, probably the most of any actor. His credits include Big Trouble in Little ChinaBlade RunnerChinatownWayne’s World 2, and “Seinfeld”. He also recently starred in “Agents of Shield” with Ming-Na Wen, Kung-Fu Panda 1, 2 & 3Balls of FuryThe Day the Earth Stood StillThe Lost Medallion and RIPD starring Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon and Jeff Bridges.

James Hong, Jack Nicholson in Chinatown Copyright: © 1974 Paramount Pictures
James Hong, Jack Nicholson in Chinatown Copyright: © 1974 Paramount Pictures

Hong is one of the founders of the East-West Players, the oldest and largest Asian American theater in Los Angeles. He served as president and charter member of the Association of Asian Pacific American Artists and was a former member of the SAG Board of Directors under Charleton Heston as president. 

James Hong as Hannibal Chew in Blade Runner. © 1982 Warner Brothers Pictures
James Hong as Hannibal Chew in Blade Runner. © 1982 Warner Brothers Pictures
Elizabeth Sung. Photo by Lia Chang
Elizabeth Sung. Photo by Lia Chang

Elizabeth Sung was raised in Hong Kong and is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin. Her first TV role was with Hong in 1988, on the set of “The Equalizer” with Russell Wong as her love interest. From 1994-96, she was a series regular in the 1st Asian American storyline on the “Young and the Restless” as  Luan Volien Abbott and is memorable as the second wife in The Joy Luck Club.

Elizabeth Sung as Second Wife in "The Joy Luck Club"
Elizabeth Sung as Second Wife in “The Joy Luck Club”
Classic Soap Opera Digest Cover Date: January 31, 1995- Elizabeth Sung, Peter Bergman and Phillip Moon
Classic Soap Opera Digest Cover Date: January 31, 1995- Elizabeth Sung, Peter Bergman and Phillip Moon

Other roles on film include Memoirs of a GeishaLethal Weapon 4, Falling for Grace, Ping Pong Playa,  Finding Madison, The People I’ve Slept With, House Under Siege, Go for Sisters, Tango and Cash, China Cry, Death Ring and Yes And. Her television credits include “China Beach,” “Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes,” “Kojak: Flowers for Matty,” “Knots Landing,” “Charmed,” “Border Line,” “ER,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Passions,” “NYPD Blue,” “For the People,” “Crossing Jordan,” “House M.D.,” “E-Ring,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “The Sopranos,” “Ni Hao, Kai-Lan,” “The Suite Life on Deck,” “The Forgotten,”  “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Flashforward,” “Bones,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Awake,” “Mike & Molly,” “Shameless,” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”.  She has appeared in the short films GodlikeWoman in FragmentsNuptials of the DeadThe Boxer, and the webisodes Who’s in ChargeMiss Guidance and Meet the Kayak.

Elizabeth Sung and Joan Cusack in Showtime's "Shameless"
Elizabeth Sung and Joan Cusack in Showtime’s “Shameless”

Sung was in the Directing Workshop for Women at the American Film Institute where she made her first award winning film, Requiem (1995). Her graduate thesis film, The Water Ghost (1998), earned Sung an MFA in directing from the AFI. She garnered the 2013 Golden Angel Award for Best Supporting Actress at the 9th Annual Chinese American Film Festival, and the 2013 Asians on Film Best Supporting Actress Award for her role of the mother in Steve Myung’s Anita Ho, one of her favorite projects to date. She holds a BFA in Dance from The Juilliard School and was a member of The Alvin Ailey Repertory Dance Company. Her current projects include the pilot “Lees of LA,” and she can be seen in the films Front CoverPali RoadFallen Stars and The Unbidden at film festivals around the country.

Tzi Ma as Cheng Zhi in 24: Live Another Day Photo: FOX
Tzi Ma as Cheng Zhi in 24: Live Another Day
Photo: FOX

Tzi Ma has worked in film, television, and on stage for four decades creating such memorable characters as the recurring role of Cheng Zhi, nemesis to Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer on the hit series 24 and 24: Live Another Day, and playing opposite Tom Hanks in Joel and Ethan Coen’s remake of The Ladykillers. Ma worked with Hong on the the film Red Corner (1997), and two TV series,” The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.” (1994) and  “Millennium” (1999).

Ryan Hurst, Tom Hanks, J.K. Simmons and Tzi Ma in The Ladykillers (2004). Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon, SMPSP – © 2004 – Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.
Ryan Hurst, Tom Hanks, J.K. Simmons and Tzi Ma in The Ladykillers (2004). Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon, SMPSP – © 2004 – Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.

Ma’s distinguished body of work, also includes roles in such films as Million Dollar ArmRush HourRush Hour 3The Quiet AmericanAkeelah and the BeeDante’s PeakChain ReactionGolden Gate, Diablo and Rapid Fire. His television credits include “Satisfaction,” “Commander-in-Chief,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Fringe,”” The Practice,” “Law & Order,” “ER,” “NYPD Blue,” “Boomtown” and “Chicago Hope”. I caught up with Ma last summer when he was in New York for a screening of AMC’s “Hell on Wheels” at the Asian American International Film Festival.

Byron Mann, Tzi Ma, Angela Zhou attend the AAIFF2015 screening of AMC’s Hell on Wheels at Village East Cinema in New York on July 31, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang
Byron Mann, Tzi Ma, Angela Zhou attend the AAIFF2015 screening of AMC’s Hell on Wheels at Village East Cinema in New York on July 31, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Since then, Ma has worked on Denis Villeneuve‘s sci-fi film Story of Your Life in Montreal and on The Jade Pendant directed by Po-Chih Leong, a wonderful Chinese/English director, in Salt Lake City.  He finished the second season of “Satisfaction” in his recurring role as the Zen Master in Atlanta; worked on Lorne Michael’s “Man Seeking Woman,”  with Simon Rich in Toronto; guest starred on the ABC procedural drama “Stitchers” and on the TNT sitcom “Angie Tribeca” with Rashida Jones. Ma is the youngest of seven children born in Hong Kong and was reared in New York City.

Grace Truman (Stephanie Szostak) and the Zen Master (Tzi Ma) in Satisfaction. (c) USA Network
Grace Truman (Stephanie Szostak) and the Zen Master (Tzi Ma) in Satisfaction. (c) USA Network

In-depth profile: In Conversation With Tzi Ma

Elizabeth Sung and Tzi Ma on location Hawaii for "Pali Road".
Elizabeth Sung and Tzi Ma on location Hawaii for “Pali Road”.

Sung and Ma are featured as husband and wife in the independent film Pali Road which is set for theatrical release on April 29, 2016, and is currently screening on the film festival circuit.

CAAMFest 2016: PALI ROAD starring Michelle Chen, Jackson Rathbone, Sung Kang, Henry Ian Cusick, Tzi Ma and Elizabeth Sung Screens on Mar. 12

Elizabeth Sung, James Hong and Tzi Ma at the SIXTY Lower East Side Hotel in New York on December 11, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang
Elizabeth Sung, James Hong and Tzi Ma at the SIXTY Lower East Side Hotel in New York on December 11, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: What was your first project together?
Tzi: Elizabeth and I started out as lovers on a film called Half Ass by Vic Huey in 1986. We played lovers. We sang this Cantonese opera song. (they sing) For Pali Road, we were in Hawaii for 3 ½ weeks. We had a great time. I fed her everyday. (laugh)
Elizabeth: Fresh fish from the ocean that he caught with his bare hands. I first worked with James on an episode of “The Equalizer” in 1988. I was a poor dancer/maybe prostitute. James played my father. Mako was the gangster lord. Russell Wong played my love interest.
James: Kim Chan and Mako were in it. Mako was a very memorable person, actor. You can never forget him. He had that style of silence, when he goes hmm- it means yes and it means no. Wonderful guy.

Lia: Last April, the Japanese American National Museum in LA had a sold out screening of Big Trouble in Little China, and we enjoyed a reunion of our fellow cast members Peter Kwong, Gerald Okamura, Al Leong, George Cheung, James Lew, Jeff Imada, and screenwriter Gary Goldman. Please share your experience with Big Trouble in Little China.
James: There’s many more films on the horizon for me, but there will never be another Big Trouble in Little China. I’ll tell you why. I started East West Players, 51 years ago. We paid for the theaters ourselves, out of our own pocket to perform, now they are on a sizable budget.  I hope they keep going with new leadership, now that Tim Dang has stepped down. It means a lot to the Asian American actors to have an organization like East West Players, someplace to go to. And look at how many actors and actresses got their chance, coming out of East West Players. They perform such good plays. It’s getting a lot of recognition, nationwide. We need that to augment the actors that we have now, and the ones that are coming. I see so many faces on the television of people that have sort of graduated from East West. It’s a wonderful place for training.

A Big Trouble in Little China reunion with Peter Kwong, screenwriter Gary Goldman, James Lew, George Cheung, James Hong, Lia Chang, Gerald Okamura, Jeff Imada, Joycelyn Lew, Al Leong and Eric Lee at JANM's Tateuchi Democracy Forum in LA on April 8, 2015. Photo by Tami Chang.
A Big Trouble in Little China reunion with Peter Kwong, screenwriter Gary Goldman, James Lew, George Cheung, James Hong, Lia Chang, Gerald Okamura, Jeff Imada, Joycelyn Lew, Al Leong and Eric Lee at JANM’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum in LA on April 8, 2015. Photo by Tami Chang.
James Hong. Photo by Lia Chang
James Hong. Photo by Lia Chang

Big Trouble in Little China was the kind of movie for us, martial artists, the greatest of all, actors, writers, that movie, John gave us all a chance. In fact, Jim Lau, James Lew and Jeff Imada were stunt coordinators, choreographers, and were promoted to associate producers by the end, that’s how hard they worked. So that was the kind of atmosphere that existed on the set. I slept outside the stage, overnight in a little small trailer, got up and put on the makeup. In those days, we couldn’t afford much. It was a tough shoot but it was the best we could do at that time and everybody had high hopes. Believe it or not, that whole film was made for 25 million dollars. Now it would cost you close to 150. Everybody here put 150% of effort into that movie, way beyond what they were paid.  But for some reason, the studio did not put the publicity behind it. They put it into Alien, which became a huge hit, so Big Trouble lagged behind. It’s found it’s own cult audience.

Big Trouble in Little China Cast Reunion 

Peter Kwong, James Hong, and James Pax at HorrorHound Weekend Indianapolis, September 2015.
BTILC stars Peter Kwong (Rain), James Hong (David Lo Pan), and James Pax (Lightning) at HorrorHound Weekend Indianapolis, September 2015.

Lia: David Lo Pan is such an iconic character. What is the reaction that you get from fans?
James: It’s amazing, when you do a film, you don’t know which one is going to become popular. Blade Runner also was a great film, and you could see that coming. But Big Trouble, you didn’t know because it was so new for its time. John Carpenter got the idea from Raymond Chow of Hong Kong to do a film as such. But he put his own trademark on it. For some reason, the hidden values and gimmicks that Carpenter put in have become alive nowadays. When I do go to the conventions, that is the most popular role I have ever done, among the 100’s that I have done. They remember that one. I have no idea why. That’s the way films are, you don’t know which one will grow.

Photo of Leelee Sobieski from The Idol (2002) with James Hong
Photo of Leelee Sobieski from The Idol (2002) with James Hong

Lia: What are your three top favorite projects?
James: Big Trouble is my top favorite because I did do three roles rolled into one. Blade Runner, Chinatown. One of the movies that has never been shown here in America is L’Idole, a French film, which stars Leelee Sobieski. I went to Paris for two months and made it in 2002. It was all in French. I didn’t speak a word of it, but I learned approximately 400 words in French. I was about 80 or so. It was a taxing situation, but I loved it. The French people are so great. There is something about them that is very different from the American people. I wish them luck in the future. I play an older man, but a main character, as a human being, rather than being a cliché.

Lia: With the long career that you’ve had, is there some role that you’d like to play, or a director that you would like to work with?
James: I’d like to work for myself. I’ve produced and directed some films before. Now I’d like to get back into it and do a couple more films before I retire, travel a little and enjoy life. I look at these wonderful actors next to me and say yeah, I knew them before.

James: All of you listeners and readers, please let us know, we seldom get a reaction from an Asian American audience as to what is happening. Do they like our work, do they not like it? Please write in and we will answer your questions.

James Hong (Center) in "Elementary".
James Hong (Center) in “Elementary”.

James: Something about Tzi Ma, he is so busy these days, he reminds me a little bit of what I used to do. He’s hopping from one film to another. He was late getting here because he was on another set in another city. Congratulations on that.

Tzi: Thank you James. If I could follow in your steps, I’m good.

Tzi Ma in "Elementary".
Tzi Ma in “Elementary”.

Lia: What did you mean when you said that you are currently being accessed for your funny?
Tzi: It’s kind of weird, I don’t know where it came from. My last sitcom before “Man Seeking Woman” was “Head of the Class,” which was 1000 years ago, with that kid, Jonathan Ke Quan. I’ve always turned those things down, because we are the butt of the joke. I don’t want to be the butt of the joke. There are a lot of great sitcoms that ask for our participation, like “Seinfeld” or even “Friends”. And every time I look at those scripts, I can’t do them. We’re always the butt of the joke. Not really the participant of the joke. Whereas “Man Seeking Woman” and Angie Tribeca,” we are the motivators of the joke. So it is a big difference. I’ve often had a problem with sitcoms, but all of a sudden, two sitcoms back to back. I don’t know what generated that interest. I don’t know why they asked me to do it, because these are all straight offers.

Lucy Liu, Jonny Lee Miller and Tzi Ma in "Elementary".
Lucy Liu, Jonny Lee Miller and Tzi Ma in “Elementary”.

Lia: What is your character in “Elementary”?
Tzi: I haven’t had time to read the script. I will read the script over the weekend. The only thing that we are clear about it since these characters are Triad characters is that they need to speak Cantonese as opposed to Mandarin. The script was written in Mandarin. Liz and I had a discussion about it, so we brought it up to the director and he agrees. The director of this episode, Larry Teng, is Asian American. It goes to show you the advantage of having a director who knows the background. He knows that Triads do not speak Mandarin, they speak Cantonese. That is the advantage of working with someone who is Asian American or Chinese American because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or recite the encyclopedia for them to understand what your motivations are, what you are doing, what your relationships are. It’s something that we do, practically on a per project base. We practically have to explain ourselves on a daily basis because they don’t know. It is a lot easier to work on a project when you have three actors who know what they are doing, who knows where they are, and a director that knows everything about us. That’s kind of cool.

12658051_1876241662657215_7739090337491590125_oLia: Pali Road is currently on the Film Festival circuit. Can you tell me more about it?
Tzi: Pali Road is a new experience. It is the first time for me working with a Chinese director who cut his teeth making films in China. He was educated in Australia and Vancouver. His directorial debut was a Chinese film. The film was financed and already had distribution in China. The lead actress is from Taiwan. She has done some films in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan.

Lia: Did you like working in Hawaii?
Tzi: Yes. We were in the North Shore. The North Shore is not Waikiki. The North Shore is serene, spiritual, and it rains more on the North Shore. You really get all the benefits of all the native ions coming from the ocean. We were staying at Turtle Bay resort, and we were at the apex of the island. Every morning, I just opened the lanai doors and absorbed all that good energy. It was relaxing for us. It was something that I think given the circumstances on a low budget film, everybody is under the gun, and a lot of pressure on everybody to make the film within 18 shooting days, so I think that if we were in another location, it might have been very taxing for us. The fact that we were on the North Shore, it really gave us the opportunity to at least take a breather. We don’t feel like we’re constantly on edge, given the schedule and all the work that we had to do with the script, rehearsals, locations. I think as a location, it served us, served the project in a very meaningful and positive way.

Elizabeth Sung and Tzi Ma play husband and wife in the upcoming film Pali Road. Photo by Lia Chang
Elizabeth Sung and Tzi Ma play husband and wife in the upcoming film Pali Road. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: Can you speak to your relationship? 
Elizabeth: I’ve known Tzi for more than two decades. When I heard of Tzi then, we were both dancers, coming from the dance world. When I saw his face at The Public Theater, Dance and the Railroad, I thought, “Who is this guy?” Then, I got to know him through friends. At that time, we’d not had the chance to work together until our friend created the film short Half-Ass in 1986. By then, we knew each other a lot better.

John Lone and Tzi Ma in a poster of The Dance and The Railroad. Courtesy of Tzi Ma
John Lone and Tzi Ma in a poster of The Dance and The Railroad. Courtesy of Tzi Ma

He’s always been an inspiration, like spearheading a lot of things. He never just takes a script at face value. He always digs and finds other angles. That’s very inspirational. If you have a mediocre script, or not so very good script, Tzi is going to make it live. He’s always been my challenge. To work with him, that’s what I love. You have a good sparring partner.

Elizabeth Sung and Tzi Ma in "Pali Road".
Elizabeth Sung and Tzi Ma in “Pali Road”.

One of the things that I treasure, with  Pali Road, how do we make the characters that we play, husband and wife, the parents of this girl- how do we make this relationship with her, the parents, live? We were from China, and yet we’re concerned for her. How do we make that intriguing, exciting, familiar, with depth to provoke thoughts within the audience’s mind? Or have them look at themselves to be reflective.

6da6dfb33058562e7e725fb65460eed3Lia: What was your favorite project that you worked on?
Elizabeth: For me, never the big budget projects. It has always been the independent project, where the script comes to you and it’s not quite there. And the filmmaker, the ones that I choose to work with are open-minded, you can have discussions and they will take input. You see the script evolve. My romantic comedy project, Anita Ho, the character, the mother’s character was not quite present. Through discussions and working at it, that became a major counterpart to the two leads.

"Anita Ho" 2013 Chinese American Film Festival Golden Angel Award for - Best Comedy - director, writer, actor / Steve Myung, producer, writer, actress / Lina So Golden Angel Award - Best Actress in a Supporting Role / Elizabeth Sung.
“Anita Ho” 2013 Chinese American Film Festival Golden Angel Award for – Best Comedy – director, writer, actor / Steve Myung, producer, writer, actress / Lina So Golden Angel Award – Best Actress in a Supporting Role / Elizabeth Sung.

Lia: And your favorite project with Elizabeth?
Tzi: I would have to say, Half-Ass. The first one. That scene was supposed to be the genesis of a script. It was like a sizzle reel. It was the beginning, a germination of a project that he wanted to do, which we participated in. Sometimes, you don’t see things at the moment. Sometime later, you realize that those things are the most valuable things that you could do. We got to know one another better. We formed a relationship. We know who we are. It just so happened that somehow the universe put us in the same city, because I went out to LA. Next thing you know, she was in LA. Before that, we were in New York together. Once we parted ways in terms of where we are going, and then to see each other, the bond became stronger. Through the years, these things lead to other things. Without Half-Ass, I may not even know Elizabeth. So really, hindsight is always quite rewarding when you look back and say, wow, if that didn’t happen, some of these things may not have happened.

Lia Chang, Bea Soong, Phil Nee, Elizabeth Sung, Eugenia Yuan, Jason Tobin, Tzi Ma and Vic Huey at the #AAIFF2015 screening of Jasmine at Village East Cinema in New York on July 30, 2015. Photo by Ursula Liang
Lia Chang, Bea Soong, Phil Nee, Elizabeth Sung, Eugenia Yuan, Jason Tobin, Tzi Ma and Vic Huey at the #AAIFF2015 screening of Jasmine at Village East Cinema in New York on July 30, 2015. Photo by Ursula Liang

Lia: How has it been navigating as an Asian American actress in the industry and directing?
Elizabeth: Not easy. As an Asian American actress, from my time in the industry, because what was available then, and what is more available now, it was either prostitutes or waitresses. Sometimes you may have some social worker roles, or reporter. But now, it’s a lot more professional women, not just fresh off the boat. It’s still an uphill battle. Not easy. That’s why I said, for the independent projects that I participate in or that I can lend my support, I really do enjoy them. Especially to Asian American directors who write a story that is compelling and that has something to say.

In terms of my directing, it all came from realizing after the Miss Saigon protest, where the role of the Engineer role was supposed to be half Asian and went to a Caucasian who put prosthetics on his eyelids. Tzi was a very vocal representative of all of us. We sweat and we fought for, after the show opened, that this part needed to go to an Asian American actors. In that big movement, what I did learn is somebody who put the project together, with the money, as long as you talk about it, they are the ones that initiate it. If you don’t have the story, and you don’t have the money to give life to a project. The voice many not be as powerful. I went to the director workshop at AFI first. I went back to school to get my degree in directing from the American Film Institute. I realized from my dance background that one short project does not make me a director. Coming from Hong Kong, I need structure. I’m not that self-motivated, like Tzi. I need to be in an environment where there are classrooms so that everything is there for me to do a few more projects. I have put my directing on hold for a little bit, strictly for financial reasons (student loans are high).

With the whole digital revolution, I want to reconsider. It is a very different time. Especially with the possibility of doing co-productions, with like-minded people with East and West. The chance of getting film projects off the ground is a lot easier, if one can find like-minded people.

Tzi Ma in "Elementary".
Tzi Ma in “Elementary”.

Lia: Have you ever considered directing?
Tzi: I have. I’ve directed theater. I enjoy the directing process. I think I can make some contribution as a director. I feel my strength would come from working with the actors. I do understand their journey, I understand their experience. It’s really a welcoming sight when you see a Chinese American director. With this particular episode, we don’t have to recite the Bible for this guy. At least you don’t have to worry about these little things like, I remember working on two or three projects back to back, when I go to the set, I see the same Qing Dynasty painting on three different shows. You run into these kinds of generalities of who we are. They don’t know it.

I think our contributions as directors, is that we have the innate understanding of the culture; we have experienced their experiences, so that they don’t have to go home and struggle and say how do I present the right picture for this director? Which is what we do all the time. We go home, beat our head against the wall. Ok, what are we going to say to this guy? How are we going to say it? In what context do we present it? I just want my actors to go home, do their work, do their preparation, come to the set and I will be there to protect them. I think that’s key, for our presence behind the camera.

Because the struggles that we went through, such as what Liz said about Miss Saigon, is that there’s also a genesis to that too. That character was not Eurasian. At first, the character was Asian. Then after Jonathan Pryce took the role as the Asian with prosthetics, and we saw the cast album, there were pictures of him in yellow face. That’s when we did the complaint. After we complained, that’s when the character became Eurasian. They said, “well why not, because it is a Eurasian character, we can cast Jonathan Pryce. Now the character is Eurasian, and it is okay to cast a white actor. So we know that again, we need to empower ourselves, in every aspect. That’s why I approach scripts the way that I do as an actor. I want to empower me as an actor. I don’t want to walk in a room and relinquish the creative process to someone else’s hand. I know it is untrustworthy. Now, if he is Asian American, then I feel a little better, because then I don’t have to worry about not trusting him.

It’s a process. My advice to young actors is never shy away from saying what you need to say. Eventually, you’ll get better at it. In the beginning, it was terrible. The stuff that came out of my mouth was offensive and abrasive. I couldn’t get anywhere. I didn’t know how. Eventually, I learned how to say it. That comes from experience. Every opportunity you get, speak your mind. Because the more you practice on how to present that, you’ll get better at doing it. You’ll become more articulate. Your points will become more precise. You have to be very specific about what those points are, because time is precious. Usually when a project gets going, once the actors get involved, it’s off. It’s a bullet train that’s left the station already. You’ve got to go in there with your guns loaded, everything laid out on the table. ‘These are my concerns. What do you think?’ So there is a point of departure.

Lucy Liu and Elizabeth Sung in "Elementary".
Lucy Liu and Elizabeth Sung in “Elementary”.

The beauty of working with somebody you know, like working with Liz, since we know each other, we can get together before hand. Like this project. We called each other over the phone, talked about what was important. How do we present it to the director? It’s about being specific. Where are we and at what time are we talking about? We are in New York Chinatown, current time. This organization, if you are a Triad or a Tong, they are a very specific organization. It’s not like they are one. The writers don’t know there is a difference. For us, as professional actors, ultimately, we hold the responsibility. You’re not going to see the director on the screen. You’re not going to see the writer on the screen. You’re going to see us on the screen. It’s like self-survival. I don’t want to look bad. I don’t want Liz to look bad. We really have to do our due diligence. That’s made our working easier because we know each other. We’re familiar with each other’s work. We have the respect and the admiration of each other’s work. We can sit down and speak openly about what are concerns are, how do we handle it, how do we deal with it. Some things are not just about reality. Not about the truth itself.

Lucy Liu and Elizabeth Sung in "Elementary".
Lucy Liu and Elizabeth Sung in “Elementary”.

For instance, Pali Road is a film for China. There are some things you cannot do because it is going to be shown in China. So now we have to figure out a way to help the director get over that hump. He doesn’t even know. This is an important part of the script and an important part of the scene. But it may not get past the censor. We need to think about strategies on how to say the same thing, get the same results and pass the censors too. That’s an added responsibility.

Elizabeth Sung in "Elementary".
Elizabeth Sung in “Elementary”.

Elizabeth: I have to give a shot out to the director Larry Teng. I worked with him on “Hawaii Five-O”. He told me that it was his first freelance project as a director. This time, after Tzi and I had a discussion about the dialect, we contacted Larry and he was open. He was raised in Queens. He had a conversation with each of us, so he said, “I agree.” So after the two voices, plus his initial instinct, it’s a triple reinforcement that he approached the writers to say that this language dialect needs to be authentically Cantonese. So, this way sometimes a director, an Asian American, needs support from the cast. Not just one person holding the banner. It’s not enough. We come in knowing the culture. Tzi grew up in Chinatown. I lived in New York from the 70’s to 80’s, 16 years. I have knowledge, watching TV and reading newspapers that Mandarin will not do. Another thing that I do appreciate Larry, when they were working on my first day, he said, “It is important to me to not perpetuate stereotypes. I want to go for the humanity of this character. Because he said it is too easy to do the other thing. This is one thing that I don’t want to perpetuate as a director.” He had this little sidebar conversation. I said I respect you and I support you 100%. I am there.

Aidan Quinn and Tzi Ma in "Elementary".
Aidan Quinn and Tzi Ma in “Elementary”.

Tzi: Most productions that hire one of us or both of us are very lucky because we know, at least to a point where the characters are properly written. For example, if we were shooting “Hell on Wheels,” it wouldn’t have simplified characters, and we’re able to catch it. This didn’t exist in 1870. It has to be the traditional characters. As far as the experience in Chinatown is concerned, we know that experience. I lived it; I lived at 34 Henry Street. IN that sense, we’re an asset.

Actor Tzi Ma attends the AAIFF2015 screening of AMC’s Hell on Wheels at Village East Cinema in New York on July 31, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang
Actor Tzi Ma attends the AAIFF2015 screening of AMC’s Hell on Wheels at Village East Cinema in New York on July 31, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Elizabeth: And the director appreciates that because he has back up. A lot of time, you pick your battles. As a director, there are many of them. If you are able to support him in presenting his case, then he has one less battle to fight. If we can do that for him, that’s great.

Lia: What’s next for you?
Elizabeth: I am working with an Asian American indie director, who has written a story for Asian characters, two sets of families- how they converge in LA, and how each of them affected each other. They went through a journey. It is an ensemble story. It will be an interesting story to tell and my character is a mother who has done all the wrong things with the best of intentions, and yet learned at the end of the day.

Tzi: I’m working on an independent film called Mediation Park by Mina Shum, who is a wonderful Canadian director. Sandy’s (Sandra Oh) in all her films. I think Sandy is like her alter ego. Sandy is also in this film. This film is really quite poignant. It’s about a woman, who all her life is dependent on the husband to do everything-to provide, to take care of the daily chores, bank account, insurance, and he dies. Now what is she going to do? She’s on her own now, completely. How does this woman learn to not only be self-reliant, but who she is. When you are with this husband who has done everything and has had full control of you, you’ve lost you. You’re only part of him. How does this woman find her? This is a woman’s story.

Here’s the funny part-when I was in Vancouver for a meeting with Mina, I was in a bank to get some money. There was a long line, and I saw that woman online, gorgeously dressed, quite elderly, she walks to the counter and she pulled out about 10 cards. She had no idea what any of those cards were. She said, “These are all my husband’s cards. These are all the accounts that I have. I’ve never even seen them. I don’t know what to do. If I need money, I don’t know how to take it out.” Good thing the staff was so nice to her. I’m standing there. Life is stranger than fiction. I was just mesmerized by this woman, because I just read the script. And there she is right in front of me.

Elizabeth Sung, Tzi Ma and Lia Chang
Elizabeth Sung, Tzi Ma and Lia Chang
Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek, which will screen at Asians on Film on March 10th, The Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia on March 13th and the Disorient Film Festival in Eugene Oregon in April. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2016 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at lia@liachangphotography.com

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Elizabeth Sung, Tzi Ma and James Hong to Guest Star on ‘Elementary’ on Feb. 25

Elizabeth Sung, James Hong and Tzi Ma at the SIXTY Lower East Side Hotel in New York on December 11, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang
Elizabeth Sung, James Hong and Tzi Ma at the SIXTY Lower East Side Hotel in New York on December 11, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Elizabeth Sung, Tzi Ma and James Hong are guest starring in the Season 4, episode 14 of “Elementary,” entitled, “Who Is That Masked Man?” which airs on Thursday, February 25, 2016, at 10:00PM ET/PT on the CBS Television Network. For more information, click here.

Click below for my in-depth interview with the trio.

Actors James Hong, Tzi Ma and Elizabeth Sung Talk Shop

Elizabeth Sung in "Elementary".
Elizabeth Sung in “Elementary”.

Synopsis:
When Holmes’ investigation into the attempt on Morland’s life pushes their strained relationship to the breaking point, the identity of Sherlock’s mother is revealed. Also, when three gang members are murdered, Holmes and Watson are amazed when an elderly woman emerges as their prime suspect. The episode is written by Jason Tacey and directed by Larry Teng.

Lucy Liu and Elizabeth Sung in "Elementary".
Lucy Liu and Elizabeth Sung in “Elementary”.

“Elementary” stars Lucy Liu as Joan Watson, Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Homes, Aidan Quinn as Captain Tommy Gregson, Jon Michael Hill  as Detective Marcus Bell and John Noble as Mr. Morland Holmes.

James Hong (Center) in 'Elementary'.
James Hong (Center) in ‘Elementary’.
  • GUEST CAST:
  • Elizabeth Sung (Bai May-Lung)
  • Eddie Korbich (Sven Eklund)
  • Joe Mazzello (Griffin)
  • James Hong (Meng Zhou)
  • Tzi Ma (Xi Hai Ching)
  • Kevin Kilner (Michael Haas)
  • Charlotte Bydwell (Soleil)

In Conversation With Tzi Ma

Lucy Liu, Jonny Lee Miller and Tzi Ma in "Elementary".
Lucy Liu, Jonny Lee Miller and Tzi Ma in “Elementary”.
Tzi Ma in "Elementary".
Tzi Ma in “Elementary”.
Aidan Quinn and Tzi Ma in "Elementary".
Aidan Quinn and Tzi Ma in “Elementary”.
James Hong in "Elementary".
James Hong in “Elementary”.
Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek, which will screen which will screen at Asians on Film on March 10th, The Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia on March 13th and the Disorient Film Festival in Eugene Oregon in April. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2016 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at lia@liachangphotography.com

Q & A: Denise Burse talks ‘Anesthesia’, Netflix’s ‘Black Mirror’, and ‘Brownsville Song (B-Side for Tray)’

Denise Burse. Photo by Lia Chang
Denise Burse. Photo by Lia Chang

Denise Burse, most familiar to television audiences as Claretha Jenkins on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, can currently be seen on the big screen in Anesthesia, actor-director Tim Blake Nelson’s new thought-provoking drama, where she plays a West Indian nurse opposite K. Todd Freeman, a man fighting drug addiction.

The cast also features Tim Blake Nelson, Sam Waterston, Jessica Hecht, Kristen Stewart, Corey Stoll, Glenn Close, Gretchen Mol, and Michael Kenneth Williams.

CV4lSoVXIAAGIov

Thanksgiving came early for Ms. Burse when she booked an episode of Netflix’s critically acclaimed sci-fi anthology series Black Mirror, directed by Owen Harris, which she shot on location in London and Capetown. Black Mirror, created by the satirist and Newswipe presenter Charlie Brooker, is executive produced by Brooker and Annabel Jones. The streaming service is in the midst of producing 12 all-new episodes.

Denise Burse ("Claretha Jenkins," left) and Cassi Davis ("Ella Payne," right) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment's TYLER PERRY'S HOUSE OF PAYNE: VOLUME ONE. Photo: Lionsgate
Denise Burse (“Claretha Jenkins,” left) and Cassi Davis (“Ella Payne,” right) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s TYLER PERRY’S HOUSE OF PAYNE: VOLUME ONE. Photo: Lionsgate

Ms. Burse returns to the stage in Seattle Rep’s production of Brownsville Song (B-Side for Tray) by Kimber Lee
, directed by Juliette Carrillo, March 25 – April 24, 2016. Click here for more information on the show and buy tickets.

I caught up with the jetsetter the day after her birthday on January 13th to talk about her new projects, August Wilson and The 52nd Street Project.

Chang: Happy Birthday to you. How did you spend your birthday?
Burse: We went to see The Color Purple. We ran into Billy Porter backstage while visiting our friend Kevyn Morrow, who plays Pa in the show, Joaquina Kalukango (Nettie) and Danielle Brooks (Sophia). We met a lot of the cast backstage including Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo. Cynthia’s performance is nuanced, calibrated, and we were drawn in immediately. She deserves to win the Tony. She had just had her birthday on the 8th. It is an amazing production. The concept is so special in that the story itself is front and center, which allows for the performances to stand out even more. Everyone should treat themselves by seeing this show.

Cynthia Erivo, Joaquina Kalukango. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Cynthia Erivo, Joaquina Kalukango. Photo by Matthew Murphy

imagesChang: So your experience with Black Mirror was quite a whirlwind. Do tell.
Burse: The Black Mirror team called my agent saying that somebody recommended me to the casting people and the director as a match for Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Concussion). To my knowledge they did not come to the States to cast. The process started on Nov. 12th or 13th. I had a skype session with Owen, the director, on the 16th or 17th. They made sure my passport was in order and I flew to London right before Thanksgiving. I returned home at the end of November, got my travel documents in order for South Africa, and was on a plane to Capetown on December 10th for the second component of the shoot. My connection was through Johannesburg, and in consideration of the long flying time, Netflix was generous enough to fly me first class, which made the flight a lot more humane.

Chang: Who do you play?
Burse: I play Elder Kelly, she is the elder version of Gugu’s character.

gamesradar.com: Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror heads to Netflix with first casting announcements

Den of Geek: Black Mirror Season 3 News: Gugu Mbatha-Raw & Mackenzie Davis Cast

Bustle: ‘Black Mirror’ Season 3 Is Happening Soon & It’ll Feature Some Familiar Faces

Chang: Are you a Sci-fi fan?
Burse: I am a big fan of good story telling. The genre doesn’t matter as long as the story is well told.

Chang: Have you been to London before?
Burse: It was my first time for both London and Capetown. I had a little time in London, but because I was in such a rush to leave the States, I was still sort of jet lagged. One day off I slept. I did not get to venture out too far. I saw some of the countryside on rides to the film location. My driver explained what the areas were. I stayed at the very posh hotel, The Landmark London Hotel in downtown London, so I saw the big shops, and the quaint shops.

Chang: What was your experience working on Black Mirror?
Burse: My time on set and off with Black Mirror was pretty amazing. The executive producers, directors, designers, cast and crew all seemed to be very open and welcomed me as a part of the team. I have very high admiration for the work ethic and atmosphere that my director, Owen Harris, created on set. All of the supporting crew, the makeup and costume people doted on me so that my character’s look was fully realized in the aging process.

Chang: What did you discover that you have in common with Gugu?
Burse: I finally had the chance to meet her during table read. We were both young when our parents divorced. We have a mole in the same spot on our face, and right hand. We’re both petite, and we like good music, good conversation and a good laugh.

Belle-2014-movie-poster

Boris Kodjoe (as Steven Bloom) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (as Samantha Bloom) in NBC's Undercovers. Photo by Art Streiber and copyright of NBC.
Boris Kodjoe (as Steven Bloom) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (as Samantha Bloom) in NBC’s Undercovers. Photo by Art Streiber and copyright of NBC.

Chang: We really enjoyed her when we saw her in Belle.
Burse: She’s gorgeous and a real talent. I first saw her work in Undercovers, the television show she did with Boris Kodjoe, and have admired her work over the years.

Chang: In February, you’re off to rehearse for Seattle Rep’s production of Brownsville Song (B-Side for Tray) by Kimber Lee. Who do you play?
Burse: I play a woman named Lena, who is the matriarch of her family, raising her deceased son’s children. It is essentially the story of the kinds of issues that families face in environments that are clearly unsafe, that are riddled with crime that goes unresolved, where people feel underprotected, and often unheard. It’s the story of this family and how they survive in these kinds of circumstances and conditions. How you rise above each time to sojourn on and try to get through life in spite of the circumstances. It’s the tale of this one particular family and a young life that was cut short.

On October 16, 2005, fourteen days after American playwright August Wilson's death, the theatre was renamed in his honor. (l-r) August Wilson's niece Kimberly Ellis with Radio Golf castmembers Denise Burse, John Earl Jelks and Anthony Chisholm in front of the August Wilson Theatre on October 16, 2005. Photos by Lia Chang
On October 16, 2005, fourteen days after American playwright August Wilson’s death, the theatre was renamed in his honor. (l-r) August Wilson’s niece Kimberly Ellis with Radio Golf castmembers Denise Burse, John Earl Jelks and Anthony Chisholm in front of the August Wilson Theatre on October 16, 2005. Photo by Lia Chang

Chang: This is your third time at Seattle Rep. What were your other shows?
Burse: I was at Seattle Rep the first time in ’93. I went to do a production of The Piano Lesson.  Lloyd Richards was still alive and directed it. It was such a dream job to have the experience of being directed by such a fine director who had made the journey with August Wilson, early on with so many of his plays. The second time I was there was for another August Wilson play, Radio Golf. It was on the journey of getting it to Broadway.

Chang: What was your experience with August Wilson?
Burse: Whenever there was a production being done of one his plays, particularly in the beginning stages, Mr. Wilson made a point of being in the room so he could listen and watch the director and actors work. I was fortunate to have his presence during two of the shows that I worked on even though they had had a Broadway production. During the work on Radio Golf, Mr Wilson was diagnosed with cancer and wasn’t able to be present in the room. But he continued to work on the play from home until the very end. The art world suffered a great loss with his passing. We are ver fortunate that he created a body of work that will live on for many generations to come.

Denise Burse Fernandez and her husband Peter Jay Fernandez. Photo by Lia Chang
Denise Burse Fernandez and her husband Peter Jay Fernandez. Photo by Lia Chang

Chang: You and your husband Peter Jay Fernandez are among the countless professional theater artists who have mentored and nurtured kids of The 52nd Street Project for more than two decades. What does The 52nd Street Project mean to you?
Burse: I feel very blessed to have had this kind of opportunity. Making art with the kids at The 52nd Street Project over 20 plus years has been a real joy. I’ve nurtured personal and professional experiences throughout my time with The 52nd Street Project that have continued to give back. Work opportunities, like being considered for the film Anesthesia, came about because of those relationships. It has been more than beneficial.