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Posts Tagged Mu Performing Arts

Playwright Victor Maog Talks About “tot”

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As Park Square Theatre presents its regional premiere of Calendar Girls on the Proscenium Stage this week, Mu Performing Arts will stage the world premiere of totThe Untold, Yet Spectacular Story of (a filipino) Hulk Hogan on Park Square’s Boss Thrust Stage.  The play is written by Victor Maog, who was named one of American Theatre Magazine’s “20 Theatre Workers You Should Know” (October 2015).

Victor Maog received the Mu Performing Arts/Jerome Foundation New Performance Program commission to write tot, his first full-length play.  This opportunity came about after a fortuitous encounter with Rick Shiomi, founder and — at the time — Artistic Director of Mu, in 2013 at a conference in Philadelphia.  Although he was known more as a director, Maog accepted Shiomi’s offer to write a play even though he did not yet know what to write about.  Many months later with the deadline looming, Maog finally gave into his fears to dig deep within himself to examine what it means to be Asian and American.  And tot was born.

Despite being one of the largest immigrant groups, Maog notices that Filipinos appear to not be as visible as other Asian groups, lacking much literature, films, or other documentation; the Filipino story tends not to take center stage.   In Mu’s press release, Maog stated, “I’m proud to build upon the too-few produced works that explore the Filipino-American experience.”

As described in Mu’s press release, “the play follows the life of an immigrant boy named tot who travels from the Ferdinand Marcos-ruled Philippines to the San Francisco Bay Area to meet his long lost parents.  He journeys from a country full of strife and military rule only to find himself in his lonely American bedroom conjuring a pro wrestling fantasy to escape his new life.”  The lead character, tot, will be played by current Mu Artistic Director, Randy Reyes, who said, “Victor Maog wrote a play that I connect with in so many ways, it’s scary.  It’s as if he wrote it about me.  Not literally, but emotionally and spiritually.”

The character tot is also not literally Maog.  In the play, tot comes to America when he is 9 years old; Maog immigrated from the Philippines at 6-1/2.  Like tot, Maog played with wrestling figures and watched a lot of wrestling on television; unlike tot, wrestling did not overtake his everyday life.  Much of what Maog conjures on stage is his reality and imagination mixed together— a way to create a play with suspense which will entertainment and delight the audience as much as to carry the personal emotional truths that will resonate with those who understand the sense of loneliness, the need to be seen and loved, and the struggle to figure out one’s identity which tot experiences.  As Maog puts it, “tot echoes my own life questions.”

 

(Note:  Also be sure not to miss Park Square Theatre’s co-production with Mu Performing Arts, Flower Drum Song, in our 2016-2017 season.)

True Gems

I was recently inspired by Matthew Glover’s blogs on June 1 (“When 40 Feels Like a Lot”) and June 3 (“The Finish Line”). Glover was co-Director and Project Lead on Sandbox Theatre’s Queens, which just ended its run on Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage. Each of his posts gave us a glimpse of the immense dedication of artists to bring their creations to audiences, regardless of size, and how they feel called to give beyond the best of themselves—in this case, performing through excruciating pain from an injury.

Glover made me recall how I had discovered Sandbox Theatre at Park Square Theatre last season. The ensemble was performing War With the Newts, also on the Boss Stage and as part of Park Square’s Theatres in Residence Series. It was a truly groundbreaking production, described as “a deep exploration of the themes of nationalism, exploitative business practices and human nature’s self-destructive tendencies.” In short, humanity faced extinction at the hands of anthropomorphic newts. Reviewers described the play as “quirky” and “darkly funny.” The utter originality of the production simply blew my mind—in a very good way, leading me to see it twice.

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As you can imagine, I could not wait to see Queens this season. But like War With the Newts, Queens also fought for a larger audience, though both garnered good reviews. The sheer quiet beauty of the sure-footed performances made me want to see Queens again as well, though I was unable to do so this time.

In a May 25 review on Queens in City Pages, Jay Gabler wrote, “If you’re willing to set aside your expectations of a conventional narrative, though, you’ll find a show built on trust—trust among the performers, trust in the material, and trust in the audience.” I think that his words would also ring true for War With the Newts a year ago. Sandbox Theatre does excellent but unconventional work that may challenge the audience in new ways; and, often, cutting-edge art takes time to be recognized for the gem that it is—to, essentially, build an audience.

Pondering on the incredible dedication of Sandbox Theatre to its craft made me think about all the other smaller theatres in the Twin Cities that have or will perform at Park Square Theatre this season–Wonderlust Productions, Mu Performing Arts, Other Tiger Productions and Flying Foot Forum–and how they “sweat blood” to inspire us, broaden and challenge our views, and bring us together.

New start-ups, such as Full Circle Theatre (co-founded by Rick Shiomi who was also co-founder of Mu Performing Arts) and Hero Now Theatre (which cast our own Vincent Hannam in its inaugural play), have only cropped up this past year; and you can be sure that others will keep coming, all bent on working to build mutual understanding and inspire a better future.

I encourage you to come and engage with these and other theatres as you discover their existence. Come be challenged. Come to explore. Come to receive their gifts—always with an open mind.

 

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