A version of this article ran in American Theatre Online, a publication of Theater Communications Group. Randy Reyes is the president of the CAATA board, a member of TCG’s board, and artistic director of Theater Mu.
When I was asked to write an article about the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists’ (CAATA) 6th National Asian American Theater Conference and Festival (ConFest) in Chicago for American Theatre online, I felt profoundly overwhelmed. One, because I’m not a writer, and two—how would I encapsulate seven days of conference sessions, plenaries, workshops, breakouts, convenings, play readings, festival shows, talk backs, a protest (No Aloha Poke Co), the opening of Crazy Rich Asians, happy hours, receptions, partner events, and hot Asian everythings, into one online article? How would I be able to summarize the experiences of attendees who used adjectives like “inspiring,” “incredible,” “exhausted,” “life-affirming,” “breathtaking,” “amazing” and “life changing”?
How do I describe the solidarity-building with other communities of color, the centering of the Native Hawaiian experience, the undeniable presence of the next generation of Asian Pacific Island theatre artists and practitioners, the beautiful complexities of identity and the messy conversations that are so badly needed, and the desperate attempts to decolonize our selves, our practices, and the spaces we inhabit? How do I put into words the feeling of family, both old and new, that gets together every other year, and the bittersweet pain of saying goodbye until next time?
It’s impossible, so I decided to not even try! Instead I made a list of all the week’s happenings and everyone who participated. I’m hoping that reading the titles and names will make you curious and further investigate, and at the same time lift up the names of everyone who made up ConFest 2018. The titles read like a poem, and the diversity of names is inspiring. This is an homage to a community that refuses to be invisible, and to all our allies!
I apologize for any misspellings or omissions of umlauts, dashes, and accent marks, and if I left anything or anyone out. I did my best to collect all the lists but I’m sure I’ve left people and events out. I’m sorry in advance! (Also, this is online, so if you see anything wrong let us know.)
To give context to the list, here is my welcome speech at the opening plenary, written by Leslie Ishii and Joan Osato:
CAATA’s mission is to advance the field of Asian American theatre through a national network of organizations and artists. We collaborate to inspire learning and sharing of knowledge, and resources to promote a healthy, sustainable artistic ecology.
As a collective of Asian American theatre leaders and artists, we bring together local and regional leaders to work nationally toward our shared values of social justice, artistic diversity, cultural equity, and inclusion. We hold national conferences and festivals biennially in different parts of the country, reaching as wide a range of Asian American populations and communities as possible. We survey Asian American theatre artists and organizations to find out their foremost concerns. We form alliances with other theatre groups of different affinities to advance mutual goals cooperatively and to exchange ideas and strategies.
The last Confest at Oregon Shakespeare Festival was about seismic shifts in Asian American theatre. It intentionally sought the inclusion of other voices into the movement and movement building. This included cross-sector work around refugees, and new immigrants to this country, building consensus and challenging us to expand our perception of “our cultures.”
This year’s conference, Revolutionary Acts, continues to build momentum, is inclusionary in nature, and hopes to disrupt systemic and structural oppression, and create a new vision built by, about, and for us in this room.
The week’s events, in no particular order:
New China Festival
Our Perspective: Asian American Play Readings
Hot Asian Everything: Revolt!
The Brothers Paranormal
Stir Friday Night
Merchant on Venice
The Book of Mountains and Seas
The Sitayana (or, How to Make an Exit)
Instrumental Journey, This Is Not a True Story
Face to the Sun
Language Revitalization, Storytelling, and Translation: Language as a Revolutionary Act
China Kid Blues
The Room Where It Happens
Let’s Talk Story!
Talkin’ Bout a Revolution: Teaching Asian American Radical Performance
Beyond Representation: How to Cast Asian American Actors, Even at a PWI (Predominantly White Institution)
People of Color Leaders Convening
Meet Murasaki Shikibu: Excerpts From a Play About Cultural Assimilation
Theatre of Terrorism: Media Problematics & Future Solutions
The Playwright-Director Relationship: Collaboration and Evolution
Listening as a Revolutionary Act
Revolutionary Processes: Deep Engagement Wtih Community in Devised Theatre Practice
Theatre & Media: Alternative Reality, Experimental Revolutions, and What We Can Learn From Today’s Influencers
Creating Theatre in the Age of Trump
Crossing Bridges: Move Backs With Actors, Audiences, and Our Many Generations
Change From Within: Field Notes on Subverting Dominant Narrative
The Great American Musical
For the Sake of the Children: #BooYellowface, No Camps, No Ban, No Wall!
Beyond Criticism: Fusing Public Academia & Performance in the 21st Century
Centering Our Voices Is a Revolutionary Act
No Aloha Poke Co
Following her opening keynote address, Tammy Haili’ōpua Baker (front row, far left) is joined by (back row, L to R) Kaipu Baker, Cocoa Chandelier, Lelea’e “Buffy” Kahalepuna-Wong, Moses Goods, Hannah Ii-Epstein, Christpoher K. Morgan, and (front row, L to R) Andi Meyer, Lanialoha Lee-Sumberg, and Leilani Chan. (Photo by Andrew Fillmore)
And the participants, in mostly alphabetical order:
May Adrales, Cocoa Chandelier aka Sami L.A. Akuna, Byron Au Yong, Brian Allard, Aureen Almario, Kristine Amarante, Caro Asercion, Andrea Assaf, Anna Bahow, Tammy Hailiopua Baker, Kaipulaumakaniolono Baker, Karmann Bajuyo, Brian Balcom, Yoshie Bancroft, Kareem Bandealy, Vera Bedard, Micah Bevis, Anu Bhatt, Carolyn Hu Bradbury, Danny Bryck, Adrian Budhu, Emilya Cachapero, Patty Cachapero, Brad Carlson, Anthea Carns, Tiffanie Carson, Jonathan Castanien, Nydia Castillo, Chuan-Chi Chan, Marina Chan, Leilani Chan, Euginie Chan, Tisa Chang, Elena Chang, Ben Chang, Caroline Chang, Lia Chang, Ada Chen, Alex Chester, Desdemona Chiang, Adithi Chandrashekar, Julia Cho, Preston Choi, Cat Chow, Gordon Chow, Ciarlene Coleman, Ako Dachs, Bernardo Mazon Daher, Tim Dang, Alex de Miranda Silva, Mia Dedear, Snehal Desai, Andrea DiCarlo, Menaka Deolekar, Wesley Du, Kevin Duong, Chongren Fan, Aizzah Fatima, Mike Foster, Aislinn Frantz, Minita Gandhi, Samantha Garcia, Sevan GreeneErica Geiser, Noelle Ghoussaini, Malik Gillani, Rukmini Girish, Andrew Goldberg, Michael Gomez, Anais Gonzalez Nyberg, Moses Goods, Sevan Greene, Elizabeth Haas, Steve Han, Scott Hanada, Kamal Hans, Harrison Hapin, Masood Haque, Sareen Hariabedian, Chisao Hata, Julie Haverkate, Aya Esther Hayashi, Cara Hinh, JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell, Howard Ho, Kathy Hsieh, David Henry Hwang, Claudia Iao, Hanna Ii-Epstein, Cheryl Ikemiya, Leslie Ishii, Julia Izumi, Tanuja Jagernauth, Sheena Janson Kelley, Anish Jethmalani, Andrew Jordan, Rajiv Joseph, Jesse Joe, Sharifa Johka, Margaret Jumonville, Maria Jung, Kennedy Kabasares, Hana Kadoyama, Min Kahng, Erik Kaiko, Murtaza Kapasi, Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Kealoha Kelekolio, Jamil Khoury, Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo, Soomi Kim, Zoe Kim, Risa Kirosaki, Vanessa Kucera, Peter Kuo, Karen Larkin, Ngan Le, Avery Lee, Diana Lee, Helen Joo Lee, Josephine Lee, Esther Lee, Kenjiro Lee, Sandy Lee, Lanialoha Lee, Diana Lee, Jamie Leonard, Ginger Leopoldo, Rebecca Lee Lerman, Karen Li, Ramona Li, Dan Lin, Yilong Liu, Jeff Liu, Sarah Lo, Louise Loeb, Renee Lockett, Paloma Locsin, Gideon-Patrick Lorete, Andy Lowe, Jade Lun, Chris Lysy, Meena Malik, Julia Malta-Weingard, Jonathan Man, Victor Maog, Daria Marinelli, Jenny Marlowe, Emily Marso, Kathy Masaoka, Patrick Mayuyu, Jonathan McCrory, Francesca McKenzie, Michael Mead, Alexandra Meda, Kevin Melendez, Nikki Menez, Sydney Mercado, Sean Metzger, Andi Meyer, Gulshan Mia, Alison Minami, Michael Miranda, Ali-Moosa Mirza, David Mitchell, Christine Mok, Brooke Montoya, Tamika Lechee Morales, JP Moraga, Christopher Morgan, Pratik Motwani, Ishmael Muhammad, Dipankar Mukherjee, Kapono Na’ili’ili, Meena Natarajan, Alka Nayyar, Nicole Neal, Hope Nordquist, Ric Oquita, Giovanni Ortega, Jorge Z. Ortoll, Susan Pak, Pearl Paramadilok, Mia Park, Kyoung Park, Jin Park, Meredith Patt, Laura Penn, Diane Phelan, Nicholas Pilapil, Gina Pisale, Corey Pond, Chris Pow, Gina Puntil, Katy Pyle, Heather Raffo, Sophia Rafiqi, Cat Ramirez, Radhika Rao, Randy Reyes, Christopher Reyes, David Rhee, Theresa Ro, Michael Robertson, Jenna Rodgers, John Rooney, Michael Rosegrant, Elsie Ryder, Diego Sanchez, Carolyn San Juan, Friday Savathphoune, Kristine Schlachter, Melissa Schmitz, Lawrence Schober, Erik Schroeder, Shetal Shah, Salma Shaw, Rick Shiomi, Basit Shittu, Cary Shoda, KT Shorb, Paula Sim, TJ Simba-Medel, Carmela Sison, Melissa Slaughter, Ian Michael Smith, Leslie Smith, Elizabeth Son, Nikolaj Sorensen, Heidi Stillman, Tracy Strimple, Randy Ta, Randy Tamura, Carol Ann Tan, Roger Tang, Fouad Teymour, Priyank Thakkar, Rebecca Tham, Phuc Le Hong To, Vi Tran, Julie Trappett, Marie Tredway, Kideaki Tsutsui, Minghao Tu, Shaun Tuazon, Roberta Uno, Donald Williams, Christopher Williams, Lelea’e ‘Buffy’ Wong, Randy Wong-Westbrooke, Anna Woo, Xu, Anu Yadav, Jeff Yang, Joe Yau, Helen Yee, Anna Yee, Chay Yew, Torange Yeghiazarian, Wai Yim, Marie Yokoyama, Ken Yoshikawa, Marvin Yueh, Phil Yu, Harmony Zhang