In 2050, China Invades America….

by Paul Heller
July 1 - 17, 2010

May 17, 2010 - The Asian American Theater Company (AATC) completes its 2010 Season with the world premiere of Beijing, California, a new play by Paul Heller, based on a story developed with and directed by Duy Nguyen.

Beijing, California opens July 1, 2010, and runs for three weeks, through July 17, 2010, at the Thick House, 1695 18th Street, San Francisco.

About the Play

Beijing, California is an unflinching study of one nation’s invasion by another--but this time, the victim is not Iraq or Afghanistan; rather, it is America, and the invader is China. As playwright Paul Heller noted in his January 29, 2009 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle’s 96 Hours, “I hope the audience members will look at their own values and their perceptions of other countries--and how those might change if we were the ones being invaded. What I think we'll see is that Americans would act like everybody else in the world if they became citizens of a Third World country.”

The play’s futurist scenario takes place in 2050, when Katrina-like disasters and a series of financial meltdowns lead to America's collapse. The audience follows a series of characters and stories in the Bay Area over a span of 50 years, and discovers what happens to American values in the aftermath of foreign occupation.

Beijing, California contains three interwoven plots, each exploring a different aspect of the Chinese invasion. In one storyline, we follow the presidents of the U.S. and China as their deep, long-term friendship is shattered by China's ascendance and America's deterioration. In another storyline, we examine a family amidst America's economic wreckage. Living on a Third World income, they are forced into a shocking business decision. The final storyline focuses on a Chinese American translator who must navigate a San Francisco segregated into Baghdad-like militarized zones, as she attempts to expose a terrible crime.

“This play is one of the most intellectually provocative plays I've seen in years,” says Brad Erickson, Executive Director of Theatre Bay Area. “It got under my skin and really made me think about the things I take for granted as an American and what Americans unknowingly do to the world.”

During the three-year process of writing this play, Heller was intrigued by how timely the material was. “I began by making things up about how America would devolve, but then these events would appear in the news; for example, the financial meltdown here, our debt to China, Chinese authorities chastising Obama for America's part in the global financial crisis, and the right-wing insistence that American democracy is the only valid political choice.”

AATC Co-Artistic Director Duy Nguyen, the play's director and dramaturge from its inception, notes that “Beijing, California viscerally depicts how losing money and power affects people’s values. Growing up in a Third World country and having been a boat refugee, I understand extreme poverty and how that shapes what we can or cannot believe in. Now, as an upper middle class citizen in America, I can compare the First and the Third Worlds and bring my knowledge to bear on the play's characters and structure.”

AATC Executive Director Darryl D. Chiang remarked that “this piece is relevant not only to Asian Americans, but to all Americans, as it makes us reconsider our history in Vietnam and our current actions in the Middle East, even as it eerily posits a very real future that stems from the financial tumult of the past years. This play is not abstract like many futuristic pieces, but takes us into very personal stories that make us feel what it's like to lose one's country and one's sense of self when faced with an overwhelming occupation and the poverty of being vanquished. It is fascinating to explore what’s left of American-ness when America’s power and privilege are stripped away.”

Beijing, California’s cast includes acclaimed actors Stephen Hu, Lisa Kang, Tom Lazur, Wayne Lee*, JanLee Marshall, Garth Petal*, Erika Salazar, and Jennifer Vo Le. (*Denotes members of Actors Equity Association.)

Beijing, California is generously funded by CA$H, a grants program of Theatre Bay Area, in partnership with Dancers’ Group; the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation; and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.

About the Playwright and the Director

Paul Heller (Playwright) is a San Francisco native with a 35-year history of writing plays, which have been performed at The Phoenix Theatre and The Next Stage. He has also developed work at Z Space, The Marsh, and with San Francisco State University’s Theatre Arts and Communications Studies departments. He has worked with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and his plays The Abundance and Blame were featured in the Z Magic Monday series. Blame, developed in collaboration with Tom Bentley and The Jewish Theatre's Naomi Newman, was a finalist in the 2005 San Francisco Playwright's Festival and won a place in the 2008 Theatre Bay Area Showcase; it will have a reading at the Virago Theatre this summer. Paul has been an artist in residence at Z Space's Artists Development Lab, and is currently an artist in residence with the Asian American Theater Company. Paul holds an MFA from the University of Arizona, and has taught and produced theater in the U.S., Mexico, the Bahamas, Venezuela, and Italy.

Duy Nguyen (Director) has been the Co-Artistic Director of AATC since 2008. He recently directed AATC's production of Fayette-Nam, and leads AATC's Incubator Directing program and Educational Outreach program. He studied theater at UC Berkeley, where he founded Theatre Rice and One4All Theater. Duy also studied multi-media theater in Prague and traditional water puppetry in Vietnam.

About the Asian American Theater Company

The mission of the Asian American Theater Company is to connect people to Asian American cultures through theater. AATC was established in 1973 to develop and present original works of theater about Asian Americans. AATC remains committed to producing groundbreaking, entertaining and innovative art. We are not only a production company that presents mainstage plays, but also a workshop where Asian American writers, actors and directors can explore who we are as a people and a community, and in so doing, bring us closer together.

AATC is part of the Thick House Presenting Program.

Beijing, California is the fourth production under AATC’s Co-Artistic Directors, Alan S. Quismorio and Duy Nguyen; Executive Director, Darryl D. Chiang; and Managing Director, Pearl Wong.

See the Video Trailer for Beijing, California and buy tickets to the show at

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