Yugen presents The Good Guys
Theatre of Yugen presents
The Good Guys, An American Tragedy is based on the April 4, 1991 headline incident that left six people dead in Sacramento. It focuses on three Vietnamese-American brothers who stormed into a Good Guys electronic store, held 41 people hostage at gunpoint, and demanded a helicopter to take them back to Southeast Asia to fight the Viet Cong. After over eight hours the siege ended, and the lone surviving gunman is now in Corcoran State Prison serving 49 consecutive life terms. Lee and Keane's interest in the story was piqued by information proceeding the tragic event. The initial press reports told of Vietnamese gang members demanding millions of dollars in ransom money. Further research found that none of the young men belonged to gangs, and that their primary demand was a helicopter to fly them Thailand to join alleged liberation forces fighting Vietnam's communist regime.
Lee and Keane describe the many layers involved in this project, "The Nguyen brothers' journey is very complex, with signposts as far ranging as Catholic martyrdom, cultural alienation, action film fantasies and a deep-seeded yearning for a home country, fast becoming a memory. In addition, the family (like many in the second wave of Vietnamese immigration) suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Now, nine years after the incident and 25 years after the fall of Saigon, we hope to see these elements with a healthy objectivity. We are not apologists for the crime these young men committed. Our goal is to explore this explosive conflict for the structures it exposes; to understand a community in exile, as well as the attitudes of law enforcement towards young immigrants."
The Good Guys, An American Tragedy received staged readings at San Jose Repertory Theatre and Boston's Huntington Theatre. It was then awarded a 1997 workshop production at the New Works for a New World Festival in Amherst, MA. of which Artistic Director Roberta Uno says, "The Good Guys, written almost entirely in verse, makes the bilingual, bicultural background of the Nguyen family accessible and compelling."
Keane and Lee explain, "the text is primarily in verse form to evoke the poetry of the Vietnamese language, as well as to place a sensational and tragic media event into a mythic space. There are many myths at work here---that of the good son, the good soldier, the good country, and the good war. The incident happened in the direct aftermath of the Gulf War, a time when mythologies were being revised. George Bush himself had declared that America had 'kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.'
Prose derived from transcripts of the actual event is used in the final act to convey the immediacy of their fateful action, as well as to magnify the chasm between the two worlds they inhabited." The Keane-Lee team utilizes a combination of classical Asian theatre and dance techniques, including Vietnamese Cai Luong (similar to Chinese opera), Japanese Noh, martial arts, black-clad kurogo (stagehands), and Indonesian shadow work."
Theatre of Yugen was founded in 1978 by Yuriko Doi to bring traditional Japanese aesthetics to American audiences. It is one of the few companies in the United States presenting the 600 year old Japanese forms of Noh and Kyogen. Newly appointed Artistic Directors Miko Lee and Michael Edo are dedicated to furthering these innovations, combining classical Asian theatre stylizations with new media and socially conscious themes. Evident in their recent adaptation of Noh Christmas Carol, this artistic team's background in documentary video and multi-media offers innovative and exciting changes to Theatre of Yugen.
"We are thrilled to find two uniquely talented and energetic theatre and video artists to run Theatre.of Yugen", exclaimed Yugen's Board of Directors President Jock Walker. The new artistic team seeks to push the boundaries of theatre, as Lee
Michael Edo Keane's prior written works include Wandering Ghosts, Visions of Lafcadio Hearn and At the Speed of Life. As a member of the ensemble Elbows Akimbo, he helped create the productions of O Flame of Living Love, JFK/Marat, and At the Speed of Life. Michael has an ongoing collaboration with Ping Chong & Co., with whom he has appeared in Chinoiserie at Brooklyn Academy of Music' s Next Wave Festival and Deshima around the U.S., and Asia. With partner Miko Lee he is Co-Artistic Director of Azameworks, a company which creates and produces film and performance. They are currently in post production on Ridin' on Pride, a 60-minute documentary video focusing on several young Asian-American men incarcerated in the California Youth Authority. Azameworks has also created Hear Our Voices, a 30-minute video documentary in collaboration with youth providing artistic responses to violence prevention, and We Are&Mac183;Asian-American, a documentary/multimedia theatre production with high school youth which examines issues of cultural identity and rites of passage.
Miko Lee served as a Yugen company member for over five seasons, appearing in and choreographing many productions. She has served as Associate Artistic Director at East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, Producing Associate at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and Associate Artist with San Jose Repertory where she helped develop and create Red Ladder Theatre Company. Besides several local companies, she has directed, choreographed and/or performed at Minneapolis Children's Theatre, New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre, Seattle Repertory, South Coast Repertory, and Boston's Huntington Theatre. Ms. Lee is currently an Artist-in-Residence at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.
Included in The Good Guys cast is Les Mau from New York and local actor Dong Nguyen. Set design is by Kim Ehler, costume design by Serena Li, choreography by Miko Lee, and sound and video design by Michael Edo Keane. This production is funded by a grant from the Zellerbach Family Fund, and Theatre of Yugen is generously supported by National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, San Francisco Art Commission, SF Grants For The Arts, Hewlitt Foundation, and the Walter & Elise Haas Fund.
The Good Guys, An American Tragedy opens Thursday, April 13 and runs through April 22 at Theater Artaud in San Francisco. For reservations and information the public may call the Theater Artaud box office at 415.621.7797.
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