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Asian & Asian American Stories

Week 2: Embodying Solidarity

“I wrote "The Winged Seed" which was based on Li-Young Lee's memoir of the same name and I also played Li-Young's father in the production. Back then very few companies in the country were producing work by Asian American artists and Pangea was at the forefront of a new movement to broaden the cultural, ethnic and racial roots of American theater. The exclusions of the white theater world are still being challenged, but much of the present day progress locally has been based on the work of Pangea and other similar theaters.

"The Winged Seed" was one of the artistic highlights of my career and I'll be forever thankful to Pangea and Dipankar and Meena for involving me. Dipankar, Meena and Luu Pham who played Li-Young all worked so hard to make the production a work of originality, eclectic influences and first rate artistry.

The play told the story of Li-Young Lee's family: His father and mother had fled from the communist Chinese regime and settled in Indonesia where Li-Young's father was arrested for preaching Christianity and then escaped to Southeast Asia. The family eventually came to settle in a small Pennsylvania town where Li-Young's father was the "heathen Chinese minister." While the story focused on the father, it also explored Li-Young's introduction to America and the development of his poetic sensibility which led him to become a prize winning American poet. The unique story of this immigrant Chinese family is still vitally relevant to the issues facing immigrants and Asian Americans today."

-David Mura, Minneapolis Artist, and longtime friend of Pangea

While many Americans are only now becoming aware of the dangers posed to Asian people by white supremacy in this country, Pangea’s work has always given a platform to the constellation of communities known as Asian and Asian American. Asians have traveled to the lands now known as the United States since before this country was founded. All over the world, we see Asian peoples resisting colonization and providing incredible leadership for a post-colonial future.

Here is a film with Marlina Gonzalez. You may remember her as the Co-Director and Playwright of Isla Tuliro, or perhaps from Lake Street Story Circles 2018, or the many other projects she has done with Pangea. She is a true friend and a fierce artist.

Pangea has always included Asian immigrants and Asian Americans in positions of leadership, with three Asian American artists as co-founders of Pangea. Here are just some of the plays we have produced and work we have presented by Asian and Asian American artists.


Isla Tuliro, the play written by Marlina Gonzalez, was co-presented by Pangea and Teatro del Pueblo in 2018. In the show, the idyllic life of the KAYUMANGGIs, brown-skinned islanders who live by Dagat Payapa (Ocean of Peace) is disrupted by the sudden arrival of mythical creatures from the ocean and from the sky, speaking strange languages, claiming the islands as their own and making up rules on how the islanders should live.

Click here to see photos from the show, taken by Bruce Silcox.

5 Weeks was Pangea World Theater’s Spring production in 2017. Inspired by personal narratives and short stories about partition, 5 Weeks brought to the stage the stories of Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Anglo-Indians, and the fate of women and children abducted during the partition of India and Pakistan. It was set in a pivotal moment in South Asian history, and journeyed through a complex web of narratives, bringing to life those forced to flee what they once called home, the pressures to choose allegiance, and the desperate search for compassion in a time when humanity hung in the balance.

Click here to see photos of the show, taken by Bruce Silcox.

Adapted by Meena Natarajan from ancient Tamil poems of love and war

This play was Directed by Dipankar Mukherjee and choreographed by Anita Ratnam.

Tune in to our Facebook Live this Friday, 6/18, at 8AM CDT to hear a conversation between Anita Ratnam and our Co-Artistic Director, Dipankar Mukherjee.

Here is an excerpt from the Playwright’s Statement:

The women in these poems gave in to passions and desires that were in strong contrast to later Indian poetry. Both the love and war poems grapple with the demands of society in contrast with human needs and yet provide no solutions, considering the questions of human existence with a profundity and complexity that is an inexhaustible source of insight and pleasure.

Etchings in the Sand

by Meena Natarajan and Ananya Chatterjea

Pangea premiered Etchings in the Sand in June, 2000. This piece is a narrative dance exploration of memory and grief.

Read this reflection on the piece by the co-creator Ananya Chatterjea!

You can find this play in the anthology Contemporary Plays by Women of Color, edited by Roberta Uno.

The Winged Seed

Adapted by David Mura from on the memoir by Li Young Lee

Written by a nationally famous Chinese American poet Li-Young Lee, The Winged Seed tells the tale of Lee and his family who fled from the Peoplešs Republic of China to Indonesia in the 1950šs. In Jakarta, his father is jailed by the Sukarno government, an imprisonment which causes great hardships for the family. Eventually, the family travels through Southeast Asia and Japan, and finally moves to a Western Pennsylvania town where his father becomes minister at a local church.

Hmong Bollywood

Written and Performed by Katie Ka Vang

Directed by Meena Natarajan

Growing up in California and Minnesota, Vang and her family spent hours watching the popular Indian Bollywood films with their extravagant plots, brilliant costumes, music and star crossed lovers. Hmong Bollywood explores how Bollywood gives Hmong Americans a way of engaging with forms of tradition different from their own. The performance blends creative non-fiction, broken prose, monologues, video installation, media art, Bollywood dance numbers and choreography based on Vang’s life’s movements.

Pangea produced Hmong Bollywood in 2013 at Intermedia Arts.

Hmong Bollywood is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by Pangea World Theater in partnership with OutNorth, Artspot and NPN. The Creation Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Click here to see photos of the play, taken by Bruce Silcox.

Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Written and performed by Kristina Wong

L.A. writer and performer Kristina Wong mixes sharp humor and psychology in Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a swear-to-god-not-autobiographical, serio-comic portrayal of the high instance of anxiety, depression and mental illness among Asian American women. Tangling, spinning, and mixing yarns, she asks: Which came first? The sky-high suicides of Asian American women? The maddening world? And when the heck do we get to climax? Wong’s irreverent and provocative work has given her a national cult following for “politically charged art with unapologetic humor.” —Bitch Magazine

Knitters — cuckoo and not — are invited to knit in the audience during the shows

Created by Leilani Chang and Ova Saopeng

Co-Commissioned by Pangea World Theater through the NPN/VAN Creation Fund

Masters of the Currents follows the story of three Micronesian youth who have fled their island nations due to environmental and economic pressures, and who must now overcome conflicts of identity to be accepted by their peers in their new home of Hawai'i while still holding onto the history and rich cultural traditions of their ancestral islands of. Inspired by the stories of Micronesians living in Hawai’i today, Masters of the Currents is a theatrical journey that takes us from remote island nations to urban cities, from ocean water passageways to paved asphalt highways. As the waters of our planet rise, what can we learn from these descendants of the original ocean navigators of the Pacific?

Click here to see photos of the show, taken by Joan Osato. This was the second work by Teada Productions that Pangea has been fortunate to present, after first presenting Refugee Nation in 2010. Here is a reflection with Ova Saopeng on both of these plays, and community, creativity, and belonging.

Written and Performed by Julia Gay

Adopted from China in 1996 and raised by a single mother, Julia Gay grew up shaped by an interconnected web of maternal guidance, love, and loss. Through poetry, memoir, and movement, she honors the women in her life. Join Julia as she journeys from China to the US and, at last, rediscovers her motherland.

Motherlanded premiered at Pangea World Theater in May 2016 as part of the Lake Street Arts! Emerging Artist Showcase, with the support and guidance of Director/Dramaturg Sun Mee Chomet and Mentor/Advisor Harry Waters Jr. It was als presented at the Midtown Global Market as part of our series Lake Street Arts! at the Market.

Little Boy

Written & Performed by Masanari Kawahara

Directed by Molly Van Avery

Meet Little Boy, the world’s first talking (and farting) atom bomb. As this reluctant creation is brought to life, he contemplates his origin and impact. Created by puppeteer, painter, and performance artist Masanari Kawahara, who was born in Hiroshima and grew up playing in the Peace Park built where the bomb was dropped.

Little Boy is a production of Pangea World Theater’s Alternate Visions series, which deconstructs boundaries between artists and audiences during the artistic development process. This was the first full-length production of Little Boy, originally commissioned in April 2011 and presented as a work-in-progress at Pangea last spring.

Click here to see photos of the show, taken by Bruce Silcox.


Thank you for sharing in this work and listening to these stories with us.


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