On March 31, 2010 my beloved mother
Momo passed away in Los Angeles. She was 84. Momo was at home,
as she would have wished, and surrounded by my three sisters.
I'm grateful for that small blessing. I was in Philadelphia
at the time and returned home the next morning...
Dan teams up with world-reknowned taiko artist Kenny Endo in a moving, insightful and hilarious tribute to Kwong’s late mother, Momo Nagano. It’s the tale of a JA woman from "the greatest generation", living life unapologetically as a single parent and artist, joyously defying society's limitations, improvising as she goes.
With a steady compass for social justice, a keen eye for irony and a flair for the absurd, Kwong traces Nagano’s journey from all-American girlhood in Los Angeles to WWII internment camp; from defiant marriage with a Chinese immigrant to single divorcee with four young kids; from urban housewife to Venice Beach artist. As Nagano’s path traverses the terrain of the Civil Rights Movement, modern feminism and hippie counter-culture, we witness this woman’s stubborn determination and fierce motherly devotion.
Along the way Kwong shares his experiences as the only son, providing his signature comedy through puppetry, props and song – and, as Nagano herself has a sense of humor that shines throughout -- demonstrating that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
In researching single motherhood, Kwong was struck by the absence of Asian Americans in any data; an invisibility which resonates with much of the Asian American experience in general. By including video interviews with other Japanese American single moms from the 1960s through today, Kwong weaves the uniqueness of their experiences into the show while revealing commonalities from their cultural background.
WNPPB is rich with multimedia: home movies, animation, documentary footage, archival family photos and period television clips, all transport the audience into the world of an unusual woman and her creative version of family.
Immensely entertaining, WNPPB also informs and educates about Japanese-American internment; single Asian American mothers of multiple generations; the evolution of contemporary women’s rights and the American family.
BOOKING INFO: firstname.lastname@example.org
GREAT 2B AMERICAN
ITS GREAT 2B AMERICAN is a funny, fierce,
highly political piece inspired by Kwong's travels in Asia from 1999-2005.
In a darkly humorous search for an American identity beyond arrogance,
denial and guilt, Dan confronts the Dr. Jekyll & Mr.
Hyde within the Yankee psyche: from champion of democracy to imperialist
Along the way, Dan inspects the carry-on baggage
that comes with a U.S. passport and Asian face; the irony of being
oppressed minority at home yet a privileged citizen
of the great global powerhouse when abroad.
IG2BA is equal parts documentary travelogue, satirical
dance review, irreverent history lesson, and poignant storytelling.
From the Japanese American internment camps of
WWII to the secret American bombing of Cambodia to tourist shopping
in Bali to the events of September 11th, IG2BA is a timely, hard-hitting
work that boldly and humorously speaks to Americas place
in the world -- its checkered past, troubled present and hopeful
CLIPS: excerpt: Classroom Patriots
xcrpts: Letters from America
/ Preachin' to the Choir
excerpts: Passport to Conquest / Navy
Blue & Gold
excerpt: In Cambodia
excerpt: Cognitive Dissonance
excerpts: Laos / Dance of The Big
from the deep archives...
The passing of musical genius Prince in Spring of 2016 reminds us that Dan's very first professional performance piece in 1989 was inspired by a Prince song, "Housequake". In a blatant act of cultural appropriation, Dan re-wrote it into a pissed-off commentary on Japanese American internment camps of WWII. "Housequake" became "How's Camp?", and was performed by Dan all over the country in the early/mid-90s.
Here it is as part of "The Decade Show" in NYC back in 1991 (curated by Laura Trippi), seen in this dark, grainy pre-digital video -- old school multimedia performance art with slide projectors clacking away...
Thank you, Prince. You were endlessly funky to the max.
+LAB Artist residency Program
Little Tokyo, Los Angeles
May 1 - July 31, 2018:Dan was fortunate to be one of 4 artists chosen (out of 120!) for the inaugural run of this new program.
Along with Tina Takemoto, Susu Attar, and Kuniharu Yoshida, Dan will live for THREE MONTHS in the historic old Daimaru Hotel in the heart of Little Tokyo, and doing some kind of community-based art project.
Artists will partner up with local organizations such as the Japanese American National Museum, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, VIsual Communications, or Little Tokyo Service Center to carry out their projects. Artists' projects are yet to be determined, but Dan is considering doing a story-gathering project with seniors, collecting their stories about Little Tokyo back in the day.
The "LT Open" mini-golf project
Little Tokyo, Los Angeles
April 21-29, 2018:Dan was selected to create one of 9 artist-designed mini-golf course holes for a temporary course which will be set up for a week in Little Tokyo in the JACCC Plaza.
All designs commemorate the history of Little Tokyo and the JA community. Dan came up with a design which uses the logo of his baseball team, the Li'l Tokio Giants, as its overall layout. Engineering genius (and Academy Award-winning director) Chris Tashima is helping Dan with fabrication, so you better believe it's going to be well-made!
This is going to be a super-fun project!
Lecture in Japan
Kobe University, Kobe
March 2, 2018:Dan made his 6th visit to Kobe University courtesy of Professor Hideyuki Yamamoto, this time to deliver a lecture entitled, "Transnational Art Projects by Asian American Artists".
Kobe University is now the most visited school ever for Dan! But he still has never eaten real Kobe beef...
Teaching in Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City
February 5- 27, 2018:Dan once again braved the funky air of Saigon for more teaching.
This time working with actor/entrepreneur Minh Beta, as well as with some young actors cast in the next film of Dan's old friend Mai The Hiep (JV).
It was a busy time for Dan, in spite of the Tet holiday!
"The House on Robinson Road"
November 28 - December 4, 2017:Dan was back in Hong Kong for more shooting on his documentary/art video project about his great-grandfather's elegant historic home on HK island.
Shooting took place every single day including inside and outside the house, visiting great-grandfather's grave, a jaunt up to the top of Victoria Peak, across the harbor on the Star Ferry, and all around town.
Dan interviewed a couple of wonderful relatives, as well as having the good fortune to meet with Prof. Ho-yin Lee, Associate Professor in Architectural Conservation at HK University. Hoyin was incredibly gracious and generous with his time and helped Dan to sleuth out the exact address of great-grandfather's old bank!
This time he took independent documentary filmmaker (and god-son) Max Good to handle camera duties, and boy was that a good idea! (sorry, bad pun)
Stay tuned for further developments!
"The Healing Blade" in 40 and UP!
Joe's Movement Emporium
Mt. Rainier, Maryland
Flower decapitation, with Erica Rebollar.
June 17 & 18, 2017:Dan premiered "The Healing Blade", a new short piece about his father, in this group show featuring ten veteran local and national choreographer/dancers -- all over the ripe old age of forty (heh-heh). The show was produced and curated by longtime dear friend Erica Rebollar. It was a solid show which truly displayed the "maturity" (and in some cases, outrageousness) of the artists involved. Dan is looking forward to developing this into a longer piece!
Erica and the inimitable Maida Withers, 80 and up, and still going strong!
April 18, 2017:Dan was delighted to be notified of his selection as a recipient of the City of Santa Monica Artist Fellowship. Winners of this prestigious award (given annually to two artists) are chosen by a panel of curators and arts professionals and approved by the Santa Monica Arts Commission. Dan was also delighted that his co-awardee was his friend D’Lo, with whom Dan has performed in the past. This is a wonderfully satisfying turn of events and one which Dan hopes is a sign of things to come. Let the Universe continue to respond positively!
SAM KWONG, Rest in Peace
April 15, 2017: In a simple graveside ceremony on a beautiful spring day, Sam Kwong’s ashes were laid to rest in Mountain View Cemetery in Walla Walla, Washington.
Didi and Dad
Dan flew to Walla Walla accompanied by his middle sister Didi (who came in from Seattle) as family representatives.
They were joined at the cemetery by a dozen or so dear friends of their father.
Norm Friant says goodbye to his buddy Sam
Sam passed away on Sepember 21st last year from complications after surgery. (see posting far below)
Dan handcrafted a wooden box to hold his father’s ashes.
Dad's resting place in the Veterans section
It was a perfect sunny day as Sam’s remains were placed in the earth.
Later that day a memorial luncheon was held at the home of Chas and Trish McKhann, and many more people came together to honor the life of Sam Kwong.
Dear family friend Chas, with Sam's ex-wife Wen Cui
Anneli's father Ron Carlson was one of Sam's oldest & dearest friends
Friends Sue, Heidi, Norm with Didi
Jane's late husband a good friend; Ron, tennis pal; Keiko, artist friend
Joan and Pierre-Louis, two friends who loved Sam so well
Yifan, wife Jun, their newborn baby, Justin
It was a moving tribute to a man who was loved by many. Especially his son...
TEACHING IN VIETNAM
Saigon International Film School
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
March 4-20, 2017: Dan spent 2 weeks in Vietnam teaching acting at Saigon International Film School. Originally it was colleague Nobuko Miyamoto who was asked to come, but due to a schedule conflict she suggested Dan go in her place. Lucky him!
The invitation was extended by Ham Tran and “Jayvee” Mai The Hiep, two former members of Club O’ Noodles, the ground-breaking Vietnamese American performance ensemble which came out of Cal State Northridge in the early 90s. Nobuko directed their first major production, Laughter From The Children of War, and was instrumental in the artistic development of the group. In 1998, Jayvee was also part of one of Dan’s autobiographical performance workshops for Asian men.
Director Ham Tran
Having returned to Vietnam in the last seven years or so, both Ham and Jayvee and have made a big splash in the film industry there: Ham has directed four feature films in the last five years and has become a highly-respected film director in Vietnam;
Actor/Producer "Jayvee" Mai The Hiep
Jayvee has acted in all of Ham’s films as well as serving as producer on some, and recently launched his own production company. He is about to release his first film in May 2017. Talk about two rising stars!
The film industry in Vietnam is booming, with the number of local productions doubling and tripling in the last few years. However, from Ham and Jayvee’s perspective, the talent pool of actors is inadequate to meet demand. Jayvee and Ham are determined to address this by developing the next generation of Vietnamese actors. Hence the invitation to come teach!
Some delightful students!
Dan taught two separate classes with fifteen and seventeen students, ranging in age from 16 to 30 years old. Jayvee served as Dan’s primary translator and support person.
Using the aikido concept of ma'ai to practice spatial awareness
Meeting three times a week for three hours at a time, students experienced many of Dan’s techniques (also used in Great Leap’s Collaboratory program), customized for this situation.
Students practiced listening to each other
The main goal was for students to explore their own stories and be able to access genuine emotion. This was accomplished with great success!
Ye olde mirror exercise...
In the last few days, students quickly prepared brief scenes from their stories for a final presentation. After witnessing their work, the school director was delighted at what students were able to draw from within themselves.
They became quite good at listening!
At the end, several students remarked that the two weeks had been life-changing, giving them a chance to look at powerful and meaningful moments in their lives with permission to feel and express their emotions.
Saigon traffic: in a word, YUCK
Dan was able to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing. Visiting the "Wartime Remnants Museum" was deeply moving, seeing the war from a Vietnamese perspective;
A relaxing boat ride on the Mekong River and visiting small towns was a welcome relief from the urban pollution of Saigon.
Escape from the smog!
Rice skins - for your Spring rolls - drying in the sun
The Cu Chi tunnels, once part of the vast Viet Cong tunnel system and now a tourist attraction, were utterly fascinating. The ingenuity, determination and hardships faced by the Vietnamese people during wartime was extraordinary.
Now you see me --
The visit to Cu Chi also included taking a few shots on the live firing range -- bizarrely located right next to the open-air gift shop.
For $20 you can fire 10 bullets from a variety of war-era weapons.
In case you were curious, an AK-47 is VERY loud.
Dan's hotel -- former S. Vietnamese military headquarters
It was another wonderful growth-filled experience, and Dan is looking forward to returning to teach in September! In the meantime he’s looking for a good Vietnamese language class or tutor...
LECTURES IN JAPAN 2016
Dan's guest lodgings... (NOT!)
KOBE UNIVERSITY, Kobe city
September 24, 2016: Flying to Japan just 48 hours after his father died (which was rather surreal), Dan was a featured lecturer at the Annual Conference of the Asian American Literature Association of Japan, hosted by Kobe University. Dan spoke on the subject of "Transnational Collaboration in Asian American multimedia performance". It was his fifth visit to Kobe University since 2007, where he is beginning to feel right at home! He also gave a lecture on his use of music in performance (with a brief performance) for Prof. Hideyuki Yamamoto's "Musical Theater" class. Thanks to Professor Yamamoto for the invitation!
In between lecture engagements Dan had time to vacation in Kyoto, where he was able to offer prayers for his father's spirit at beautiful ancient temples such as Kinkaku-ji (above) and Kiyomizu-dera (below)
Bon voyage, Pops...
AICHI PREFECTURAL UNIVERSITY - Nagoya
October 4, 2016: Dan returned to Nagoya (home of Toyota!) for his third visit to APU give a lecture on "WHAT? NO PING-PONGBALLS?", his piece about his late mother. Thanks to Professor Mizuho Murayama for bringing Dan back!
PASSING OF SAM KWONG
September 21, 2016: Dan's father Sam passed away peacefully at home, due to complications from surgery. He was 86.
Samuel Shu Kit Kwong
April 13, 1930 - September 21, 2016
Since around 2012 dementia increasingly took its toll on Sam's well-being. Finally the difficult decision was made to return Sam to L.A. In February 2016 he left Walla Walla, WA. to come to live with Dan.
A sad farewell to Walla Walla and Sam's beautiful home of 28 years
Sam left behind many wonderful memories, including life with his devoted third wife, Wen Cui Zhao. As both of them loved to cook, they shared some fantastic meals, many of which Dan had the pleasure to partake in.
Familiar kitchen-action at 18 Shangri-La Court in Walla Walla
For the last 7.5 months of his life, Sam truly enjoyed his time in Santa Monica. Dan got him exercising, they took excursions to the Santa Monica Pier to ride the Ferris Wheel, visited his siblings in San Francisco, and enjoyed many family gatherings.
Back in So. Cal
Working through physical therapy (usually not smiling)
Riding the Ferris wheel at SM Pier under a full moon
With sister Louise, youngest brother Clement and his wife
Nisei Week, August 2016 - last photo of the entire clan
There's far more to be said than can be written here, but suffice to say that Sam Kwong had a good ending to his life.
Nisei Week - Dad got his camera out again!
Since Sam was a professional photographer for much of his life (and a damn good one at that), here's a few photos --hopefully worth a thousand words...
Dan built this table just for Sam's solitaire-playing pleasure
Sam's 86th birthday dinner with Gary, Maria and Poppy
Father and son became closer than ever
The last photo found in Sam's camera - Dan running to first base
CONFESSIONS OF A RADICAL
CHICANO DOO-WOP SINGER
by RUBEN FUNKAHUATL GUEVARA
Directed by Dan Kwong
Casa 0101 Theater, Los Angeles
July 15-31, 2016: During a rather crazed 6-week period I was simultaneously directing my friend Ruben's show while dealing with my father’s health challenges, including overnight stays in the hospital and functioning on 3-4 hours of sleep per day for a week or so. Nonetheless, everything turned out for the best - both Dad's health AND the show! "Confessions of a Radical Chicano Doo-Wop Singer" ran for three weekends at the lovely Casa 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights, to enthusiastic and appreciative audiences.
I was so proud of Ruben for pushing himself beyond anything he had ever done as a performer, and proud of myself for creating a well-crafted, densely-packed and highly-entertaining autobiographical piece.
I did a ton of work on this: director, dramaturge, multimedia producer, set design, choreography, and even wrote some of the publicity. It was a pleasure to work with a longtime colleague whom I've known since my very beginnings as a performance artist! Ruben and I will continue to refine the piece, and hopefully take it on the road sometime down the line. The following is a blurb I wrote for publicity purposes:
Ruben “Funkahuatl” Guevara is a rather low-key, unassuming, modest guy who doesn’t toot his horn a whole lot. But in fact, this man is part of pop culture music history. “Confessions of a Radical Chicano Doo-Wop Singer” is his remarkable saga of a five-decade career in the music world: his exhilirating rises to success, his staggering crashes, and his ultimate evolution into a respected Chicano community activist, “culture sculptor”, and man of integrity.
After Ruben asked me to direct “Confessions”, I began to discover things about his life that blew my mind -- “You did WHAT? With WHOM?” Tina Turner, Bo Diddley, Frank Zappa, Cheech & Chong, Los Lobos, John Densmore (The Doors), and more, all show up in Ruben’s stories -- guaranteed to alternately make you chuckle with delight and gasp in horror.
There’s an old saying: “The higher you fly, the farther you fall”. And what is perhaps most meaningful in “Confessions”is the question of how one deals with that duality -- success and failure; triumph and defeat; enthusiasm and disappointment; hope and despair -- over the course of a long lifetime. Septuagenarian Guevara sheds some precious light on this topic.
In “Confessions of a Radical Chicano Doo-Wop Singer”, Ruben reads/performs some of his head-shaking stories (based on his memoir), plus you’ll experience some trademark Kwong-touches along the way: tons of multimedia including archival footage and kooky animation, some decidedly goofy moments in between the pathos, and of course, MUSIC.
CHINA AND JAPAN 2015
In a wonderful end to 2015, Dan spent two weeks in China followed by a visit to Sado Island, Japan.
Hunan Province, CHINA
Soul brothers reunited: Peng and Dan in Jishou city
December 1-14, 2015:Dan visited Hunan Province as a guest of Peng Jingquan, his dear friend and longtime collaborator. The purpose of the trip was to learn about the Miao people and their culture, with the intention of Dan and Peng bringing a small group of Miao artists and cultural experts to visit the U.S.
Harvesting oranges with residents of Dan Qing village
Dan Qing village
Located in south central China, Hunan Province is known for chili peppers and spicy food, the birthplace of Mao Zedong, some spectacular landscape, and its ethnic minority populations. It’s also Peng’s home province, and he himself is half-Miao.
Zhangjiajie Natl Park, inspiration for the film "Avatar"
“Miao” is not only a specific tribe of people, it is also the umbrella term for several ethnic minorities within China which include the Hmong, Yao, Dong and Tujia peoples – all of whom have populations in the western part of Hunan known as “Xiangxi”.
Uh, not your everyday outfits...
The Miao people have an incredibly rich culture, perhaps best known for their exquisite metal jewelry and headdresses as well as intricate embroidery -- not only beautiful to look at but also used as a form of historical documentation.
Xiang Xiu Ping, Miao embroidery expert
Detail: super-fine needlework. Can you say myopia?
Detail: 100 meter long embroidery of Miao history
But the Miao are said to be in danger of cultural extinction – they have no written language of their own; economic survival is forcing the younger generation to leave their home villages to work in cities; and the older generation of traditional masters is dying off. Who will keep these amazing traditions alive?
Traditional "Ba-De" - shaman - plays bamboo instrument
This has become Peng’s passion-project, and to that end he has produced two documentaries and short films about the Miao, attempting to shine a light on his people. Dan’s part in this is to help bring a group of Miao master artists to America, gaining more exposure for their remarkable culture and challenging situation.
Still from Peng's beautiful short film, "Silent Village"
Peng arranged a jam-packed itinerary for Dan, visiting places of extraordinary natural beauty, urban theaters, historical towns, cultural museums, and small villages in the remote countryside. Dan met amazing artists, craftspeople, cultural experts, local politicians, even a major pop star, and was welcomed into their homes and treated as an honored guest.
Cui Cui, a wonderful Miao singer and a delightful spirit
In Lao Zhai village he was asked to give an impromptu outdoor performance and did a tiny excerpt from “Monkhood in 3 Easy Lessons” -- and sang a couple Beatle songs.
Dan does his Beatles medley for the folks
Since his return Dan has been exploring possible venues and institutions who might be interested in hosting a 2-hour presentation on Miao culture. Let him know if you have any ideas!
Coming to a cultural institution near you!
Dan is deeply grateful to Peng for his generosity. Other than the international flight, Peng took care of all Dan’s expenses in China! It was the trip of a lifetime. Keep an eye out for this future project -- possibly Fall/Winter 2016!
SADO ISLAND, JAPAN
Dramatic coastline of Sado Island
December 14-23, 2015:From China, Dan flew to Tokyo, took the shinkansen (bullet train) north and rode the ferry to Sado Island. There he was hosted by Yoko Fujimoto, a founding member of the world famous Kodo Taiko Performing Arts Ensemble.
Located off the west coast of Honshu (Japan’s largest island), Sado Island has a fascinating history which includes being a site of exile for social dissidents (including those troublesome artists!), political enemies of the government, and controversial religious figures, since the 8th century.
Traditional trading ship, handbuilt from wood
Yoko was a wonderful host, sharing the remarkable beauty and history of Sado in many ways. She arranged a private performance for Dan of Japanese bunya ningyo-style puppetry;
Master Puppeteer explains skeletal structure of a puppet
All handmade, of course
Another puppet master displays a different character
Right of Dan is Yoko's husband, also an original Kodo member
-- with other visits to: a sanctuary preserve for the rare Japanese crested ibis --
Toki, symbol of Sado Island
-- a former goldmine transformed into a spooky museum with creepy mannequins --
Very cool and creepy historic goldmine
-- the historical museum of Sado Island which features some exquisite mechanical animated displays --
Amazing miniature mechanized noodle shop scene
-- and a tour of the Kodo Taiko Ensemble compound, plus private viewing of a rehearsal!
Kodo, the most famous taiko group in the world
A massive - and gorgeous - tree trunk drum
Dorm, offices, dining hall for the company
Top of this huge drum almost 9' high
Thank you, Yoko!
Hopefully in the future, Dan will work in a dramaturgical/directorial role with Yoko, Nobuko, and P.J. Hirabayashi on a new live performance the three women plan to tour in the U.S. and Japan.
University of California at Irvine
November 4, 2015:Dan made a visit south of the Orange Curtain to UC Irvine for Prof. Keith Danner’s class on “Im/Migration Narratives”. He performed “Song for Grandpa”, the climactic monologue from “Monkhood in 3 Easy Lessons” (1993) and engaged in a talkback session with students. It was Dan’s first time in many years to perform what was once his “signature” monologue – probably performed more than any other work of his. Fascinating (a la Spock) -- like putting on a familiar old suit of clothes you haven’t worn in 15 years. Thanks to Prof. Danner for the invite!
Center for the Preservation of Democracy,
Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles
SERVE THE PEOPLE INSTITUTE
Fundraiser and Tribute to Nobuko Miyamoto
November 1, 2015: Dan directed and performed in a fundraiser for Serve the People Institute. SPI is a community-driven, leadership development organization that aims to share the history and values of the Asian American Movement in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, with a geographic focus on Los Angeles. SPI aims to empower Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities toward greater economic and political self-sufficiency by developing and cultivating our next generation of activists and community leaders.
Launched two years ago, SPI is the brainchild of longtime political activist-organizer Warren Furutani, who wanted to insure that this community history was not lost and that future generations would have a resource for learning the history of Asian American involvement in the fight for social justice, especially alongside other communities and movements.
One of their first projects is an online archive dedicated to preserving the history of Asian American activism through photographs, videos, documents, artifacts and first-person stories.
Honoree Nobuko Miyamoto
As well as being a fundraiser for SPI, the evening was a wonderful opportunity to honor a groundbreaking artist who continues to practice her art in service of social progress – Dan’s longtime friend and colleague, Nobuko Miyamoto.
Sean Miura and traci kato-kiriyama
Dan performed alongside traci kato-kiriyama (with Sean Miura), Jumakae, and Jason Chu -- powerful young talents whose voices add to the ever-growing wealth of Asian American artists who write, produce and perform their own work.
Spoken word artist and all-around talent, Jumakae
Dan performed a short, abstract non-verbal piece (originally inspired by his SAIC art school classmate Harvey Weiss), plus a modified excerpt from WHAT? NO PING-PONG BALLS? featuring the singing baby puppet.
Hip-hop artist Jason Chu
As part of honoring Nobuko, Dan also prepared a funny slide show retrospective of her career: from childhood ballerina in Boyle Heights to teenage dancer on Broadway (Flower Drum Song)and in Hollywood movies (West Side Story, The King and I); from being part of the first touring Asian American folksinger group and recording the first album of “Asian American music” to eventually creating her performing arts organization Great Leap (which now makes up a considerable part of Dan’s professional work).
Nobuko as a Shark-Girl in West Side Story!
Dan gently roasts Nob...
It was an inspiring night that brought people together across generations -- celebrating the past, present and future of the Asian American community.
Check out SPI’s page on Facebook for more information on what they are doing and how you can get involved!
October 25, 2015: Dan’s third turn as Director of FandangObon featured new additions to artistic founders Nobuko, Quetzal, Martha and Company: Francis Awe & Nigerian Talking Drum, and Le Ballet Dembaya. These two Nigerian drumming/dancing companies represent both ends of the spectrum in terms of longevity and freshness. Francis and his wife Omowale are practically an institution in L.A., having been performing and teaching for decades. Le Ballet Dembaya is a spirited group of African American young adults, some of whom were once students of Omowale. Together they brought fantastic energy, consciousness and joy to the event.
Jahanna Blunt and Le Ballet Dembaya
FandangObon is growing in size every year, the circle grows more diverse every year, and it’s becoming an event that people look forward to every year. Combining the traditions of Japanese obon, Mexican son jarocho music of Vera Cruz, and now Nigerian drumming and dancing, FandangObon is a joyous gathering of people across cultures.
Martha Gonzalez (far right) and Nobuko, steppin'...
And now it also has a strong environmental component, the Eco-Fest, which encourages a more sustainable lifestyle and highlights culture-specific methods for doing this.
Sustainable Little Tokyo makes its presence known!
Quetzal, Sean Miura & drummers of Le Ballet Dembaya
Ruben Guevara, Funk Poet Laureate of Boyle Heights
Maceo Hernandez (far right) & East L.A. Taiko
Santa Monica, CA
SOMAfest at HIGHWAYS PERFORMANCE SPACE
BARONG with Georgianne Cowan & Company
Dan anointeth Georgianne with holy water...
Flashback to 1987, a couple years before Dan began performing professionally when he was in an outdoor site-specific piece by Georgianne Cowan. Also featuring the lovely Umeko Walker, the piece was part of a bigger event observing the so-called "Harmonic Convergence" -- a rare astronomical event in 1987 in which the Sun, Moon and several major planets were aligned and in conjunction with cosmologically significant dates in the Aztec and Mayan calendar. Or something like that…
Dan & Umeko, a scary Power Couple...
Flash forward to September 25, 2015 -- 28 years later, Dan is reunited with Georgianne and Umeko in "Barong", Cowan's theatrical-dance interpretation of Balinese perspectives on the relationship between "dark" and "light" forces in the universe. Or something like that… Also in the cast was Craig Ng, who was in one of Dan’s Asian Men’s performance workshops back in 2003. “Barong” was performed at Highways as part of the annual SOMAfest event of workshops and performances based in meditative practice and the performing arts. It was a sweet reunion, especially with Umeko -- our mothers were pals from before WWII, and our older sisters were best friends from childhood!
MEADOW MEARA RAIN GOOD
August 17, 2015: A healthy baby girl came into the world this day courtesy Amy and Max Good (Dan's god-son)! Indulge a proud god-grandfather with a few photos, won't you?
Aunt Otome: "She's so cute, she looks like a Gerber baby!"
Can you tell Dan likes being with her?
And boom, just like that -- 8 months gone by!
April 30, 1955 - August 3, 2015
August 3, 2015: Our dear friend Lynn passed away suddenly from complications of liver cancer. He performed with Great Leap for many years, touring the country with our Slice of Rice, Frijoles and Greens show, and performing many times in our annual UCLA gig for their Med School students. In fact, Lynn died the day before he had been scheduled to perform with us at UCLA this year. His one-man show about dealing with the loss of his sight was a powerful source of inspiration for us all. Though blind, he had vision far beyond that of most sighted people. His light burned strong and bright, and he touched many of us with his gentle strength, low-key humor, and fierce determination to overcome all obstacles. He was a brilliant talent and an extraordinary soul who left us far too soon. We loved and cherished who he was, and will miss him terribly. Google his name and learn more about a remarkable man!
"BE LIKE WATER"SCREENPLAY READING
August 2, 2015: Dan and Director Chris Tashima arranged a reading of the latest draft of Dan's adaptation of his stageplay "Be Like Water" (produced 2008, East West Players). It was very helpful for Dan to hear his words outloud, and he was honored by the talented group of actors assembled by Chris. As with everything he does, the event was superbly run. Soon after, Dan finished the 5th draft and is hammering away yet again on #6.
L.A. TIMES INTERVIEW
June 16, 2015: Maria, Sam & Dan were interviewed by L.A. Times reporter Ann Simmons for their new online feature, "LOOK BACK L.A.", described as "a portal to photos, videos and stories of ordinary Angelenos who make up the rich ethnic patchwork of our city".
Several video clips from the interview are on the site, along with some old Kwong/Nagano family photos. The reporter was particularly intrigued by Dad’s annual tradition of shooting unique, off-beat Xmas photos of us kids, often in humorous situations. From the early 1960s when he was one of the first Chinese American commercial photographers in the United States, Dad was ahead of his time.
We did our best to represent our missing family crew – Didi, Poppy, and of course, Momo. Interview was shot at JANM (thanks to Maria for arranging it), with a follow-up at Mom's house in Silverlake. Below is the link. Scroll down on their site; we are included inseveral clips. Check it out!
to Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California
March 1, 2015:After 37 years of providing historical/cultural programs and projects in the Southern California area, the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California (JAHSSC) was dissolved in Spring of 2015. Dan was a featured performer at their farewell event, along with singer/songwriter Nobuko Miyamoto (who also played the baby’s nurse) and Mary Nomura, the “Songbird of Manzanar”.
It was a celebratory and poignant event, drawing a who’s-who crowd from the local JA community. Dan performed a modified excerpt from WHAT? NO PING-PONG BALLS?, featuring the baby puppet singing a re-written version of Bohemian Rhapsody…
Back in 2004 JAHSSC honored Dan with one of their annual awards for “Outstanding Contributions to Japanese American History and Culture”, and he was delighted to be part of this special day.
JAHSSC was founded by educators, including George and Iku Kiriyama, Don Nakanishi, Lloyd Inui, Rei Kasama, Kiyo Fukumoto, and Evelynne Matsumoto, who saw the need to educate classroom teachers about the Japanese American experience. JAHSSC was the ONLY organization existing at the time to address this need. Since then, a number of organizations have arisen to fill the need including the Japanese American National Museum and the Go For Broke National Education Center. With much gratitude for all they have done for the community, goodbye to the JAHSSC!
2014 JAPAN LECTURE TOUR
Nov. 17-24, 2014:From Hong Kong, Dan traveled to Japan for a jam-packed week. He gave one lecture about his performance work at Aichi Prefectural University in Nagoya and three at Kobe University. Both were return visits, thanks to Prof. Hideyuki Yamamoto and Prof. Mizuho Murayama!
Busting "hegemonic masculinity" at Kobe U.
Nagoya & Kobe were followed by a brief rendezvous in Kyoto with Great Leap colleague Nobuko Miyamoto and her siblings, and many great people, fun karaoke, shopping, eating! Stayed in an exquisite Japanese inn...
The trip culminated in Tokyo with a small workshop on Men's Liberation led by Dan. Exhausting trip, but so fun and fulfilling!
THE HOUSE ON ROBINSON ROAD
Nov. 11-17, 2014:As recipient of a City of Santa Monica Artist Fellowship, Dan traveled to Hong Kong for preliminary work on his most ambitious project yet: a documentary/art video about the HK home of Dan's great-grandfather, Lee Sing Kwei. Here, Lee lived with his wife, 6 concubines, 21 children and a scattering of grandchildren - over 30 people under one roof! With some rooms perfectly preserved from the 1930s, the house is a veritable museum of owning-class Chinese society in colonial Hong Kong.
While in HK, Dan came across a hi-rez photo of The Old Man (as he was referred to) and his clan. Dan's father stands middle row far right, as a 10-year old.
The piece will also explore the evolving relationship between Dan and his father, who spent part of his childhood in this house.
The final form of the project will be a feature-length video; a hybrid creation that resonates with the multi-layered aesthetic approach found in Dan's live performances.
Along with revealing a fascinating portrait of owning-class Chinese society in colonial-era Hong Kong, The House On Robinson Road will be a journey into family, reconciliation, and the desire for human connection. Stay tuned!
WHAT? NO PING-PONG BALLS?
Oct. 10-12, 2014:Selected for the National Asian American Theater Festival in Philadelphia, Dan and Kenny Endo successfully presented 3 performances at InterAct Theater. The work was very well-received, and Dan is in the process of seeking out future engagements for the show.
Kudos to our outstanding tech guy, Lucas Nguyen (on scaffold). He's as good as they come! Kenny sits far right, waiting oh-so-patiently...
And THANKS to Dan's many donors who helped fund this trip, through our Hatchfund project. You made it happen! Very Special Thanks to dear friend Sharon Nazarian, who backed us big-time!
Santa Monica, CA.
HIGHWAYS SILVER JUBILEE!
Highways Performance Space
May 3, 2014:Celebrating 25 years of presenting performance art, dance & music, Highways hosted a night of 1980s style performance including veteranos like my personal fave John Fleck, choreographer Rudy Perez, the wryly understated John White (whom I worked for in the early 80s), chanteuse Weba Garretson, the off-beat musical duo Fat & Fucked-Up, and DK.
Dan performed a modified excerpt from WHAT? NO PING-PONG BALLS? featuring his baby puppet. Assisted by Caitlin Tortorici, Dan closed the show with a bang, combining monologue, slides, video, and the ubiquitous baby-version of himself. A great time had by all...
Santa Monica, CA. PREMIERE
WHAT? NO PING PONG BALLS?
Music by KENNY ENDO
Highways Performance Space
June 14-16, 2013:Dan performed his new work to full houses in a wildly successful premiere! Collaborating with master taiko drummer KENNY ENDO was a blast, bringing even more life to the show.
The piece honors the life story of MOMO NAGANO (Dan's late mother), esp. focusing on her journey as a single parent and artist in the 60s and 70s. It also includes clips of interviews with other Japanese American single moms, weaving their experiences into the piece and shedding light on the invisible story of Asian American single motherhood.
So many people to thank: PAGE LEONG provided brilliant directorial, dramaturgical and choreographic insights, and played a crucial role in shaping the entire piece. JOSE LOPEZ's lighting design was gorgeous, CHRIS TASHIMA's fake surfboard prop was one of Dan's favorite parts of the show, LAUREN TOM made a hilarious cameo on video as the World's Youngest Sociologist, ALE McGREW was Dan's outstanding intern, handling many facets of the production at the same time, CURTIS NOUCHI fabricated a lovely netting structure that was a key set piece, MICHIKO YAO helped out with some excellent After Effects video processing, and many other people contributed in many ways to make this a success.
Also featured was an exhibition of weavings by Momo Nagano in the Highways Lobby Gallery. Thanks to the Japanese American Natl Museum for loaning Momo's large-scale piece honoring all the JA families in her neighborhood that were interned during WWII.
Redlands, CA. WORK-IN-PROGRESS SHOWING
WHAT? NO PING PONG BALLS?
University of Redlands, Wallichs Theater
March 23, 2013:Dan performed a work-in-progress version of the new piece (previously titled Center of the Universe, see below) about his late mother and her experiences as an Asian American single mother from the early 1960s thru 70s. Unfortunately Dan was sick as a dog, but somehow made it through thanks to great support from Univ. of Redlands Tech Director, Trevor Norton and Prof. Chris Beach. Also Prof. Keith Osajima gave a very wonderful introduction of Dan before the show!
Wellesley, MA. WORK-IN-PROGRESS SHOWING
CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
October 31, 2012:Just a few days after Hurricane Sandy, Dan gave the first work-in-progress showing of this new piece about the life story of his late mother. It was very well-received! (title subsequently changed to WHAT? NO PING-PING BALLS?)
GREAT 2B AMERICAN
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
October 24, 2012:Dan returned to UMass (for the 3rd time!) to perform as part of the Asian Arts and Culture Program under the leadership of Ranjanaa Devi.
Dan performed a newly re-worked version of the show which he is very excited about. He also did several classroom visits at UMass and Smith College, plus a workshop at Williston Northampton High. It was a great (and busy) trip!
Santa Monica, CA
I AM YOU
by Sheetal Gandhi
Annenberg Beach House
September 29/30, 2012:Dan was an ensemble performer in Sheetal Gandhi's newest work, a site-specific dance-theater piece inspired by the poetry of Rumi. The amazingly talented and brilliant Gandhi collaborated with exquisite Canadian dancer Meena Murugesan in a poignant and humorous work that incorporated kathak, bharata natyam & modern dance, live & recorded text, music, live singing, popular love songs of the 1930s, and commentary on motivational talk shows.
The piece was performed outdoors all around the Annenberg Beach House and on the boardwalk.
Los Angeles, CA
CYCLES OF CHANGE II
October 7, 2012:The live performance returned as part of CicLAvia! Dan directed and performed in this funny and family-friendly performance about bicycling in the big city featuring Claire Day, Carla Vega, Charlie McClung, Gabriel Tenorios and Dan, plus live musicians George Abe and Byron Yamada playing taiko, flute and percussion.
Special Guests QUETZAL performed a terrific set in the middle of the day and blew the crowd away!
ON THE INTERNET:
CYCLES OF CHANGE - Great Leap's new Eco-Vid!
Director/Editor: Dan Kwong Executive Producer: Nobuko Miyamoto
Sept. 6, 2012:CYCLES OF CHANGE features a hot new song by Nobuko Miyamoto and stellar L.A. rock band QUETZAL, encouraging you to hop on a bike for a change and leave the car at home. This funny video with a serious message stars Nobuko as our heroine on two wheels, and Martha Gonzalez (Quetzal lead singer) as the busy urban professional mom who learns the virtues and joys of bicycle riding.
Please check it out and share it with your friends! Our last Eco-Vid (MOTTAINAI) has been viewed in over 80 countries, with over 30,000 hits. We want to top that number with CYCLES!
Copyright September 2012 Great Leap Inc.
VIDEO PRODUCTION RECAP:
CYCLES OF CHANGE
A music video promoting bicycling as an alternative form of urban transportation
Principle shooting completed on June 16!
Dan talks it over with Cameraman Jon Edwards while Martha waits for her test drive
Dan directed three successful days of shooting on location around L.A. and on a soundstage with a 30' green screen in Santa Monica. This is Great Leap's (and Dan's) most ambitious production yet!
Our stars, Nobuko Miyamoto plus Martha Gonzalez of the band Quetzal were fiercely committed, hysterically funny, utterly delightful and very courageous (especially handling some of the more daring bicycle action-shots). They were beautifully costumed by Yuki Ishii in her trademark dyed-fabric designs.
Quetzal Flores (Martha's husband and namesake of the band) and their adorable son Sandino also made cameo appearances.
1st Asst. Director Lisa Konczal was a total delight to work with. She's a very talented director/editor/producer herself, and a terrific person in every way. Had the great pleasure of working again with Tana Barajas (after our adventures on the road last fall with "Water is Rising") as our Production Manager. We had outstanding technical support from our grips Andy Aguilar, Sean Sherrod, Chris Lakin, Beau Johnson and Taylor, plus we had the added bonus of Academy Award-winning Director Chris Tashima who jumped in to lend his expertise with rigging & preparing the bikes for our green screen shoot. And Nobuko's brother Bob Miyamoto was again a huge help providing tools, materials, information, and connections.
I also want to thank our MANY funders, through our Indiegogo campaign and other fundraising efforts, without whom we could not have done it. I am confident you will be pleased and proud to have supported this project! THANK YOU ALL!
ONCE WE WANTED
New trailer with short clips from the show. Dan & Iu-Hui's interdisciplinary multimedia piece about relationships, connection & alienation in our Facebook/Twitter/Skype society. (see below for more info about the work-in-progress showing last year)
POETRY IN MOTION: "SONS"
Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center
June 22, 2012: Dan joined a wonderful line-up of poets and musicians to share brief musings on this filial topic. Dan read a new prose list-poem in which he told his life story (as a son) in about 5 minutes.
Founded and curated by the amazing Eve Brandstein, "Poetry in Motion" is a long-standing event happening periodically at Beyond Baroque, the venerable Venice Beach literary center which first brought together Exene Cervenka and John Doe, ultimately resulting in formation of the seminal L.A. punk band "X" (one of Dan's favorite bands...)
Los Angeles, CA.
May 15, 2012: Dan had the pleasure of performing a new short piece about his first bicycle, at the reknowned Tuesday Night Cafe event. Founded by artist Traci Kato-Kiriyama, TNC is held in the Courtyard in front of East West Players the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month. Inspired by Dan's work on the Cycles of Change bike performance, this new piece has nice potential for development into something more substantial.
Los Angeles, CA
CYCLES OF CHANGE
April 15, 2012: Great Leap presented a very successful afternoon of performances in MacArthur Park as part of CicLAvia, the L.A. city-wide bicycle celebration! The 8-person cast included ANDRAE HARRISON, YOLANDA HESTER, CLAIRE DAY, GABRIEL TENORIO, CHARLIE McCLUNG, ALISON MINAMI, and CHEVALA ZEPEDA, plus Dan on his trusty old bike. We did three 30" shows throughout the day, on a gorgeous afternoon with a constant river of bicycle riders on the streets as a backdrop to our shows.
Each performance began with thunderous taiko drumming by DANNY YAMAMOTO (of the band Hiroshima) and beautiful flute playing by GEORGE ABE, which worked so well to attract audiences. People would ride up, dump their bikes on the grass, and sit down to watch the show.
We had some funny things happen, such as confused passers-by wandering into the middle of our scenes, one very drunk guy who stumbled out "onstage" and stood with his back to the audience for several minutes before Nobuko gently led him away, and several bike riders who would accidentally cruise right through the middle of our performance! We just waved as they went by...
Feedback from the performance was terrific. People said it really made them proud and pleased to be an urban bike rider. Others were touched by memories about the very first time they rode a bike.
Personally I was amazed at what a powerful experience that was for so many of us - the first time we rode a bike! The feeling of confidence, independence, empowerment and 'mastery of the universe' that so many people associate with this simple childhood experience -- truly profound...
Some pics of the performances were shot by two great photographers, Jorge Vismara and Emily Mount. You can see their work here:
Look for us to repeat this performance on October 14 in the next CicLAvia event --this time in conjunction with the Deputy Mayor of the Environment's Office, and with an even bigger live music component!
University of Redlands, Glenn Wallichs Theater
January 28, 2012 - After many years, Dan returned to UOR to perform excerpts from IT'S GREAT 2B AMERICAN plus STATION WAGONS OF LIFE, on a mixed bill with Leo Garcia and Doug Hammett as part of the UOR "Performing identities" solo performance series. It was a blast! The audience was laughing & crying and Dan had a great time as well. Also included was a post-show Q&A and a lovely reception at Prof. Chris Beach's beautiful home. U of Redlands rocks!
ON THE INTERNET:
Dan's funny new environmental music video, created this spring with Nobuko Miyamoto and Great Leap, is now online. With over 30,000 views, it's been seen in every state of the U.S. and increasingly around the world!
Please check it out, share it with your friends, and pass the word about living a less wasteful lifestyle!
Los Angeles, CA.
GRANDMAS, GRAPES, AND GONGGI-NORI
Report from Korea
Dan's video presentation about his experiences in South Korea, Feb. 2011, teaching a storytelling workshop for elderly rural women on an island in South Korea.
This project was made possible by a Culture Exchange International grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
Santa Barbara, CA.
TRUE TALES AND CLEVER LIES
UC Santa Barbara, Multicultural Center Theater
May 26, 2011 - Dan returned to the MCC after many years to perform excerpts from IT'S GREAT 2B AMERICAN and ONCE WE WANTED. Thanks to Kip Fulbeck for wonderful local hospitality and the great meeting with his students!
Los Angeles, CA.
MOTTAINAI & ORDER TO GO
National Center for the Preservation of Democracy
June 5, 2011 (World Environment Day) - The premiere screening of Dan's new environmental music video, MOTTAINAI, created in collaboration with Nobuko Miyamoto and Great Leap's community of artists! Also on the day were live two performances of "ORDER TO GO" (see report from Sept. 11, 2010), workshops on greener living, and lots of fun! www.greatleap.org.
Santa Monica, CA.
ONCE WE WANTED
May 13-14, 2011 - Dan and Iu-Hui Chua gave a work-in-progress presentation of their interdisciplinary collaboration: a funny, philosophical, playfully sexy, deeply
intimate and personal exploration of what it means to truly be connected to each other. Full of surprises, Kwong and Chua incorporate dance, theater, poetry, comedy, puppetry, martial arts and song in a dense and fast-paced collage of vignettes. This was Kwong's first major production since the passing of his mother in 2010, and the piece was partly a tribute to her.
Dan and Iu-Hui are eager to continue developing this production!
Los Angeles, CA.
Music Video Production
April 16, 17, 2011 - Over two intense long days of work, Dan directed the shooting of the newest environmental music video for Great Leap! Glad to say it went very well and we got some great footage.
Featuring another song by longtime colleague Nobuko Miyamoto, MOTTAINAI is a call to remember the wisdom of our ancestors when it comes to cherishing the earth's resources and avoiding thoughtless waste.
We had a terrific hard-working crew - Jon Edwards our Cameraman, Bob Miyamoto our Key Grip (and Nobuko's brother), Anna Woo our 1st Asst. Director, and many more. Truly a community project, we couldn't have done it without the support of many people, including our many Kickstarter funders. Thanks to all!
A Slice of Rice, Frijoles & Greens
of Wyoming at Laramie
April 7, 2011 - Dan was on the road with his Great Leap
colleagues Chic Streetman and D'Lo, to perform at the University of Wyoming as part of the annual Shepard
Symposium on Social Justice. They treated us wonderfully, and we did okay performing at 1.5 miles above sea level! (huff, puff)
TRUE TALES from the Son of a Wheaton Grad
Wheaton College, Kresge Experimental Theatre
March 31, 2011 - The Universe smiled with a bit of ironic scheduling as Dan performed at his mother's alma mater on the exact one year anniversary of her passing. In honor of her, he performed various pieces which featured her presence. Included in the show was a screening of the documentary Dan produced about Momo's 60th college reunion, when she received the Wheaton Alumni Achievement Award in 2007, a high point in her life. He also read a narrative poem about Momo and the indelible impression she made on her male offspring.
Several of Momo's dear friends from the class of 1947 made it to the show (one driving 70 miles through a snowstorm!), and their presence made it that much more powerful. One of the most emotional performances of Dan's life, it wasn't just "a show" - it was a memorial tribute to his mother.
While at Wheaton, Dan was housed in a gorgeous 1960's guesthouse on campus designed by legendary architect/designer Walter Gropius (with whom Momo's older brother Daisuke studied after the war!).
Dan also conducted a mini-performance workshop with Wheaton students, and an off-shoot of this visit was the possibility of Wheaton College acquiring one of his mother's weavings for their collection.
All in all, an amazingly wonderful trip!
FROM INNER WORLDS
Center, Seon-gam Island
February 3-28, 2011: Dan recently returned from another residency in Korea, returning to G.C.C. some 14 months after his participation in the pilot program there in Fall of 2009. What was intended as a storytelling workshop for rural elderly Korean women turned out to be a classic example of the "students" teaching the "teacher". It was deeply moving to be with these spirited, funny, warm and caring women. Ranging from mid-60s to mid-80s in age, they were a delightful bunch who welcomed Dan into their community with such graciousness and generosity. It was enlightening to see how different life is for elders in that rural setting. They spend virtually every day together hanging out in the senior center: eating meals, playing "Go-Stop" (a card game based on the Japanese game of Hanafuda), singing karaoke, and just being together. It's a striking contrast to the isolation most seniors have to deal with in urban America. Many of these women still work in the fields on their grape farms. They were so down-to-earth and real, it was love at first sight for Dan. They taught him more than he taught them!
The project was funded in part by a Culture Exchange International
Grant from the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department.
November 5-7, 2010: Dan performed as part of the ensemble in
Paulina Sahagun's 5th annual event at Highways. Combining
aspects of traditional Mexican Day of the Dead festivities
with commedia dell'arte style, Calavereando honored the
wisdom of ancestors while also making satirical socio-political
commentary. Highlight for Dan was portraying a skeletal Barack
Obama in a tag-team wrestling match with Glenn Beck, Christine
O'Donnell, and Sarah Palin! Great fun!
Also part of the event was
a community altar in the lobby gallery for those who have
lost a loved one in the last year. There was a nice Momo-presence there...
"Indelible Ink" Poetry & Performance Series
October 26, 2010: Dan performed
a site-specific piece, in-the-round, at POP Champagne
& Dessert Bar in Pasadena.
The piece began with Dan entering wearing a cardboard head-dress
which simulated a miniature theater stage (see video) as his recorded voiceover described
some basic theatrical formats (proscenium stage, thrust
stage, theater-in-the-round). After a brief live
monologue in which Dan ranted about how much he hates
theater-in-the-round due to its effects on the audience-performer connection, he segued into a story about his late mother
and her extraordinary ability to connect with people.
(This piece was the seedling for what would become "WHAT? NO PING-PONG BALLS?")
Other than that, Dan's highlight of the night was meeting the amazing singer/songwriter Corrinne
May, originally from Singapore now based here in the States.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you check her out, she is brilliant!
Collaboratory VIII: "Order To Go"
(directed by D.K.)
September 11, 2010: A standing
room-only crowd saw the culminating performance of round
VIII of the Collaboratory mentorship program! The show
was presented at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook in
Culver City in an outdoor pavilion. Over a hundred folks
braved chilly weather and dense fog to come see an outstanding
performance by Janet Dandridge, June Kaewsith, Zumi Mizokami,
Ayuko Sato, Shannon Shue!
For ten weeks this wonderful
group of emerging artists was led by Dan and Young-Ae
Park, learning how to work together to create collaborative
performances, and using the theme of "the environmental
impact of take-out food containers & utensils".
The results were funny, poignant, rich and informative.
The evening was hosted by
the funny and delightful Amy Hill and also featured live
music by Nobuko Miyamoto and Friends, plus a live screening
of our new music video "B.Y.O. CHOPSTIX" (see
One of our most successful
Collab shows ever!
May 2010: Dan directed and edited his first
music video! Great Leap's Artistic Director Nobuko Miyamoto
teamed up with rapper Luke "Aidger" Patterson
to write and record a funny-yet-pointed song about the ecological
ills of disposable chopsticks. Shot on location at Azuma
Restaurant in Gardena and in studio, B.Y.O.C. features Nobuko
as the Ghost of Dead Chopsticks, and Aidger as an eco-savvy
rapping sushi chef. Also making cameos are Danny Yamamoto
(drummer for Hiroshima), acclaimed solo perfomer Jude Narita,
and several former participants from Great Leap's Collaboratory
Also, Great Leap is now selling portable
chopsticks on their website:
Bring your own!
Month At The Museum - NOT.
August 2010: Dan entered a contest
to live for one month in the Chicago Museum of Science &
Industry. Unfortunately he didn't even make it past the
first cut (over 1,000 entries!), but here's the extended
version of the video he submitted with his application:
You be the judge!
UCLA Medical School
OF RICE, FRIJOLES & GREENS
August 3, 2010: Our annual performance for
first-year med students in Bruin-town! This year featured
Dan, Paulina Sahagun, and Lynn Manning each performing 20
minutes of solo material.
24th Annual ATHE Conference
Through Masculinity: Re-thinking maleness through Theatre,
Movement, and Dance
August 4, 2010: Dan was on a panel with some
amazing artists discussing the exploration of masculinity
in performance. Jeff McMahon convened, with Tim Miller,
John Fleck, Dan Froot, and Doug Cooney! It was especially
interesting to have both Gay and straight perspectives on
this topic. Conference was held at the Hyatt Century Plaza
Hotel, dubbed the "Western White House" during
the Reagan years.
(ATHE = Association for Theater in Higher
Artists Exchange Festival 2010
Asian Arts Initiative
March 27, 2010: Dan performed excerpts from
IG2BA. Also on the bill: Philly-based artists CATZIE VILAYPHONH
and ANULA SHETTY.
March 29-April 3, 2010: Dan also facilitated
an intensive workshop on the topic of "HOME: Far and
Near" with a terrific group of artists from across
the country including Anula Shetty, Robert Karimi, Regie
Cabico, Kristina Wong, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Makoto Hirano
and Catzie Vilayphonh. The week culminated in a showing
of performances created by the group during the week.
The show was directed by Regie Cabico, who
graciously stepped in for Dan when he had to return home
mid-week when his mother passed away. Dan was actually able
to participate in the show from Santa Monica via live video
link, and read a short piece he had written in honor of
his mother. Special thanks to Gary San Angel for making
it technically possible.
Also, thanks to Gayle Isa (Exec. Director
of AAI) for her kindness and flexibility during this tough
Finally, thanks to all the participating
artists whose compassion and loving support made it as bearable
February 11, 2010: Dan gave a very successful
performance of the newest version of IT'S GREAT 2B AMERICAN,
and also had a great time visiting Prof. Elena Creef's seminar
class. Exciting to try out a new version of the show and
get some useful feedback from students and faculty. Major
thanks to Prof. Creef, Marissa, and Ken Loewit for making
Kansas State Univ.
February 3, 2010: Dan returned for his third
visit to KSU (since 1997) and performed a medley of short
pieces. He also got in a couple games of bowling in the
December 5 & 6, 2009: Dan had the pleasure
of performing with longtime friend and colleague Jude Narita
(and poet Elizabeth Iannacci). Good to be reminded how brilliant
Jude's work is!
Gyeonggi Creation Center
Oct. 29 - Nov. 24, 2009: Dan spent a month
at this new international arts center on Seongam Island,
a rural area 40 miles SW of Seoul. He was part of a group
of 24 international artists conducting researching for future
art projects focused on community issues.
While there, Dan also created a site-specific
installation piece in the form of a small-scale baseball
diamond, dedicated to the boys who died at this location
during WWII. (check out Dan's Facebook page for many photos
documenting the installation).
October 14, 2009: Dan facilitated an introductory
workshop on autobiographical writing & performance.
October 15, 2009: Dan gave a video/lecture
presentation for the British & American Studies Dept.
With a fully professional translator, wow!
sponsored by the Cultural Symbiosis Research Institute of
Aichi Prefectural Univ. Coordinated by Prof. Mizuho Murayama.
SANGYO UNIVERSITY, Kyoto
October 16, 2009: Dan screened
video & lectured on his work, with focus on Hybrid Identity
and other pithy topics...
by Prof. Kyoko N. Nozaki
October 21, 2009: Workshop on "effective
social/academic communications" for graduate students.
October 22, 2009: Autobiographical writing
& performing workshop for undergrad students.
October 22, 2009: Dan screened video and
lectured on IT'S GREAT 2B AMERICAN.
by Prof. Hideyuki Yamamoto
CULTURAL HISTORY OF MASCULINITY SYMPOSIUM, Osaka
October 24, 2009: Dan talked about his workshop
approach & demonstrated some of his teaching methodology.
Dan was also on a panel, talking about Asian
American masculinity and screening video clips of his work
on the topic.
by Japan Society for Promotion of Science, Gender Studies
Project led by Prof. Miho Mitsunari, Setsunan University.
Additional support from the Asian American Literature Association
and the American Drama Association of Japan.
THANKS TO PROF. HIDEYUKI YAMAMOTO OF KOBE UNIVERSITY FOR
MAKING THIS ENTIRE TOUR POSSIBLE!
Touching All Bases: A Baseball Celebration
October 9, 2009: As part of ArtNight
Pasadena, the Baseball Reliquary and Pasadena Public Library
presented Touching All Bases: A Baseball Celebration. This
multi-cultural, multi-generational evening incorporated
visual art, music, performance, literature, and moving image
media to provide new insights into Americas national
pastime. On the 20th anniversary of his ground-breaking
performance Secrets of the Samurai Centerfielder, Dan performed a monologue from the show, in addition to DODGERTOWN, a funny
yet deeply-moving story about being a devoted follower of
the home team, including Kwong's childhood technique for
getting into Dodger games for free, his perspective on professional
sports as a mind-numbing substance, and a stunning vision
at Chavez Ravine.
Miami University of Ohio
University Center Theater
OF RICE, FRIJOLES & GREENS
October 1, 2009: Dan performed an excerpt
from IG2BA (Classroom Patriots) plus "Station Wagons
of Life" as part of Great Leap's touring show. Dan
performed with his longtime friends & colleagues, CHIC
STREETMAN and PAULINA SAHAGUN.
September 23, 2009: Dan talked about his
work in Prof. Elena Creef's class on "Elvis Presley
& 50s America".
September 24, 2009:
Dan performed various excerpts including "Birth Interview",
Station Wagons of Life", plus selections from IG2BA.
September 25, 2009:
Dan facilitated an introductory workshop on autobiographical
writing for performance.
This residency sponsored
by the Asian American Association, Board of Multicultural
Student Affairs, and Students Organized Against Racism.
World's Youngest Poet
White Gallery, Ventura
September 4, 2009: Dan reprised his intellectual
baby, reciting selections from his latest book "Passions
of a Breastfeeder". Complete with spouting political
rhetoric (and baby poop) for a jam-packed house. Assisted
by the most fetching wet-nurse ever, Allura Lee.
Collaboratory VII: "The
Electric Lodge, Venice
by Porschia Baker, Manny Baldenegro, Caroline Chang, Claire
Day, Maya Gingery, Joyce Lee, Angela Salgado.
by DK, assisted by Young-Ae Park.
August 30, 2009: Great Leap
presented the latest works-in-progress created in their
mentorship program for developing the next generation of
artist-leaders in Los Angeles. Collab VII was focused on
"caring for the environment".
Collaboratory participants spent
six weeks experiencing field trips to environmental and
arts organizations, meetings with mentors from the local
arts community, master classes with guest teachers, and
workshops with Dan and Young-Ae practicing collaboration
techniques. The last two weeks were focused on the creation
of works for this presentation at Electric Lodge, a solar-powered
performing arts center.
This program was presented as
Electric Lodges 2009 Green Piece, their
annual project devoted to combining the arts and the environment.
GREAT 2B AMERICAN
Cultural Arts Center
May 27, 2009: Dan performed
his newest show for a packed house at the George Nakano
Theater in Torrance.
Presented as part of
the "Whose Story Now?" series curated by John
Powers, presented in association with the Japanese American
Citizens League, Japanese American National Museum, Japanese
American Historical Society, JACCC, and more.
of Wisconsin, Madison
February 23, 2009:
Dan gave a 90 minute talk with video screening, plus mini-performance
excerpt about his latest work. Dan was hosted locally by
the wonderful Li-Chiao-Ping and her husband Doug Rosenberg.
GREAT 2B AMERICAN
College, Wilson Theater
February 26, 2009:
Dan performed the full show for the good folks at Beloit,
and taught an introductory workshop on autobiographical
writing & performing for the Theater Department.
of the Art Institute of Chicago
February 26, 2009:
Dan visited his beloved alma mater to screen video and
talk about his latest work. Hosted by the Visiting Artists
Performance Seminar series.
GREAT 2B AMERICAN
Angeles Theater Center
November 14-16, 2008:
This production featured new choreography, spiffed up video
sequences, with a definite post-Obama-election kick! Part
of LATC's "Face Of The World Festival".
West Players Theater, Los Angeles
by Chris Tashima
Sept 17-Oct 12,
2008: Dan's new play had its world premiere!
"Dan Kwong has penned a powerful,
emotive, yet at times playful tale..." ~ Rafu Shimpo
"The beauty of "Be Like Water"
is that it's about families like yours that struggle with
identity, racism and insurmountable family expectations.
It's about your heartbreak and strength." ~ Pacific
"Kwong can still deliver a roundhouse
kick to the emotions." ~ L.A. Times
"...Hayashida and Sun Lee deftly
handle playwright Kwongs venerable skill in writing
monologues that forward story line while allowing character
depth." ~ View From A Loft
"Playwright Dan Kwong reveals an
ability to adapt the huge issues (racism, mother-daughter
stalemates, application of ancient wisdom) to living-room
scale. He balances these disparate dimensions so that the
expansiveness, danger and instruction of unseen story are
just as active as the day-to-day trials of his familiar characters."
~ Theater Times
Chicago, 1978. Disco rules.
It's been 5 years since the tragic and untimely death of
legendary martial artist Bruce Lee.
Tracy Fong is a 13-year old
tomboy who has become a street-fighting, ass-kicking, gung-fu/Bruce
Lee-fanatic. Her best friend at school happens to be named
Bruce Lee - but he's a scrawny little nerd who loves disco
dancing as much as Tracy despises it.
While Dad plays it cool, Mom
pressures their daughter to be more of a "normal"
As Tracy squares off against
a nasty bully, her overbearing mother, and the dreaded annual
disco dance, along comes the Ghost of Bruce Lee (in a glass
of water!) to help Tracy on her journey.
Produced by EWP in association
with Cedar Grove Onstage.
GREAT 2B AMERICAN
by Shishir Kurup
July 10-13, 2008:
Dan premiered his first full-length solo performance
in 9 years!
IT'S GREAT 2B AMERICAN
Natl Asian American Theater Conference
Blood Theater, Minneapolis
June 5-7, 2008: Kwong performed
a 10 minute excerpt from his new work as part of the
Writer/ Performer Showcase, and also sat on a couple
panels at the Conference: "Surviving as a Solo
Artist" and "Shaping the Remix", the
latter which included discussion of the Collaboratory
mentorship program he has been directing for Great Leap
Performance as Self-Expression/Realization
8, 2008: On Dan's second visit to Kobe U. he gave a lecture
to faculty and students on his teaching methods and philosophy,
and taught an introductory performance workshop.
by Kobe U's Prof. Hideyuki Yamamoto and the Innovative
Ethics Research Project, Faculty of Letters.
March 12, 2008: Dan
performed excerpts from his book as part of the CSUN multicultural
Collaboratory V: "Leaps
Center for the Preservation of Democracy, Los Angeles
March 8,9 2008: Led by Project
Director Dan and Co-Facilitators Young-Ae Park and Nobuko
Miyamoto, ten artists worked together for 7 weeks visiting
various religious/spiritual centers in Los Angeles, meeting
with local mentors/elders/ wisdom-keepers, experiencing
master classes with guest teachers, and sharing their own
personal stories of faith with each other.
They combined autobiographical
material along with historical and contemporary sources
in a highly collaborative approach, addressing questions
such as: How can multi-dimensional religious identities
live side by side? How do we navigate religious conflicts
with intelligence and compassion? How can we create progressive
and respectful visions for the future?
One of our most successful Collaboratory
Auditorium, UMass, Amherst
February 8, 2008: Kwong
& Peng presented their critically-acclaimed blend
of performance art and Chinese opera to a full house.
sponsored by the UMass Asian Studies Department. Two
days later they taught workshops and performed for Derryfield
School in nearby Manchester, New Hampshire.
Being Naked without
December 13, 2007: Dan gave
a video presentation and lecture about his autobiographical
performance work for students at the Faculty of Letters.
Students found the provocative title utterly confusing...
From Inner Worlds
Walla Walla WA
August 26-September 29, 2007:
Dan guest-taught a very successful intensive course on
Autobiographical Writing & Performing for the Theater
Department of Whitman College. A remarkably talented group
of students presented their solo pieces to full-houses
as the opening production of the Whitman Theater Department's
Collaboratory IV:"Third Stone"
FarmLab, Los Angeles
July-August, 2007: Dan and Young-Ae
Park facilitated a free 8-week residency for emerging artists-of-color
interested in collaborative performance and community leadership.
The theme for this round was "caring for the environment".
The residency included field
trips to various cultural centers in communities of color,
guest teachers, and seminars with community elders, mentors,
Collaboratory IV culminated
in a weekend of performances created by participants, directed
by Kwong and Park, and hosted by FarmLab, a progressive
organization in downtown L.A. which is dedicated to finding
new ways to bring the urban environment more in harmony
History of Asian American Theatre
Recently published by Cambridge University Press,
this is the definitive book on the subject, written by Esther
Kim Lee, Asst. Professor of Theatre at the University of Illinois
It acknowledges the significance of Kwong's body
of work within a larger historical context of Asian American theater,
spanning from 1965 to 2006.
Quote from the book:
"Dan Kwong empowers the Asian American
identity and challenges American identity by telling stories of
his life. And he has inspired others to use his workshop techniques
to continue breaking the cycle of silence of Asian American men
(The book also features a photo of Dan performing
at Highways. Photo credit should be: Marcel Schaap.)
Tulsa Performing Arts
March 2007: Dan & Peng performed
their critically-acclaimed collaboration to a packed audience
for New Genre XIV, the innovative arts festival in Tulsa produced
by Living Arts of Tulsa. They really know how to treat artists
right over there...
February 2006: The successful world
premiere of this multidisciplinary collaboration with traditional
Chinese opera artist Peng Jingquan from Beijing, China. Receiving
rave reviews, the show also toured to Duke University NC, New
York University, and Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA.
An outrageous blend of Chinese opera
(real and fake), Western drama, multimedia, puppetry, slapstick,
poetry and storytelling, "Sleeping With Strangers" shares
the highs and lows of international relations between China and
the U.S., between fathers and sons, and between friends.
PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF CHINA
Nordica TC/G, Kunming
September 2005: A work-in-progress
version of Kwong & Peng's collaboration was presented in this
very cool Swedish(!) experimental gallery/performance space in
the city of Kunming. The eclectic audience - Chinese college students,
European ex-patriots, and a handful of locals who wandered in
not knowing what the heck was going to happen - all seemed to
Mekong Project - Phase II
Phnom Penh; Siem Reap; Battambang
November 2004: Returning to SE Asia, Dan again
helped facilitate this international residency. The Mekong Project
brought together 14 artists from China, Vietnam, Laos, Burma,
Cambodia, Thailand and the U.S. Traveling together for 3 weeks
in Cambodia, the project visited Siem Riep (site of famed Angkor
Wat and many other spectacular temples) and Battambang before
culminating in a weekend of performances in Phnom Penh. A very
July 30-31, 2004: The annual conference for the
Assoc. for Theatre in Higher Education included hundreds of academics
and practitioners from across the continent and beyond. Dan performed,
taught a workshop, was part of a panel discussion, participated
in an interview and did a book-signing session - all in 2 days...
Inner Worlds to
Book Release Show
July 22-24, 2004: To celebrate the publication
of his new book, Dan performed a medley of pieces from his repertoire
at Highways Performance Space. Featuring excerpts from the book,
the performance marked Dan's reunion with his brilliant director,
Christine Sang. All went exceptionally well with the exception
of a costume malfunction that made Janet Jackson's look tame in
The Art of Rice
Pengosekan, Ubud, Bali
August 2003: Dan returned
to Bali, Indonesia to complete work on The
Art of Rice. This international collaborative
multidisciplinary multi-media performance featured eleven outstanding
artists from China, India, Burma, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Dominican
Republic and the U.S. all working together to create a performance
about that humble life-sustaining grain.
After a month in Bali developing the show, the group traveled
to Hawaii and performed on three different islands. It made its
L.A. premiere to full houses at the Japan America Theater, Pomona
College and UCLA. Dan had the opportunity to practice Balinese
shadow puppetry and 'topeng' (mask) performance. It was a wonderfully
intense experience with lots of very fast collaboration and creation.
Rite of Passage
HIGHWAYS, Santa Monica
May 10, 2003: Dan had his head shaved
onstage as part of Highways' 14th Birthday Celebration. Assisted
by performers Bennett Schneider
and Pete Lee,
Kwong sat stoically as audience members donated $10 each to come
onstage and snip off a lock of his hair. Meanwhile a videotape
was projected showing emails Dan received, cheering him on to
dome-hood, along with photos of Dan from age 3 months to present,
sporting all manner of hairdos.
Audience-barbers received groovy certificates of participation.
Final shaving of the Kwong-Dome was executed by Pete, to the strains
of Also Sprach Zarathustra. The ritual raised over $500 for Highways.
Mekong Project - Phase I
Chiang Mai; Louang Prabang
March 2003: Dan was a Co-Facilitator on this
3-week residency in northern Thailand and Laos, helping artists
and staff work together successfully. The Mekong Project was a
funded by the Rockefeller
Foundation and administered by Dance
Theater Workshop in NY, to develop resources for Southeast Asian
artists in the Mekong region.
Highlight of the residency was a 4-day boat
ride down the Mekong River to Louang Prabang, Laos which inspired
the creation of a new solo performance, "On
Boyle Heights Residency
Read a thoughtful recap of Dans performance residency in
conjunction with Great Leap as part of the Japanese
American National Museum's January 2003 exhibition
Boyle Heights: The Power Of Place.
April 9, 2005: The Japanese American Historical
Society of Southern California honored Dan for outstanding contributions
to Japanese American history and culture at a lovely banquet event.
Also honored that evening were videographers John Esaki and Amy
Kato, and traditional dancer Sumako Azuma.
April 27, 2005: The Los Angeles Cultural Affairs
Department announced the recipients of its COLA grant for mid-career
artists, and Dan was among the group. The award resulted in the
creation of a new performance presented in May 2006 at Barnsdall
Gallery Theater (see above).
June 30, 2004: The
California Community Foundation announced recipients of its individual
fellowships for "Outstanding Mid-Career Artists" (at
least 15 years of professional experience). From 300 applicants,
5 California artists were selected for this highly-competitive
fellowship. Recipients were Enrique Celaya, Karen Kimmel, Rika
Ohara, Eloy Torrez and DK. Congratulations to all the