Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Abingdon Theatre Company Presents the New York premiere of Reggie Cheong-Leen’s play, The Nanjing Race, 10/29-11/21

James Chen, Ian Wen and Marcus Ho in The Nanjing Race. Photo by Kim T. Sharp

James Chen, Ian Wen and Marcus Ho in The Nanjing Race. Photo by Kim T. Sharp

Abingdon Theatre Company presents the New York Premiere of Reggie Cheong-Leen’s The Nanjing Race, winner of a prestigious American Theatre Critics’ Association Best Regional Play Award, with performances from October 29-November 21, at the Abingdon Theatre Complex’s Dorothy Strelsin Theatre, 312 West 36th St. in New York. Opening night is November 7. Brian Tom O’Connor directs.

In The Nanjing Race, Philip, a gay Japanese-American businessman, visits Nanjing, China in 1988. Yu Ahn, a hotel “floor-boy” befriends Philip in the hope of being sponsored to go to America. But it is Bao, another floor-boy, who intrigues Philip. Trapped in their social and racial identities, the three men struggle to come to terms with their desires and prejudices. The Nanjing Race depicts an intimate culture-clash at an intriguing moment in recent Chinese history.

The cast of The Nanjing Race includes James Chen (Pan Asian Rep’s Ching Chong Chinaman) as Bao; Marcus Ho (The Shanghai Gesture, Pan Asian Rep’s Shogun Macbeth, NAATCO’s The Seagull) as Philip; and Ian Wen (Target Margin’s Dinner Party, the feature film “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”) as Yu Ahn.

The Nanjing Race features set and lighting design by Andrew Lu; costume design by Pam Prior; sound design by David Margolin Lawson; and fight choreography by Rick Sordelet.

Reggie Cheong-Leen’s The Nanjing Race is a recipient of the American Theatre Critics Association’s Best Regional Play Award whose past honorees include Moises Kaufmann’s 33 Variations, Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel, and Nilo Cruz’s Anna in The Tropics. The Nanjing Race was first produced at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. It has had staged readings at the Cleveland Public Theater and the Mark Taper Forum; and was presented in San Francisco at the New Conservatory Theatre.

Mr. Cheong-Leen’s other works include Cut Sleeves, Squeeze and Rock, Papper, Scissors. He is currently working on Obsessions, a new musical about a Chinese-American girl searching for her American father.

Director Brian Tom O’Connor helmed the first staged reading of The Nanjing Race at Cleveland Public Theatre. New York credits: Jim Beggarly’s Skeleton at The Feast; Robert Cessna’s David and Arthur, Arthur and David and Final Vows; John Patrick Shanley’s Women of Manhattan and Welcome to The Moon. He was artistic director of The New Moon Theatre Company in Vermont; and has collaborated with Debra Vogel on three revues, including Guy & Doll and How to Be Perfect.

Since 1993, Abingdon Theatre Company has developed and produced new plays by American playwrights exclusively. Our actors, directors, designers, producers and dramaturgs have collaborated with more than 200 playwrights to develop original plays. Under the guidance of Artistic Director Jan Buttram and Managing Director Sam Bellinger, the company provides a safe home in which playwrights collaborate with other theatre artists and receive audience feedback through the utilization of a four-step development process: Page 2 Stage, Staged Readings, and Workout Labs, which culminate in Studio and Mainstage Productions.

Reggie Cheong-Leen’s The Nanjing Race runs October 29 through November 21 at Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex’s Dorothy Strelsin Theatre (312 West 36th Street): Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:00pm; Fridays at 8:00pm; Saturdays at 2:00pm and 8:00pm; and Sundays at 2:00pm (with the following exception: special opening night performance, Sunday, November 7 at 5:00pm; no 2:00pm that day). Tickets are $25; or 212-868-2055.
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Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

As a photographer and videographer, Lia collaborates with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive and social media presence. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden.

Selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space are now in the newly created LIA CHANG THEATER PHOTOGRAPHY PORTFOLIO in the ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTS COLLECTION housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian American Pacific Islander Collection.

Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre,, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle,,,,,, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

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Photos: A.B. Cruz III and Lillian Kimura Receive 2011 AALDEF Justice in Action Awards
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Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive.

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