Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Jennifer Lim, Francis Jue, Telly Leung, Jo Mei, James Saito and Sue Jin Song Set for MTC Run of World Premiere of The World of Extreme Happiness by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, February 3 – March 29

WEH-7x5-without-billingRehearsals kicked off today, January 6, for Manhattan Theatre Club’s world premiere of The World of Extreme Happiness, the new play by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, directed by Eric Ting. This co-production with Chicago’s Goodman Theatre will begin previews Tuesday, February 3, 2015 for a Tuesday, February 24, 2015 opening night at MTC’s New York City Center – Stage I (131 West 55th Street).

The MTC cast of The World of Extreme Happiness features Francis Jue (M. Butterfly, “The Good Wife”), Telly Leung (“Glee,” Godspell), Jennifer Lim (ChinglishThis Isn’t Romance at London’s Soho Theatre), Jo Mei (New York stage debut and star of the acclaimed independent film A Picture of You), James Saito (Golden Child, “Life of Pi”), and Sue Jin Song (Paula Vogel’s Hot ‘n Throbbing).

Unwanted from the moment she’s born, Sunny (Jennifer Lim) is determined to escape her life in rural China and forge a new identity in the city. As naïve as she is ambitious, Sunny views her new job in a grueling factory as a stepping stone to untold opportunities. When fate casts her as a company spokeswoman at a sham PR event, Sunny’s bright outlook starts to unravel in a series of harrowing and darkly comic events, as she begins to question a system enriching itself by destroying its own people.

Critically acclaimed in a workshop production at London’s National Theatre, The World of Extreme Happiness makes its world premiere in a co-production with Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. “Hard-hitting and bruisingly funny” (Time Out London), this epic new drama by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig is as fierce and unflinching as the world it examines. Eric Ting directs.

The creative team for The World of Extreme Happiness includes Mimi Lien (scenic design), Jenny Mannis (costume design), Tyler Micoleau (lighting design), and Mikhail Fiksel (sound design).

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Lynne Meadow and Executive Producer Barry Grove, MTC has become one of the country’s most prominent and prestigious theatre companies. Over the past four and a half decades, MTC productions have earned numerous awards including six Pulitzer Prizes and 19 Tony Awards. MTC has a Broadway home at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street) and two Off-Broadway theatres at New York City Center (131 West 55th Street). Renowned MTC productions include Casa ValentinaOutside MullingarThe Assembled PartiesVenus in FurMaster ClassGood PeopleThe Whipping ManTime Stands StillThe Royal FamilyRuinedCome Back, Little ShebaBlackbirdShining CityRabbit HoleDoubtProofThe Tale of the Allergist’s WifeLove! Valour! Compassion!; A Small Family BusinessSylviaPutting It TogetherFrankie and Johnny in the Clair de LuneCrimes of the Heart; and Ain’t Misbehavin.’ For more information on MTC, please visit

Now celebrating its 90th year, Goodman Theatre is an artistic and community institution dedicated to the art of theater and civic engagement. Chicago’s flagship located in the heart of the downtown Theater District, the Goodman is distinguished by the quality and scope of its programming and its culturally and aesthetically diverse creative leadership—including Artistic Director Robert Falls and his esteemed Artistic Collective. Artistic priorities include new plays, reimagined classics, culturally specific works, musical theater and international collaborations. Under Mr. Falls and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, the Goodman has generated more than 150 world or American premieres and nearly 30 new-work commissions. Awards include two Pulitzer Prizes; 22 Tony Awards, including Outstanding Regional Theatre (1992); and nearly 160 Joseph Jefferson Awards. Joan Clifford is Chair of the Board of Trustees, Swati Mehta is Women’s Board President and Gordon C.C. Liao is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals.


Tickets for The World of Extreme Happiness are available by calling CityTix at 212-581-1212, online by visiting, or by visiting New York City Center box office (131 West 55th Street). All tickets are $85.

Subscriptions for MTC’s 2014-2015 season are available by calling (212) 399-3050 (Monday through Friday NOON – 9 PM, Saturday 10 AM – 3 PM) or online at


  • TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday at 7 PM; Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM. Matinee on Sunday at 2 PM. There are only seven performances this week.
  • MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15:Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday at 7 PM; Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM. Matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM.
  • MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22:Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 PM; Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM. Matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2 PM.
  • MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23 – SUNDAY, MARCH 1 (WEEK OF OPENING):Wednesday and Sunday at 7 PM; Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM. Matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM. The curtain time for opening night on Tuesday, February 24 will be announced shortly.
  • MONDAY, MARCH 2 – SUNDAY, MARCH 8:Tuesday at 7 PM; Wednesday through Saturday at 8 PM. Matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2 PM.
  • MONDAY, MARCH 9 – SUNDAY, MARCH 15:Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 PM; Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM. Matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2 PM.
  • MONDAY, MARCH 16 – SUNDAY, MARCH 22:Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 PM; Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM. Matinees on Saturday, and Sunday at 2 PM. There are only 7 performances on sale to the public this week.
  • MONDAY, MARCH 23 – SUNDAY, MARCH 29:Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 PM; Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM. Matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2 PM.

FRANCES YA-CHU COWHIG (Playwright). Cowhig’s plays have been produced at the National Theatre, Trafalgar Studios 2, and the Goodman Theatre. Her plays have been awarded the Wasserstein Prize, the Yale Drama Series Award, and the Keene Prize for Literature. She is currently under commission from Manhattan Theatre Club, the Goodman Theatre, and the National Theatre. Cowhig received an MFA in Writing from the Michener Center for Writers, a BA from Brown University, and a certificate in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from Dell’Arte International. Her plays have been published by Yale University Press and Methuen Drama. She is currently a Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence at Manhattan Theatre Club.

ERIC TING (Director) is an Obie Award-winning director whose recent credits include Sam Hunter’s A Great Wilderness (Williamstown), Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud To Present A Presentation… (Soho Rep / Victory Gardens), Rising Son by Dick Lee (Singapore Rep) and The World Of Extreme Happiness (Goodman). Long Wharf Theatre Associate Artistic Director since 2007, Ting is a founding member of the artists’ collective INTELLIGENT BEASTS and a recipient of a 2012 MAP Fund Award with Meiyin Wang. Upcoming: Kimber Lee’s Brownsville Song(Long Wharf / Philadelphia Theatre Co) and Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (CTG).

FRANCIS JUE (Old Lao/Gao Chen/Mr. Destiny). Broadway: Pacific Overtures, Thoroughly Modern Millie, M. Butterfly. Recent Off-Broadway: Kung Fu, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Coraline, Falsettoland. Recent regional: In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), The King & I. Jue has been honored with an Obie and a Lucille Lortel Award (Yellow Face)an Elliot Norton Award (Miss Saigon), a Drama League Award (Kiss of the Spiderwoman), Bay Area Critics Awards (Pacific Overtures, Cabaret, Into the Woods), and AriZoni Awards (The Illusion, In the Next Room). Film/TV includes: Joyful Noise, “Madam Secretary,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “The Good Wife.”

TELLY LEUNG (Pete/Ran Feng/DJ Happy).  Broadway / National Tour: Flower Drum SongPacific OverturesWicked(Boq), Rent (final Broadway company), & Godspell. Selected Regional: Allegiance (with George Takei, The Old Globe), M. Butterfly (Philadelphia Theater Company), Rent (directed by Neil Patrick Harris, Hollywood Bowl), & Hello, Dolly! (The Muny). Television: “Glee” (Wes, the Warbler), “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Deadbeat,” “Broadway or Bust” (PBS).  Recordings: His debut solo recording, {i’ll cover you}, on The Yellow Sound Label, and many original cast recordings. Producing credits: Grind (starring Anthony Rapp) and “Seasons of Broadway” (a concert series celebrating the diversity of Broadway).  BFA: Carnegie Mellon University.

JENNIFER LIM (Sunny). Broadway: Chinglish (Theater World Award and Drama Desk nomination). Off-Broadway:The Urban Retreat; The Most Deserving; Golden Child;Vengeance Can Wait; Cry,Trojans! (UK/NY/LA); YJLee’s Songs of The Dragons (NY/European tour); Ching Chong Chinaman. Regional: TWoEHChinglish (Jeff & Chicago Theater Critics’ Beat nomination), Iphigeneia At Aulis, Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella, A Christmas Carol. Television and film: “Person of Interest,” “Elementary,” “The Good Wife,” “Blue Bloods,” “Law & Order” (all three), “Royal Pains,” The Savages27 Dresses. Yale School of Drama (MFA). Associate member of The Wooster Group and GF&Co.

SUE JIN SONG (Artemis/Wang Hua) has an MFA in Acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.  Other world premieres: Hot ‘n Throbbing (by Paula Vogel), Waiting for Tadashi, and Shedding the Tiger (by Velina Hasu Houston). Theatre credits include Woolly Mammoth: Marie Antoinette; Theater J: iHo, Yellow Face; Studio Theater: Songs of the Dragon Flying to Heaven; DC Fringe Festival: Children of Medea (awarded “Best of Fringe”); Pearl Theater: Iphigenia at Aulis; Syracuse Stage: Burn This.  Film credits include: Steel Town, Pipe Dream, Someone Like You.  Television credits include: “24,” “ER,” “Law & Order.”

JO MEI (Ming-Ming/Shu Min/Xiao Li) is making her Off-Broadway and MTC debut. Recent theater credits include The World of Extreme Happiness (Goodman), You For Me For You (Woolly Mammoth/MaYi), Ten (Partial Comfort). Television credits include “Bones” (Fox) and “The Good Wife” (CBS). Mei stars in and co-wrote the award-winning film A Picture of You. Other films include Adult World (with John Cusack), Revenge of the Green Dragons (executive produced by Martin Scorsese), and the upcoming The Grief of Others (directed by Patrick Wang). Mei is a graduate of Wellesley College and The Juilliard School’s Drama Division.

JAMES SAITO (Li Han/James Lin). Broadway: Golden Child, King and I. Off-Broadway and regional theatres include: Mitzi Newhouse, Public Theater Durango (Obie), Playwrights Horizons, Roundabout, Vineyard, EST, Kennedy Center, Williamstown, Guthrie, Mark Taper Forum, Long Wharf, Seattle Rep, ACT, Singapore Rep, Arena Stage. Film  and television include: Sea of Trees, Big Eyes, While We’re YoungLife of Pi, “Madam Secretary,” “Hawaii 5-0,” “Person of Interest,” “Too Big to Fail,” “Blue Bloods,” “30 Rock,” “Eli Stone,” “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Henry Fool,” “Devil’s Advocate,” “Sex and the City,” “Law and Order,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (Shredder)

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Related Articles:
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J.P. Chan’s A Picture of You, starring Jo Mei, Andy Pang, Jodi Long, Teyonah Parris and Lucas Dixon, opens on September 12 in Pasadena and Honolulu
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Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang Photo by GK

Lia Chang Photo by GK

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

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