Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

La Jolla Playhouse’s 2016 POP Tour: World Premiere of ‘Alice Chan’ by Tony Award Winner BD Wong and Robert Lee, Feb. 1- April 1

ALICE CHAN co-playwright Robert Lee, scenic and costume designer Lex Liang and co-playwright:director BD WONG. Photo: La Jolla Playhouse/Facebook

ALICE CHAN co-playwright Robert Lee, scenic and costume designer Lex Liang and co-playwright:director BD WONG. Photo: La Jolla Playhouse/Facebook

Alice Chan, co-written by Robert Lee and Tony Award-winning actor and 2014/2015 Playhouse Artist-in-Residence BD Wong, who will also direct the play, is La Jolla Playhouse’s 2016 Performance Outreach Program (POP) Tour production. The piece will tour schools throughout San Diego County February 1 – April 1, 2016. Commissioned by the Playhouse, this world-premiere play for young audiences will also have four public performances on March 5 & 6, 2016 at 1:00pm and 3:00pm in the Playhouse’s Rao and Padma Makineni Play Development Center. Tickets ($12 for adults; $9 for children) to the public performances on are on sale at or (858) 550-1010.

Just about everyone at Chaffey Hills Elementary School finds Alice Chan super annoying, for a hundred hilarious different reasons. But what happens when the unpopular “Queen of the Science Fair” is cast by her well-meaning teacher as the lead in the Fifth Grade Play over the most talented and well-liked girl in the class? Fifth Grade Armageddon, that’s what! Alice Chan is a very funny comedy about breaking out of your comfort zone… and being yourself at the very same time.

“The lighthearted spirit and wit of the new POP Tour play, Alice Chan, convey a compelling and relatable message about what you can accomplish and, just as importantly, what you can discover about yourself when you dare to take a step beyond the familiar and safe,” said Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley. “The Playhouse has worked extensively with BD Wong over the years, and to have an artist of his caliber co-writing and directing our annual production for students speaks to the vital importance of the POP Tour program.”

ALICE CHAN cast (from left to right): Dana Wing Lau ("Alice Chan"), Jyl Kaneshiro ("Mama Chan"/"Candace"), Maggie Carney ("Miz Wiggum"/"Shaniya"/"Mr. Nimbles"), and Kyla Garcia ("Nikki). Photo: La Jolla Playhouse/Facebook

ALICE CHAN cast (from left to right): Dana Wing Lau (“Alice Chan”), Jyl Kaneshiro (“Mama Chan”/”Candace”), Maggie Carney (“Miz Wiggum”/”Shaniya”/”Mr. Nimbles”), and Kyla Garcia (“Nikki). Photo: La Jolla Playhouse/Facebook

The cast features Maggie Carney (Playhouse’s POP Tour 2014 Suzette Who Set to Sea, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Peter and the Starcatchers) as Miz Wiggum/Shaniya/Mr. Nimbles, Jyl Kaneshiro (Playhouse Without Walls’ presentations El Henry, The Car Plays) as Candace/Mama Chan, Dana Wing Lau (Playhouse Without Walls’ presentation The Grift at The Lafayette Hotel) as Alice Chan, and Kyla Garcia as Nikki.

alice chan 2The creative team includes BD Wong, co-playwright and director; Robert Lee, co- playwright; Jessica Bird, associate director; Lex Liang, scenic and costumer designer; and Chris Luessmann, sound designer.

La Jolla Playhouse is one of the few theatres in the country that annually commissions world- class artists to create a bold new play for young audiences annually. Playwrights create an innovative, 45-minute piece that addresses issues in the students’ lives. Last year’s POP Tour, The Astronaut Farmworker, completed 80 performances seen by 18,600 young people, teachers and families.

“The POP Tour has been a vital and dynamic part of the Playhouse’s programming and mission for nearly 30 years. It’s exciting and energizing to know that, as each season passes, this commitment to new theatre continues to extend to thousands of students, many of whom have never seen a play before. That it does so each year guided by the experience, passion and talent of dedicated theatre artists makes the POP Tour’s history that much more impressive,” said Playhouse Director of Education and Outreach Steve McCormick.

Introduced in 1987, the POP Tour travels throughout the county, touring schools, libraries and community centers. The set, costumes and props are designed to fit into a van and, in just 30 minutes, can be unloaded, placed in any space and be ready for children to experience. Prior to each performance, a Playhouse teaching artist visits each school to engage students in an interactive workshop to explore issues and themes at the core of the play. The Playhouse also provides schools with a standards-based engagement guide that enables educators to integrate the play into their existing curriculum. After each performance, the cast and crew conduct a question and answer session with the audience.

La Jolla Playhouse offers the Adopt-A-School program which provides funding for a POP Tour performance at schools that could not otherwise afford it. With the help of the theatre’s Education Committee, Playhouse Board members Judy Smith and Barbara ZoBell created the Adopt-A-School program for those who love theatre and feel no child should be without its transformative power. For more information, please contact Bonnie Broberg at

For more information about booking the POP Tour for a school performance, please contact Paola Kubelis at

BD Wong. Photo by Lia Chang

BD Wong. Photo by Lia Chang

Co-author and director BD Wong was the 2014/2015 Artist-In-Residence at La Jolla Playhouse, where he also acted in the Playhouse productions of Herringbone and The Orphan of Zhao. He directed The Yellow Wood at the New York Musical Theater Festival, Speak Up Connie at Stage Left Studio, and is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Following Foo: The Electronic Adventures of The Chestnut Man (Harper Entertainment). He made his Broadway acting debut (and received the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Theater World, Clarence Derwent, and Tony Award) for M. Butterfly. He also appeared in the Broadway revivals of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and Pacific Overtures, eleven seasons as George Huang on Law & Order: Svu and was a series regular on All-American Girl, OZ, and Awake. His other recent Television credits include Mr. Robot, Nurse Jackie, Madam Secretary and NCIS: New Orleans. He has worked in over 20 films, including Jurassic World, Focus, Jurassic Park, The Freshman, Father of the Bride, Seven Years in Tibet, Executive Decision, The Salton Sea, Stay, and Mulan.

Robert Lee

Robert Lee

Co-author Robert Lee is a lyricist and librettist whose original musicals include Journey to the West (music by Leon Ko), Heading East (music by Ko) and The Sweet By and By (book and music by Maria V.S. Seigenthaler). He and Ko received a Richard Rodgers Development Award for Heading East and an AT&T First Stage Grant for the musical Chinese Hell, developed with producer Margo Lion and San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater. Other projects with Ko include a musical stage adaptation of Jean Kerr’s Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (developed with East of Doheny and La Jolla Playhouse) and the original musical Takeaway, which opened in 2011 at London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East and is the first major musical production in the UK to deal with the British East Asian experience. He is an alumnus of Princeton University and the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he teaches on the faculty. He is an Artistic Associate at Stratford East, where he leads its Musical Theatre Writing Workshop with composer Fred Carl and is a member of its Musical Theatre Advisory Board. He is also the Musical Theatre Advisor for Leviathan Lab in New York City.

Maggie Carney (“Miz Wiggum”/ “Shaniya” / “Mr. Nimbles”) has appeared in the Playhouse’s productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (“Quince”), Peter and the Starcatchers (“Betty Bumbrake”) and the 2008 and 2014 POP Tours ¡Salsalandia! and Suzette Who Set to Sea. Local: The Quality of Life (Intrepid), Sons of the Prophet, The Importance of Being Earnest and Travesties, A Christmas Carol (Cygnet) Divine Sister (Diversionary), Pygmalion (Old Globe), Yellow Face (Mo’olelo). Elsewhere: Bill Irwin’s Largely/NY and The Tempest (Seattle Rep), A Phoenix Too Frequent and Spite for Spite (Writers’ Theatre). She has also appeared with Northlight Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, The Poetry Foundation, The Second City, Peninsula Players, Creede Repertory Theatre. Maggie can also be seen in the movie musical Lucky Stiff (directed by Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley) on Amazon and iTunes.

Jyl Kaneshiro (“Candace” / “Mama Chan”) is co-founder of the Asian American Repertory Theatre, based in San Diego. Some previous credits include Precious Little (Innermission Productions), El Henry (La Jolla Playhouse in association with San Diego Repertory), The Car Plays (Moving Arts/La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls presentation), Red Planet Respite and Derbywise (Circle Circle Dot Dot), Wait Until Dark (North Coast Repertory Theatre), Bronze (Sledgehammer), Golden Child (Chinese Pirate Productions), Fool for Love (Fritz Theatre), Tea (AART).

Dana Wing Lau (“Alice Chan”) studied theatre at DePaul University, film at The Academy of Art (San Francisco) and then trained at the Sanford Meisner School of Acting. She has worked in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas in print, film/television, and stage. Notable San Diego credits include: The Car Plays’ “Drop-Off Day” and The Grift at The Lafayette Hotel, both of which were La Jolla Playhouse Without Walls’ presentations, and Jade Heart (“Jade”) at Moxie Theatre, which was lauded by critics and received Craig Noel Award nominations.

Kyla Garcia (“Nikki”), who makes her La Jolla Playhouse debut with Alice Chan, is a BFA Graduate of Rutgers University. Recent credits include “Ismene” in the world premiere of Robertson Dean’s adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone (A Noise Within), “Siu” in the West Coast premiere of The Three Little Pigs (Lewis Family Playhouse), and “Woman” (understudy) in Se Llama Cristina (The Theatre at Boston Court). She is the creator of the award-winning solo show The Mermaid Who Learned How to Fly.

The 2016 POP Tour commission is made possible through the generous support of The Potiker Family. Corporate support provided by Qualcomm Foundation, US Bank, San Diego Gas & Electric, Bank of America, Cox Communications, Wells Fargo Foundation, Union Bank Foundation, ResMed Foundation, Nordson Corporation Foundation, Macy’s Foundation and the Employees Community Fund of Boeing California. Government support provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, The City of Chula Vista, Performing and Visual Arts Grant and The City of Encinitas & Mizel Family Foundation Community Grant Program.

Foundation support provided by The William Hall Tippett and Ruth Rathell Tippett Foundation, Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation, San Diego Scottish Rite Community Foundation, The Farrell Family Foundation, The Crawford Smith Foundation, Price Family Charitable Fund, The Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation, The Arthur and Jeanette Pratt Memorial Fund and La Jolla Kiwanis Foundation.

The Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse is internationally-renowned for creating some of the most exciting and adventurous work in American theatre, through its new play development initiatives, its innovative Without Walls series, artist residencies and commissions, including BD Wong, Daniel Beaty and Kirsten Greenidge. Currently led by Artistic Director Christopher Ashley and Managing Director Michael S. Rosenberg, the Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, and reborn in 1983 under the artistic leadership of Des McAnuff, La Jolla Playhouse has had 25 productions transfer to Broadway, garnering 35 Tony Awards, among them Jersey Boys, Memphis, The Who’s Tommy, Big River, as well as Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays and the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife, both fostered as part of the Playhouse’s Page To Stage Program.

BD Wong, Oscar Isaac, Aziz Ansari, Randall Park, Constance Wu and more nominated for 2016 Critics’ Choice Awards 

Video and Photos: BD Wong and Russell Wong Guest Star on ‘NCIS: NEW ORLEANS’, Episode 1.13 – The Walking Dead

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2016 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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