Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Thom Sesma, Brian Lee Huynh, Jeanne Sakata, Graham Smith, Greg Watanabe and more in A SINGLE SHARD at People’s Light through May 29

People’s Light presents the regional premiere of A SINGLE SHARD, a highly theatrical adaptation of Linda Sue Park’s Newbery Award-winning novel by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Schenkkan. Celebrated theatre artist Seema Sueko directs an all-star cast that includes Broadway veterans Thom Sesma and Greg Watanabe.

Thom Sesma in A SINGLE SHARD. Photo by Mark Garvin

Thom Sesma in A SINGLE SHARD. Photo by Mark Garvin

PNC Arts Alive sponsors the production, which began previews on April 27 and runs through May 29, 2016 on the Leonard C. Haas stage. Opening night is April 30th. A SINGLE SHARD also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts. People’s Light is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355. For tickets, call 610.644.3500 or visit peopleslight.org.

“A SINGLE SHARD will transfix audiences of all generations. It vividly captures how every aspect of humanity has a vital purpose,” says Producing Director Zak Berkman.

Jeanne Sakata, Thom Sesma and Brian Lee Huynh in A SINGLE SHARD. Photo by Mark Garvin

Jeanne Sakata, Thom Sesma and Brian Lee Huynh in A SINGLE SHARD. Photo by Mark Garvin

We step from today, here and now, into an imagined 12th Century Korea, where family is central to society, an impoverished orphan named Tree-Ear lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o village. Enamored by the art of pottery, Tree-Ear secretly watches the extraordinary craftsman Master Potter Min until one day he accidentally breaks one of Min’s carefully-wrought pieces. Tree-Ear offers his labor as repayment and begins a journey that tests his resilience, deepens his passion, and forever transforms his belief in himself.

Brian Lee Huynh and Graham Smith in A SINGLE SHARD. Photo by Mark Garvin

Brian Lee Huynh and Graham Smith in A SINGLE SHARD. Photo by Mark Garvin

“This story illuminates how regardless of your wealth or occupation, the kind of shoes you wear, or the mountains you choose to scale, you can transform the world you are part of with simple acts of grace, forgiveness, and bravery,” says Berkman. “To tell this universal story, we’ve assembled an extraordinary and diverse ensemble of artists from across the country.”

Associate Artistic Director of Pasadena Playhouse, Seema Sueko makes her People’s Light debut directing A SINGLE SHARD. She is especially taken by the play’s focus on transformation. “It takes courage and perseverance to change a lump of ‘dirt’ into art, an outcast into a family member, anger into love, and a single shard of broken pottery into an opportunity to make life whole,” Sueko says. “At the beginning of this process, I asked myself, the design team, and the cast, ‘What if we use the actors’ bodies and voices, masks, and multiple scenic elements to transform time, location, and character?’ Those questions inspired the production aesthetic.”

A SINGLE SHARD features two Broadway veterans in their Malvern debut, Thom Sesma as Master Potter Min and Greg Watanabe as Master Potter Kang. Acclaimed stage and screen actor Jeanne Sakata appears at People’s Light for the first time as Min’s wife and Philadelphia actor Aaron Bell also makes his People’s Light debut. Long-time company member Graham Smith plays Crane Man. Returning guest artists include Brian Lee Huynh as Tree-Ear, most recently seen as Arthur in Auctioning the Ainsleys (2015), and Taysha Canales, last seen as Lydia Lubey in All My Sons (2015). People’s Light is delighted to welcome PEW fellow Jungwoong Kim as both ensemble member and choreographer and Kevin R. Free as Emissary Kim.

Set Designer David F. Weiner makes his People’s Light debut along with Costume Designer Moria Sine Clinton and Lighting Designer Porsche McGovern. Daniel Perelstein returns to People’s Light as Sound Designer. Company members on the production team include Stage Manager Kate McSorley Fossner, Resident Dramaturg Gina Pisasale, and Fight Director Samantha Reading.

Director Sueko has earned a national reputation as a visionary leader in the realm of community- connected theatre-making. “There’s a strong kinship between how Seema cultivates community investment and engagement through cross-sector partnerships and how we work at People’s Light.” says Artistic Director & CEO Abigail Adams. To enhance the community impact of A SINGLE SHARD, People’s Light sought the support of PNC Arts Alive and received a prestigious grant to increase access to the production.

“We’re honored that PNC Arts Alive has made it possible for us to produce A SINGLE SHARD in a way that brings so many new people to our campus, and enhances their experience while they’re here,” she says. “People’s Light was one of only 22 arts organizations in the Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey region to be selected for this prestigious award.” With this award, we are able to produce a series of free surround programs on our campus, including hands-on clay modeling, demonstrations, and a chance to meet the author.

As part of this grant, People’s Light is able to partner with libraries and community centers in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties to connect young people to A SINGLE SHARD through book giveaways, ticket raffles, and interactive workshops. For more information, visit your local library and community center websites or www.peopleslight.org/production/asingleshard.

People’s Light is part of the Philadelphia Asian Theatre Project, a coalition that champions opportunities for Asian-American artists and generates greater awareness of their work with local Asian-American populations. “We’re proud that A SINGLE SHARD is part of the first year of the PATP initiative, and that it continues our commitment to tell inclusive stories,” Adams says.

People’s Light introduces PNC ARTS ALIVE WIDE WELCOME, a series of free, all-ages activities connected to the production:

– After every performance: Conversations with the Cast

– Thursday May 5 at 6:30pm: Book Signing with author Linda Sue Park

– Saturday May 7 at 1pm: Book Signing with author Linda Sue Park & Clay Modeling Workshop

– Sunday May 8 at 1pm: Movement Demonstration with actor/choreographer Jungwoong Kim

– Sunday May 22 at 1pm: Clay Modeling Workshop, 4-7pm Pottery-throwing Demonstration with potter Bob Deane, 6pm Clay Modeling Workshop

All events are free, but reservations are required. For more information or to register, please visit our website at www.peopleslight.org for details.

As with every People’s Light production, we offer Scoop on Wednesdays: History, Context, and Gossip, a lively discussion before Wednesday 7:30 pm performances (May 11 and 18). Resident Dramaturg Gina Pisasale will host an artist from the production and get the inside scoop about such things as the rehearsal and production process, design choices, and the world of the play. The program begins at 6 pm in The Farmhouse Bistro. Call the Box Office at 610.644.3500.

On Wednesday, May 4 at 2pm, Friday, May 6 at 8pm and Saturday May 7 at 2pm, People’s Light presents Open Caption performances of A SINGLE SHARD.

Also, on Sunday May 22 at 2pm, People’s Light presents a Relaxed Performance of A SINGLE SHARD. We’ve designed this welcoming, judgment-free, inclusive, theatre experience for individuals with sensory, learning, and communication differences, as well as young children and anyone else who might benefit from a less-structured, more casual environment. For 50% off Relaxed Performance tickets, use promo code PLTACCESS online or over the phone.

Enjoy a prix fixe dinner and a show package for $75 (Wed, Thurs, Sat matinee, Sun eve) and $84 (Fri, Sat eve, Sun matinee) at The Farmhouse Bistro prior to Wed-Sun evening performances. That’s a savings of up to 15% off the single ticket price! If you already have tickets, you can add dinner for just $39. Dinner and a show packages are available through the Box Office or online at PeoplesLight.org.

People’s Light announces SEPTA Saturdays! The Route 204 bus, which runs between the Paoli train station and the Theatre campus, will now service patrons before and after Saturday 2pm matinee performances. Visit www.septa.org for details.

Standard single tickets start at $37. Community Night tickets are $27 for the 7:30 pm performances on April 27 and 28. For tickets, call the Box Office at 610.644.3500. Special discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. For more information or to purchase group tickets, call 610.647.1900 x111 or email benedict@peopleslight.org.

Now in its 41st season, People’s Light, a professional, not-for-profit theatre in Chester County, Pennsylvania, makes plays drawn from many sources to entertain, inspire, and engage our community. We extend our mission of making and experiencing theatre through arts education programs that excite curiosity about, and deepen understanding of, the world around us. These plays and programs bring people together and provide opportunities for reflection, discovery, and celebration. Founded in 1974, we produce eight to nine plays each season, in two black box theatres with 340 and 160 seats respectively, mixing world premieres, contemporary plays, and fresh approaches to classic texts for our 7-Play, Discovery, and Teen Series.

Our production sponsor, PNC Arts Alive, is a multi-year, multi-million dollar initiative of the PNC Foundation that receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. Its goals are to help area residents gain access to the arts, and to help arts organizations expand and engage audiences. “Through PNC Arts Alive, we continue to help invigorate local arts organizations while bringing new and exciting programs to our community,” says Paula Fryland, PNC regional president for Philadelphia- Southern New Jersey. “The creativity and collaboration demonstrated by the local arts community is evident in the programs that will be introduced, while enabling new visitors and residents alike to experience a diverse range of exhibits and performances.” For more information on PNC Arts Alive and grant recipients, visit www.PNCARTSALIVE.com.

BIOS:
Linda Sue Park Author
Linda Sue Park is the author of several novels and picture books, including A SINGLE SHARD, the 2002 Newbery Medal winner, and the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water. Her most recent titles are Wing & Claw: The Forest of Wonders, a middle-grade fantasy, and Yaks Yak, a picture book. She has also written two books in the multiplatform series The 39 Clues. Linda Sue knows very well that she will never be able to read every great book ever written, but she keeps trying anyway. Visit her website at www.lindasuepark.com and follow her on Twitter @LindaSuePark.

Robert Schenkkan Playwright
All The Way, Part One of his “LBJ Plays,” won the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, Drama League, Kennedy Prize, and ATCA/Steinberg Awards for Best Play and broke two Broadway box office records. Robert has adapted All The Way as an HBO film, produced by Steven Spielberg, airing in May 2016. His previous Broadway experience was the Pulitzer Prize-winning epic The Kentucky Cycle, nominated for the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics’ Circle Awards. Other plays: Lewis and Clark Reach the Euphrates, By the Rivers of Babylon, Handler, The Marriage of Miss Hollywood and King Neptune, Heaven on Earth, Tachinoki, Final Passages, The Devil and Daniel Webster, The Dream Thief, and The Great Society, Part Two of the LBJ Plays, anticipated in New York in 2016. His musical, The Twelve, (book/lyrics) had its world premiere in Denver (Henry Award) and is scheduled to come to New York in 2017. His newest YA play, Shadowplay, will be part of the Kennedy Center’s 2016 New Visions, New Voices.

Seema Sueko Director
People’s Light: New Play Frontiers. Theatre Includes: The Pasadena Playhouse (where Seema is Associate Artistic Director), Mo`olelo, The Old Globe, Yale Rep, The 5th Avenue Theatre, Native Voices, San Diego Rep; writing commissions from Mixed Blood and Center Stage Baltimore. Developed Mo`olelo’s Green Theatre Choices Toolkit, Consensus Organizing for Theatre methodology and is currently researching the neuroscience of theatre. Upcoming: The Fantasticks at The Pasadena Playhouse and Smart People at Arena Stage. Named by American Theatre magazine as one of 25 theatre artists nationwide who will have a significant impact on the field over the next quarter century. Born in Pakistan and raised in Hawaii, she holds an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago.

Aaron Bell Apprentice 1/Ensemble
People’s Light debut. Theatre Includes: ! Regional: An Octoroon (Wilma), Hands Up (Flashpoint), Bitter Homes and Gardens (Bearded Ladies Cabaret), We Are Proud to Present (Philly Fringe), One Minute Play Festival (InterAct), Miz Martha Washington (Flashpoint). Upcoming: East Lynne Theatre Company’s revue of Richard Rodgers’ music this summer in Cape May. Proud EMC and IATSE member.

Taysha Canales Apprentice 2/Yee/Ensemble
People’s Light: All My Sons. Theatre Includes: Philadelphia credits: La Be?te, The Jungle Book, Sideways Stories from Wayside School (Arden Theatre), Moon Cave (Azuka Theatre), The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington, Slip/Shot (Flashpoint Theatre). She is a Wilma Theatre Hot House Company Member. Training: BFA in Acting from Arcadia University.

Kevin R. Free Emissary Kim/Ensemble
People’s Light debut. Theatre Includes: Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (30 Plays in 60 Minutes); The Fantasticks (Bellomy); From My Hometown (Audelco Award Nominee), Taking A Chance On Love (York Theatre), The Conjure Man Dies (New Federal Theatre). Regional: CENTERSTAGE, Kennedy Center, Ordway, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, North Shore Music Theatre, Idaho Shakespeare, Cincinnati Playhouse, Charlotte Rep, NC Shakespeare Festival, Portland Center Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arden Theatre (Barrymore Award Nominee, Violet). Producing Artistic Director of Obie Award-winning The Fire This Time Festival. His play, A Raisin in the Salad: Black Plays for White People was a Semi- Finalist for the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference in 2013. Film/Television Includes: Law & Order: SVU; over 150 audio books; Welcome to Night Vale (Kevin); Gemma & The Bear! (web series). Website: GemmaAndTheBear.com, firethistimefestival.com, kevinrfree.com, and follow him on Twitter @kevinfree.

Brian Lee Huynh Tree-Ear
People’s Light: Auctioning the Ainsleys. Theater Includes: War Horse, original Broadway cast; Measure for Measure, Epic Theatre Ensemble; The Light Years, The Debate Society/NYSAF; The 39 Steps, Triad Stage. Film/Television Includes: Elementary (CBS), The Witches of Oz. Training: BFA and MFA from Ithaca College and The Old Globe/USD, respectively.

Jungwoong Kim Deer/Fox/Ensemble and Movement Choreographer
People’s Light debut. Theatre/Dance Includes: Currently an Artist Residency at Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia and recipient of a project grant 2015 from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage for the creation of SaltSoul, a site specific year-long performance project that will culminate in a performance in October 2016 at Asian Arts Initiative. Has performed for the Leah Stein Dance Company since 2010. Participated in numerous company’s site-specific projects and teaching/performance residencies in urban schools. Choreography Includes: Capsized (Asian Arts Initiative, October 2014), Septum (The Iron Factory), Undercurrents (concreted and performed with Marion Ramirez, presented at Dancespace Project at St. Marks Church in NYC and Conwell Theater in Philadelphia), Gap (The National Theater of Korea) and Keep Going, a solo piece at the Arko Arts Theater, supported by the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture. Training: Graduated from Korea National University of the Arts in Seoul with a BFA in choreography. Completed a certification in Korean martial art Sunmudo at the Golgul Buddhist Temple.

Jeanne Sakata. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeanne Sakata. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeanne Sakata Min’s Wife/Ensemble
People’s Light debut. Theatre Includes: Public Theater, Lincoln Center Theater, Kennedy Center, Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Rep, ACT San Francisco, La Jolla Playhouse, Intiman Theatre, Berkeley Rep, ACT Seattle, Geffen Playhouse, Sundance Theatre Institute. Special Honors: Los Angeles Ovation Award, Best Lead Actress, Chay Yew’s Red at East West Players. Film/Television Includes: Advantageous (2016 Film Independent Spirit Award Nomination, Sundance Film Festival’s US Dramatic Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision), The Babymakers, Bravo TV’s pilot True Fiction, Dr. Ken, NCIS Angeles, NUMB3RS, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Desperate Housewives, Presidio Med, ER, Threat Matrix, Line of Fire, American Family, John Riley’s I Got You, Hiroshima, and Sex and Marriage (Justin Lin’s YOMYOMF YouTube channel). Playwright: Authored the nationally acclaimed solo play Hold These Truths (2013 Drama Desk Nomination, Outstanding Solo Performance). Websites: holdthesetruths.infojeannesakata.com.

Thom Sesma. Photo by Lia Chang

Thom Sesma. Photo by Lia Chang

Thom Sesma Master Potter Min
People’s Light debut. Theatre Includes: Broadway & National Tours: The Times They Are A-Changing, The Lion King, Titanic, Miss Saigon, Search and Destroy, Man Of La Mancha. Off-Broadway: NY Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre, The Roundabout, NAATCO, Prospect, Epic Ensemble Theatre, The Drama Dept., Second Stage. Regional: McCarter Theatre, Old Globe, Baltimore Centre Stage, Yale Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, The MUNY, Pasadena Playhouse. Film/Television Includes: Gotham, Jessica Jones, Single Ladies, The Good Wife, Person Of Interest, Law & Order, Over/Under, Lay The Favorite, Canterbury’s Law, Third Watch.

Greg Watanabe

Greg Watanabe

Greg Watanabe Master Potter Kang/Ensemble
People’s Light debut. Theatre Includes: Recently made Broadway debut in Allegiance starring George Takei and Lea Salonga. Off-Broadway: The Ballad of Yachiyo (The Public) and Golden Child (Signature Theater). Regional: world premiere productions of The Summer Moon (A Contemporary Theater), The Happy Ones (South Coast Repertory Theater, L.A. Drama Critics Circle nomination, Best Featured Performance) and Extraordinary Chambers (Geffen Playhouse, Ovation nomination, Best Featured Actor). Others include: Yellow Face (Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, San Diego Theater Critics Circle nomination, Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play), No-No Boy (adapted by Ken Narasaki). Film/Television Includes: Madam Secretary and Aquarius. Greg belongs to the 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors, an Asian American comedy troupe. Website: 18mmw.com

 

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 Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs unless otherwise indicated: © 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 lia@liachang.com

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