Roundabout Theatre Company is back with a third season of The Refocus Project, an initiative launched in March 2021 to elevate and restore marginalized plays to the American canon.
This year will highlight the works of Asian American and Pacific Islander playwrights. Roundabout will workshop and produce free readings of each play this summer in the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, followed by streaming versions of the readings in the fall.
The plays were chosen by a reading committee led by Lead Refocus Advisor Jess McLeod, and including Rehana Lew Mirza, Gaven Trinidad, Annie Jin Wang and members of the Roundabout Artistic staff.
Ola Nā Iwi (The Bones Live) by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl will kick off the season. The play centers on a Hawaiian woman on a mission to repatriate bones she's secretly reclaimed from a German museum. The reading will be presented May 22 at 7 PM, directed by Cara Hinh. The work was first produced by Kumu Kahua Theatre in Honolulu in 1994, and was recently revived by Kumu Kahua in 2007.
Anuvab Pal's play Chaos Theory will be presented June 5 at 7 PM. The play follows two academics who immigrate from India to the U.S. and become professors, asking what it takes to survive in academia and in a new country. Arita Mukherjee will direct. Chaos Theory was first performed in 2005 as part of the ArtWallah Festival in LA. The play was a finalist in the 2007 BBC World Playwrighting Competition and was produced again in 2010 by Pulse Ensemble Theatre.
The farce Big Hunk o’ Burnin’ Love by Prince Gomolvilas will be presented June 12 at 7 PM directed by Eric Ting. In it, Winston learns a family secret just before his 30th birthday, causing him to reevaluate his identity. Big Hunk o’ Burnin’ Love was first produced by East West Players in 1998, and subsequently by Second Generation Productions in New York City and by Asian Stories in America (ASIA) Theatre in Arlington, Virginia.
Finally, Velina Haas Houston's play Tea will be presented June 26 at 7 PM under the helm of Jess McLeod. The play centers on four Japanese women married to American Servicemen who are brought together in their new Kansas home post-war. Tea was first produced at Manhattan Theatre Club in 1987 in a production directed by Julianne Boyd. Since then, it has been seen at East West Players in Los Angeles, and Silk Road Theatre Project (now Silk Road Rising) in Chicago, among other places.
In addition to readings of their plays, this year’s line-up will also include artistic support for plays by Jeannie Barroga, Philip Kan Gotanda, Edward Sakamoto, and Wakako Yamauchi in an essay series titled "Literary Ancestry Series: Responses from Ma-Yi Writers Lab" in partnership with Ma-Yi Theater Company. The series will include essays on each of these plays by members of Ma-Yi Writers Lab discussing how the AAPI canon has influenced their own work.
The first season of The Refocus Project, created by the late Todd Haimes, partnered with Black Theatre United, spotlighting 20th century Black plays and their playwrights: Angelina Weld Grimké, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Childress, and Samm-Art Williams. Year two of The Refocus Project was produced in partnership with Pregones/PRTT and featured Latinx artists: René Marqués, Fausto Avendaño, María Irene Fornés, Rosalba Rolón, and Desmar Guevara.
Tickets for The Refocus Project are free. More information can be found at RoundaboutTheatre.org.