The Los Angeles–based Asian-American theatre company East West Players will return to in-person performances in 2022, with four shows staged at the David Henry Hwang Theater. The season, dubbed “Here.Us. Now!,” will feature new productions of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins and Melissa Li and Kit Yan’s Interstate, along with the world premiere of Inda Craig-Galván’s The Great Jheri Curl Debate and the L.A. premiere of Prince Gomolvilas’ The Brothers Paranormal.
The season’s title is reminiscent of earlier this year, when EWP led an exodus from LA Stage Alliance, citing multiple representational errors that took place during the group’s 2021 Ovation Awards in March.
“We cannot wait to reopen our doors and welcome our friends and family back,” said East West Players’ Producing Artistic Director Snehal Desai. “What will be waiting for them is a season full of resilience, joy, laughter, community, and lots of hair. It is a season that has us returning back to the stage with strength, pride and solidarity. A season brimming with powerful voices that demand to be heard.”
Assassins begins February 17, almost two years after a production was slated to begin March 2020 and then postponed due to the pandemic. Returning are Gedde Watanabe as Charles Guiteau, Joan Almedilla as Sara Jane Moore, and Adam Kaokept as The Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald. More casting will be announced later. The musical will be helmed by Desai, with musical direction by Marc Macalintal and choreography by Jasmine Rafael and Preston Mui.
The creative team includes dramaturg Stephanie Lim, projections designer David Murakami, costume designer Stephanie Nguyen, scenic designer Anna Robinson, lighting designer Wesley Charles Chew, sound designers Christian Lee and Cricket Myers, property designer Glenn Michael Baker, and stage manager Brandon Hong Cheng. A separate, Off-Broadway production is slated to open November 14 at Classic Stage Company.
Starting June 2 is the pop-rock poetry musical Interstate, featuring music by Li, a book and lyrics by Li and Yan, and direction by Jesca Prudencio. The show, based on the true story of the queer band Good Asian Drivers, follows a transgender spoken word performer who becomes internet-famous along with his best friend Adrian, a lesbian singer-songwriter.
Later in the year, Craig-Galván’s The Great Jheri Curl Debate premieres September 15. Developed in the EWP Writers Group and a finalist for the 44th annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival, the play follows protagonist Veralynn Jackson, who believes the jheri curl is a sign of the end times. When she takes a job at Mr. Kim’s, a Korean-owned Black beauty supply store, the posters start talking to her and Veralynn realizes her true calling might be just around the corner.
Closing out the season November 17 is Gomolvilas’ The Brothers Paranormal, directed by Jeff Liu. The piece follows two Thai brothers who launch a business to investigate paranormal activities only to have their lives turned upside down when they investigate the home of a Black couple displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
The upcoming season will also mark the relaunch of EWP’s Theatre for Youth in-person performances, which bring a new, original play about historic Asian-Americans to young audiences across Los Angeles. This year, a new work by Rosie Narasaki that brings to life the story of civil rights leader Yuri Kochiyama and her friendship with Malcolm X, has been selected.
For more information, visit EastWestPlayers.org.