Ahead of NAATCO’s May 19 digital presentation of Our Town, featuring an all–Asian American cast, the three leads sat down (virtually) with their director to reflect on the play’s themes and why representation matters. Check out stars Amy Hill, Midori Francis Iwama, and Yumi Iwama, and director Mia Katigbak, with moderator Peter Kim, above.
In their discussion, the quartet also talked about what they hope the reading will bring to audiences. For Katigbak, the director has already heard from others that it will be “a balm.” Not just for “post-pandemic stress disorder,” as she likes to call it, but also for the increase of targeted violence against Asian Americans this past year. “I love that there are all of these Asian Americans in your face who are bringing [the show] to you,” she says.
Yumi Iwama, who graduates from the 1994 original NAATCO all-Asian production as Emily to play her mother, Mrs. Webb, in 2021, says that this production can help dispel the othering that often happens with minorities. “There’s this sense that Asians are just lumped as one group. This town is full of colorful characters who are different, so it can help you send that message that we’re all just human beings trying to make it in the world.”
Iwama’s niece, Midori Francis Iwama, who plays Emily in the reading, hopes for a similar message. “What I hope people take away is the wide variety and breadth of being Asian-American and how expansive it is, and really how anything is possible for you, if you’re Asian. You can be any of these people.”
In addition, Hill talked about what it meant to her to be playing the Stage Manager, typically cast as a white man. “I never even thought I would be given the opportunity,” she said. After seeing a production at South Coast Repertory Theatre starring Kimberly Scott in the role, however, she knew the role could be diversified—but still never thought she herself would be asked to do the role. “I was very happy to be asked.”
Our Town streams May 19 at 8 PM ET, moderated by Kim, who plays Sam Craig. As previously announced, the all–Asian American cast also includes Cindy Cheung, Kassandra Cordova, Autumn Domingo, Connor Domingo, Ron Domingo, John D. Haggerty, Paul Juhn, Peter Kim, Glenn Kubota, Clara Haru Mulligan, Olivia Oguma, Trevor Salter, Jon Norman Schneider, Alok Tewari, CJ Uy, Izaac Wang, and Rita Wolf.
Joining Katigbak behind-the-camera is Sean Seau as assistant director, Alyssa K. Howard as production stage manager, and Miranda Cornell as production assistant. Tori Schuchmann, senior project manager of VidCo Virtual Design Collective (ViDCo), is helping to create the project with Dan Grbic as video editor. Deepak Kumar and Jordan Liu are producers of “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”.
For more information about the virtual presentation, click here.