Asian Heritage Month: Drama Spotlight (with guest recommender David Yee!)

We’re thrilled to have David Yee as our Asian Heritage Month guest recommender this week: the Dora- and GG-nominated playwright and actor shares eight plays that are sure to make your reading a little more dramatic. (Note, our why you should read its should also be read as why you should see its this time!)


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Each week during Asian Heritage Month we’ll be serving up recommendations of Asian-Canadian writing from both rising and established literary stars – a great way to add talents new and old to your bookshelf. This week’s drama selections are provided by playwright and actor David Yee.The book: Nine Dragons (Talonbooks)The author: Jovanni Sy Why you should read it: This hard-boiled detective story transports us to a British-occupied Hong Kong circa 1920. Using noir tropes to interrogate colonialism and white privilege, Jovanni Sy’s play is a clever and intriguing mystery.The book: Forgiveness (Playwrights Canada Press)The author: Hiro Kanagawa (adapted from the book by Mark Sakamoto)Why you should read it: Governor General’s Literary Award Laureate Hiro Kanagawa’s adaptation of Mark Sakamoto’s Canada Reads-winning memoir is one of the best examples of large scale writing in recent memory. Requiring over a dozen actors to play even more characters across two timelines, this is the Canadian theatre version of an arena tour.The book: A Perfect Bowl of Pho (Playwrights Canada Press)The author: Nam NguyenWhy you should read it: An irreverent musical comedy by self-impressed creator Nam Nguyen is worth the read to catch all the gags you might have missed in production. Nam is a young theatre creator with a lot of nerve and talent to match. One to watch for the future.The book: Burning Mom (Playwrights Canada Press)The author: Mieko OuchiWhy you should read it: Simply one of the best plays I’ve read in a very long time. A one woman tour-de-force it was developed by fu-GEN Theatre and Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre for fu-GEN’s Walk the Walk festival of Asian Canadian women. Mieko is a multiple award winning writer and Associate Artistic Director of Citadel Theatre in Edmonton.The book: Lady Sunrise (Playwrights Canada Press)The author: Marjorie ChanWhy you should read it: It would be reductive to call this ‘Asian Succession‘, but it also wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate. Set against the backdrop of Vancouver’s grotesque real estate ecology, Marjorie Chan’s play has a surfeit of exceptional roles for young Asian Canadian women. A scathing takedown of capitalism and greed, this is an unsettling read in the best way.The book: Prairie Nurse (Scirocco Drama / J.G. Shillingford)The author: Marie Beath BadianWhy you should read it: Marie Beath Badian’s play centres the Asian Canadian experience in a geography not usually covered in contemporary Asian Canadian theatre: the prairies. This is an utterly charming and funny play that is the first of a planned trilogy. This is normally the territory left to Norm Foster or Mark Crawford, so Badian’s play is a welcome addition to the less urban theatrical landscape.The book: Through the Bamboo (Playwrights Canada Press)The authors: Andrea Mapili and Byron AbalosWhy you should read it: Andrea Mapili and Byron Abalos’ fantasy play for young audiences uses Philippine folklore to create a rich landscape to frame its story. There has always been a significant lack of Asian Canadian representation when it comes to TYA plays, so to have a story that centres Filipinx subjectivities is well worth the wait.The book: Iphigenia and the Furies (On Taurian Land) & Antigone : 方 (Playwrights Canada Press)The author: Ho Ka KeiWhy you should read it: This double bill by Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho) was shortlisted for the LAMBDA Literary Awards and the Governor General’s Literary Award. Ho Ka Kei is an exceptional young writer and this duet of plays sees him in fine form. Exploring both colonialism and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement through the lens of Greek drama, these are smart and urgent new plays for our contemporary times.

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David Yee is a mixed-race (half-Chinese, half-Scottish) playwright and actor, born and raised in Toronto. He is the co-founding artistic director of fu-GEN Theatre Company, Canada’s premiere professional Asian Canadian theatre company. A Dora Mavor Moore Award–nominated actor and playwright, his work has been produced internationally and at home. He is a two-time Governor General’s Literary Award nominee for his plays lady in the red dress and carried away on the crest of a wave, the latter of which won the award in 2015, along with the Carol Bolt Award in 2013. He has worked extensively in the Asian Canadian community as an artist and an advocate.

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Huge thanks to David for his Asian Heritage drama picks this week! Catch up on Asian Heritage Month recommendations for fiction and poetry, too.