Who we are

Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America was co-founded by Joanna Chan in 1992 to produce works for and by Asian artists. Since then, has become New York’s most significant entry point for dramatic works from Chinese-speaking countries and a place of collaboration for artists from various parts of Asia, especially from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China proper. This is notable considering that for years, Chinese from these areas have not come together socially.

Between Life and Death, written and directed by Gao XingJian, the 2000 Noble laureate in literature, at the Cino Theater, Theater for the New City, with Eleonora Kihlberg as Woman and BinJung Lee as the Mime. (Photo by Christopher Thomas)

Yangtze’s 1997 production of “Between Life and Death,” a Beckettian play by Gao Xingjian (commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture), was the only play by that author ever produced in America before Mr. Gao won the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature. To accompany that production, which was staged at Theater for the New City, Yangtze Rep also presented a month long exhibition of Mr. Gao’s ink paintings in the lobby of Pace University’s Schimmel Center for the Arts in 1997. To-date, these events are the only full-length presentations of Mr. Gao’s work in the U.S.


“The Story of YuHuan”, written and directed by Joanna Chan, at Theater for the New City in April 1998, with Tysan as Lady YuHuan, Steve Zhang as the Emperor. Photo by Fulaka Mori.

Much of Yangtze’s work has been to dramatize the forces of Chinese history. “The Life and Times of Ng Chung-Yin (A Hong Kong Story)”(NY premiere 1998), written and directed by Mok Chiu-Yu, was a controversial portrait of journalist/activist Ng Chung Yin, who took on the roles of a Tom Hayden and a Hunter Thompson in Hong Kong from the ’60s until his death in 1994. The production has been transformed into a film by Evans Chan and seen at major film festivals around the globe. Joanna Chan’s bilingual drama, “The Story of Yu-Huan” (1998), dealt with the celebrated beauty (708-746 A.D.) whose hanging death marked the decline of the mighty Tang Dynasty, exposing the injustices of a society not governed by law. “Ren Ah, Ren” (You, O You Humans), adapted and directed by Joanna Chan in 2005, based on the noted 1980 Chinese novel by Dai HouYing, dealt with the issues of recovering humanity following the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

“The Eternal Game,” written by Wang WaiZhong, directed by Joanna Chan, at The Johnson Theater, Theater for the New City, in Nov. 1996, with Steven Zhang as King Liu and Lu Yu as General Han Xin. (Photo by Corky Lee)

“The Eternal Game” (NY premiere 1996) by Wang Wei-zhong (of Tienjin) was a political drama of feudal China, based on the relationship of General Han-xin, one of the most revered warriors in Chinese history, and King Liu-bang, who in 196 BC became the first emperor of the great Han Dynasty. The play was allegorical of the perplexing convention through the ages of brilliant men of integrity who serve under lesser ones, with obvious implications to modern Chinese regimes.

“The Soongs,” written and directed by Joanna Chan, at the Johnson Theater at Theater for the New City, May/June 2003 with Lu Yu as Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, Christy Qin as Soong Ching-Ling, Ji Wang as Soong Ai-Ling and Brian Yang as T. V. Soong. (Photo by Jerry Yeoh)

Joanna Chan’s “The Soongs: By Dreams Betrayed,” which caused an uproar in the Chinese communities in 1992, examined the collective responsibility of the populace in the rise of tyranny, the myth-making machinery of modern media, and the delusions of the missionary movement and U.S. foreign policy. It was one of the 18 most significant original works and ten adaptations chosen for scholarly critique in the worldwide symposium, “Chinese Language Theater: A Ten-Year Retrospective,” held in Hong Kong in July 2004 with a gathering of stage directors, playwrights and scholars from different parts of China, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, England and the U.S.

“OneFamilyOneChildOneDoor”
written and directed by Joanna Chan
Presented by Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America
L-R: Karen Tan, Hana Kitasei (higher), Penelope Hsu (lower), Brian Yang
Photo by Jonathan Slaff

“OneFamilyOneChildOneDoor” — Karen Tan, Hana Kitasei (higher), Penelope Hsu (lower), Brian Yang. (Photo by Jonathan Slaff)

Chan’s “OneFamily OneChildOneDoor,”presented at the Bank Street Theater in 2001, 2002, and 2003, proved to be one of Yangtze’s most enduring favorites. It was a dark comedy that exposed the human cost of China’s one-child policy.

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THE SUN SHALL RISE — YiLing Li as Lulu, an early Holly Golightly, who lives in the Shanghai Hotel and relies on the charity of male acquaintances to pay for her extravagant lifestyle. (photo by Jena Wuu)

With “The Sun Shall Rise” (Theater for the New City, October, 2004), Yangtze completed its stagings of the three major plays of Cao Yu (1910-1996) who, as a form-breaking young playwright, originated modern theater in China in the 1930s. The production engaged leading Chinese performing artists from Beijing, Shanghai and YuNan as well as from Taiwan. Costumes were designed and manufactured in south China. The production was directed and abbreviated for English subtitles by Joanna Chan. This play, written in 1935, is a compassionate and cynical look by the young playwright at the vulnerabilities of humanity, regardless of class and stations in life.

Joanna Chan’s plays have long been recognized for their literary merit. The English translation of her “Before the Dawn-wind Rises” was part of an Oxford Anthology of Chinese Contemporary Drama published in 1998. Her other significant plays include “Crown Ourselves with Roses,” which was commissioned by Sing Tao Newspapers, toured the U.S. in 1989 and was re-published in Beijing in 1994; and “Before the Dawn-wind Rises,” which was commissioned by the Hong Kong Urban Council for the 10th Asian Arts Festival.

Dr. Joanna Chan grew up in Guangzhou, China. She has been a prolific playwright and stage director in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada and the U.S. for over 30 years. Before starting Yangtze Rep, she was Co-founder and Artistic Director (1970-77; 83-92) of the Four Seas Players in NYC and Artistic Director of the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, the “national” theater of the former British colony (1986-90). She graduated from Chung Chi College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, majoring in mathematics. In the U.S., she is a recipient of a 1994 Distinguished Alumni Award from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she earned her M.A., M. Ed., and Ed.D. degrees, majoring in Theatre/Communications. She was honored at City Hall, NYC in 1993 in a salute to Chinese-American cultural pioneers and July 9, 1993 was named Joanna Chan Day in the City of New York.

Joanna Chan in June 2001 at her solo exhibition at the Gallery, Pace University, NYC. (Photo by Margaret Hurley)

An accomplished painter and designer, her art works (oils, water colors and computer designs) have been presented in solo exhibitions in upstate and downtown New York. In late 1999, her oil painting, “Jerusalem ’98,” was one of the top 60 selections among nearly 1,700 entries from 19 countries in a contest during 2000 sponsored by the National Catholic Reporter. (The contest was aimed at developing a new image for Jesus. Her painting depicted a young Jesus dancing with an Arab in the streets of Jerusalem. It went on a national tour for eight months.) A video, “Ordinary People: Extraordinary Deeds,” that she conceived and co-directed, won a Clarion Award for excellence in early 2000.

Chan was a columnist for The New Evening Post in Hong Kong from 1986 to 1997 and is a member of The Dramatists Guild here. She was featured prominently in the PBS special, Harmony & Spirit: Chinese Americans in New York in 2000. In 1993, she was featured in Reference Asia: Asia’s Who’s Who of Men & Women of Achievement; and in 1997 and 2001, in Who’s Who in Hong Kong’s Industrial and Commercial Enterprises published in Changsha, China. Since 2002, she has been working in the Program of Rehabilitation Through the Arts at Sing Sing Maximum Security Prison in Ossining, NY, teaching playwriting and directing.

Gao Xingjian standing in front of one of his larger works during Yangtze Rep’s exhibition of his ink paintings at Pace University’s Schimmel Center for the Arts in 1997. (Photo by Jonathan Slaff)

Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America and its artistic director have been responsible for the New York debuts of many notable artists, including Wang LuoYung, who for years appeared in the leading role in “Miss Saigon” on Broadway, and Dr. Wang XiaoYing, one of China’s most prominent stage directors and Deputy President of China’s National Theater in Beijing. When the aforementioned Gao Xingjian came to New York to direct his own play, “Between Life and Death,” the Company also co-presented his ink paintings in a month-long art exhibition.

“The Thunderstorm,” written by Cao Yu, Directed by Joanna Chan, at Pace Downtown Theater, in Oct. 1999, with Christy Qin as Phoenix, Scott Shi as Zhou Pihg, Yung-Yung Tsuai as Lu ShiPing, ChiaChi Li as Lu DaHai and David Liu as Zhou Chung. (Photo by Ben Harris)

Yangtze’s other theatrical productions include “The Wilderness” (1993) and “Thunderstorm” (1999) by China’s premiere playwright, Cao Yu; an English production of “Prometheus Bound” in Peking opera style (1994); “The Story of Dou-E/Snow in June” by China’s great playwright Kuan Han-Qing, which opened the 1994-95 season for La MaMa E.T.C.; “The Rickshaw Man” (1995), based on the novella by the great Lau She; “Staged Lives” (1995) and “The Story of Yu-Huan” (1998) by Joanna Chan; “The Sound of a Voice” (1996) by the Chinese-American playwright, David Henry Hwang; “Naked Earth” (2000) by Evans Chan; and “Butterfly Dreams” (2001) by Cao LuSheng of Shanghai.

Variations in a Foreign Land Dance Series #1: Sun/Moon/Me choreographed by Yin Mei at Pace Downtown Theater in Sept. 1997. (Photo by Corky Lee)

The company has presented a total of 56 events. There have been dance productions including new works by choreographers from China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, India and Taiwan as well as associates of Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey Dance Companies and Centers. There have been four musical concerts of new compositions, featuring the famed novelist/composer/vocalist, Sola Liu with the African American pianist, Amina Claudine Myers; and pianist Margaret Leng Tan, a noted collaborator of John Cage.

The Company has also co-presented 16 month-long exhibitions, featuring the works of 36 Asian painters including the Japanese dyework master, Tomonosuke Ogo; the photographs of Chinese-American photojournalist Corky Lee, and the paintings of Eric Ernst, a grandson of the German surrealist, Max Ernst. In May and June 2001, the Company presented an exhibition of Top Selections from National Catholic Reporter’s “Jesus 2000” Contest, the first stop of an eight-month national tour.

Yangtze Rep has been funded by the New York State Council on the Arts (since 1994), the Alliance of Resident Theaters/New York (since 1995), the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (1999 to 2001), New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (since 1997) and the Asian American Arts Alliance (in 1998). It received a special development grant for emerging artists from the New York State Council on the Arts (1995).

Founders
Joanna Chan: Artistic Director
James Nodroff: Legal Counselor
Jill Panfel: Administrative Consultant
Chris Thomas: Technical Consultant
Lu Yu: Artistic Liaison

Executive Director
Scott Shi

Advisory Board
Dr. Gao XingJian: 2000 Nobel Laureate in Literature
Dr. Wang XiaoYing: Deputy Director, National Theater of China
Ms. Crystal Field, Executive Director, Theater for the New City
Prof. Tian BenXiang: Academy of Dramatic Arts, Beijing
Ms. Lisa Lu: Film actress/producer
Rev. Raymond Nobiletti: Pastor, Transfiguration
Shirley Passow, Esp.: Attorney
Dr. Leo Yam: Professor of Mass Communications, Hong Kong
Dr. Sherwood Hu: Stage director, Shanghai

Resident Choreographers
Cha-Lee Chan
Yung-Yung Tsuai

Program Consultant: Evans Chan
Company Manager: Cathy Hung
Finance Officer: Ng Lai-Har
House Program: G. Fan


CHRONOLOGICAL PRODUCTION HISTORY

1993-1994
The Wilderness (in Mandarin) by Cao Yu; directed by Joanna Chan

First Exhibit of Asian Artists: 12 Asian painters including the great Tomonosuke go

Prometheus Bound (in English) by Aeschylus; directed by Lu Yu

4 Makes 5: New dance works by Marianne Bachmann, Camille Brown, Kenneth Topping and
Yung-Yung Tsuai

An Exhibition: Photography by Corky Lee and art works by Eric Ernst

1994-1995
The Story of Dou-E (in Mandarin and English) by Guan Han-Qing; directed by Lu Yu.

Second Exhibit of Asian Artists: Lin Chu-Sheng/Lin Yi-Wen, Hon Chi-Hung, Yoo-Soo Kim
and Subramaniam

The Rickshaw Man (in Mandarin) by Lau She; directed by Joanna Chan

1995-1996
Third Exhibit of Asian Artists: Lu KaiXiang, Zhang NaiGuang, Zhang RuJi and WooHyung
Lee

Staged Lives (in Mandarin) written and directed by Joanna Chan

Among Us: New dance works by Cha-Lee Chan, Bin-Jung Lee and Cheng-Chieh Yu

Participation in the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts

1996-1997
Fourth Exhibit of Asian Artists: Yuko Ejiri, Mison Kim, Kuei-Hsiang Lin and Wen-Shyang
Tsai

The Sound of a Voice (in English) by David Henry Hwang and The Eternal Game (in
Mandarin) by Wang Wei-Zhong; directed by Joanna Chan

Ink Paintings by Gao XingJian

Between Life and Death (in English) written and directed by Gao XingJian

Participation in the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts

1997-1998
Fifth Exhibit of Asian Artists: Shi-Chao Yu and K. K. Wong

Variations in a Foreign Land #1: New dance works by Cha-Lee Chan, Bin-Jung Lee, Yin Mei
and Yung-Yung Tsuai

Haunts: Sola Liu in Concert

The Story of Yu-Huan (in Mandarin and English) written and directed by Joanna Chan

An Exhibition of Paintings from China: Zhu XiuLi; Li Nai-Qiang and Hua Qi-Min

Dream City: New York-Hong Kong: Post ’97, created by Shu-Wing Tang, Victor Ma and
Mandy Yim

Participation in the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts

1998-1999
Sixth Exhibit of Asian Artists: Feng Yeh, Chen Wen-Fu, Keeny Fu and Choi Yeung-Yeon

The Life and Times of Ng Chung-Yin (Cantonese and English versions alternating) written and
directed by Mok Chiu-Yu

Margaret Leng Tan Performing: A musical concert

A Joint Exhibition: Zhou Chang-Jiang and Wang Da-Lin
Variations in a Foreign Land #2: New dance works by Cha-Lee Chan, David Liu, Max Luna
III and Yung-Yung Tsuai

Participation in the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts

1999-2000
Seventh Exhibit of Asian Artists: Qian De-Xiang, C. J. Yeh and Kyon K. Chon

Thunderstorm (in Mandarin) written by Cao Yu; directed by Joanna Chan

Sola and Amina: A Chinese jazz concert

An Exhibition of top Selections from National Catholic Reporter’s Jesus 2000 Contest

Tales of Love, Far and Near: A musical concert by Scott Shi and Christina Yao

Naked Earth (in English) by Eileen Chang; adapted by Evans Chan; directed by Joanna Chan

Participation in the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts

2000-2001
Eighth Exhibit of Asian Artists: Jia-Ling Chen, Bao-Jian Zhou, and Ammen Yang

Variations in a Foreign Land #3: New dance works by Erika Akoh, Cha-Lee Chan, Maura Lee
and Max Luna III

An Exhibition: Art Works of Joanna Chan

Crossovers: Sola & Friends, a musical concert

Butterfly Dreams (in Mandarin and English) written by Cao Lu-Sheng; adapted by Joanna
Chan; directed by Wang XiaoYing

Participation in the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts

2001-2002
Ninth Exhibit of Asian Artists: Brian Tilbrook and Zhou Chang Jiang

OneFamilyOneChildOneDoor (in English) written and directed by Joanna Chan

Photography of Ethnic Minorities of China: Lu JiangTao and Wang XinJun

Variations in a Foreign Land #4: New dance works by Cha-Lee Chan and YiLing Li

Participation in the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts

2002-2003
Tenth Exhibit of Asian Artists: Hu YiPing and Zhu YeQing

OneFamilyOneChildOneDoor/First revival (in English): written and directed by Joanna Chan

The Shanghai Gesture (in English) by John Colten; revised by Joanna Chan; directed by Dan
Wackerman

The Soongs: By Dreams Betrayed (in Mandarin and English) written and directed by Joanna
Chan

Participation in the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts

2003-2004
Eleventh Exhibit of Asian Artists: Hou FeiYueh, Kevin Yang and Joanna Chan

“OneFamilyOneChildOneDoor” (in English), second revival: written and directed by Joanna
Chan

Variations in a Foreign Land #5: New dance works by Cha-Lee Chan, Max Luna III and Sridhar Shanmugam

Participation in the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts

2004-2005
“The Sun Shall Rise” by Cao Yu (1910-1996), directed and abbreviated for English subtitles by Joanna Chan, presented by Theater for the New City.

The Twelfth Annual Exhibition of Asian Artists, Amerasia Bank Gallery, Queens.

60th Anniversary Commemoration Concert – Victory in War against Fascism

“Ren Ah, Ren” (You, O You Humans), adapted and directed by Joanna Chan, based on the noted 1980 Chinese novel by Dai HouYing

“Variations in a Foreign Land VI”