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War and Peace in Asian American Drama and Theatre

ENGL 272.920
instructor(s):
TR 10-1:10

If, as playwright Frank Chin argues, “writing is fighting” for Asian American authors, then what strategic positions do Asian American dramatists take and defend? Upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s encompassed struggles for civil rights by African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians, as well as Asian Americans. Asian Americans, long ignored in the white-dominated theatre profession, responded with the formation of theatre companies such as the East West Players in Los Angeles, Kumu Kahua Theatre in Honolulu, and Pan Asian Repertory in New York City, to name a few of the ever-expanding group of theatres dedicated to creating communities of audiences and theatre artists. These companies have nurtured playwrights of Asian descent whose voices provoke exciting discussion and inquiry among diverse audiences. One of the new companies is SLANT, founded in New York City in 1995 by Rick Ebihara, Wayland Quintero, and Perry Yung. SLANT’s premiere play Big Dicks, Asian Men confronts the complex interweaving of aggression and competition, masculinity, and racial politics. Because this course focuses on agency--what Asian American playwrights say and how they say it--students will investigate and discuss questions as wide-ranging as identity politics, family and culture, racial and ethnic discrimination, gender and sexuality, assimilation, and the multiplicity inherent in Asian America. Playwrights and plays may include Momoko Iko’s Gold Watch, Frank Chin’s Chickencoop Chinaman, Wakako Yamauchi’s And the Soul Shall Dance, Velina Hasu Houston’s Tea, David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, Aasif Mandvi’s Sakina’s Restaurant, Bina Sharif’s Afghan Woman, and Ralph B. Peña’s Flipzoids. Whether investigating internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, experiences of Asian war brides, cold war espionage, struggles against racist stereotyping and exclusion, or perspectives of Asian Muslims in the United States, these plays inspire questions about roads to war and to peace