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Interviews and SCOOPS from East West Players:

 

 
Jodi Long's Commentary  
Backstage with Kelvin Han Yee  
 
FEB. 17, 2004

Fun news! THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA is now the lowest budget flick ever to play the world-famous Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard! And it’s a move-over to boot! Having just played a 2-week world premiere run in West LA, “Lost Skeleton” is pretty much for audiences of all ages, types and genders. It opens wide in L.A. now, so if you’re one of those movie buffs always seeking a fun spoof on those “handmade” sci-fi black-and-white movies of the 50s, don’t miss “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra”!

ALSO HIGHLY RECOMMENDED IN L.A. –

East West Players
(Tim Dang, Producing Artistic Director)
presents the L. A. premiere of “The Wind Cries Mary” by Philip Kan Gotanda,
directed by Lisa Peterson. Performances thru Sunday, Feb. 29.
(www.eastwestplayers.org)

I say “The Wind Cries Mary” is one of the best plays to ever hit the boards of East West Players’ David Henry Hwang Theater. It plays great, looks great, sounds great. One speech in particular in this excellent (and funny) drama moved me to tears, always a nice surprise, right? To find yourself caught up 100% in a well-written play when the words are said so beautifully and with such conviction! By the entire cast!! Well, when I ran into stars Jodi Long and Kelvin Han Yee after last Saturday’s matinee, that’s exactly what I told the two of them! Kelvin’s got the role in “Mary” with that tear-inducing speech I mentioned… Anyway, after talking with Jodi and Kelvin and raving to them, I followed up with yet an email and a few questions

Here’s Jodi’s response:

Dear Jack-

Thanks for coming and supporting us and the show! It is gratifying to do a play and have the response we have had to it like yours! As for your questions-

What is the quality you most enjoy about your character, Eiko/Mary?

I love the fact that Phillip has adapted Hedda Gabler, plot point by plot point, yet infuses it not only with a sense of time - 1968 (when there was so much going on in America and within American culture) but couples it with the burgeoning Woman and Asian American movement. Eiko, particularly, is a woman caught between a rock and a hard place. She is a daughter of the 50's and all that entails culturally, but also of the peace movement - the emergence of
 experimental drugs - broadening the mind of her perception. Unfortunately, society has not yet caught up with her.  There is no real place for her, as an intelligent, strong, Asian American woman in the America of 1968, so she is stuck, trapped within a traditional marriage and prison of her own making.

So for me, as an Asian American actress, to not only get to play Hedda Gabler, but a character that has all these other layers that I understand on a deep level, is a great gift. I am also grateful to all the women who forged new pathways in those early years that enabled someone like me to live the life I have wanted, very much outside the norm, as an artist, actress, and independent woman.

How did you prepare for the role to infuse so much into the character now on stage?

I am reading Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, which is a gateway right back to that time and head space. I read Jodorosky's book El Topo, and looked at lots of photos to get a sense of how I'd like to portray Eiko. Her
 costume is very Lynda Bird Johnson for the time, but I also see her as a bit wild- hence the Yoko Ono type hair. Even though I was a kid in 1968, I do remember the times, and am grateful to put the images and memories of that era to use in my characterization of Eiko.

How would you describe "The Wind Cries Mary"?

Hedda Gabler with sex, drugs and rock and roll - and with some Asian American politics thrown in. Not in a didactic way, but in a good, fun way.

What’s happening in the world of Jodi Long?

This past season I have been in NBC's “Miss Match” with Alicia Silverstone. At present we are on hiatus, and are waiting to see if the show gets a pick up for next year. Other than that, I have a one woman show that I wrote, SURFING DNA, which opened the NEW WORKS FESTIVAL at the Taper last Oct ober 2003, and I will be doing a reading of it at the Public Theater in NYC in May.

Best to you Jack, and get the word of mouth out for our show!

Jodi

 
Backstage with Kelvin Han Yee

Writing about the current offering at East West Players, Philip Kan Gotanda’s THE WIND CRIES MARY, I mentioned a speech that particularly gripped me. The words I felt were spoken to life by the talented Mr. Kelvin Han Yee, a recent Bay Area transplant loving L.A. and the actor’s life. Don’t miss THE WIND CRIES MARY, which ends after Sunday’s matinee. Go to
www.eastwestplayers.com
 
Kelvin’s role of “Miles” in this 60’s “Hedda Gabler” appears mid-Act 1, and quickly becomes much more complicated (and interesting) than the initial impression he makes. Miles is a writer in the seminal days of Asian America, one of many who were mad as hell about the lack of respect for Asian Americans.
 
Kelvin has been kind enough to respond to a couple of questions…
 
Q: What do you like best about the role of Miles?
 
Kelvin Han Yee: Well, I’ve lived a lot of the things that Miles has lived. In the play we hear about Miles even before we meet him. The other characters talk about his wild reputation. Like Miles, I’ve been a political activist, I was accused of hitting a cop, I was in a rock band, I fell for a mysterious redheaded woman, basically I have this wild reputation. But in the play, Miles has cleaned himself up in order to be more effective in his life. I think I also know something about redemption and of finally getting out of one’s own way in life. But the best part about playing Miles is that I get to exercise acting muscles that I don’t normally get to exercise. Let’s put it this way -- I don’t usually get hired to kiss the girl. I play bad guys in the movies. But in this play I get to kiss Jodi Long. Well, it doesn’t get better than that.
 
Q: What are a few of the things (about Miles) that you and writer Philip Kan Gotanda discussed?
 
Kelvin: When Philip called me to ask me to audition for This, he said, ”Miles is a sexy guy.” When the play premiered at San Jose Repertory Theater, Miles was played by Stan Egi. Now, Stan is a personal friend. He is a gifted actor and much better looking than I
am. Well, I started thinking about that and I went on a diet and lost 20 lbs. Then my wife, who is a film industry hair dresser, made me an exquisite wig with gorgeous hair to the shoulders. She hand tied every single strand of hair on the thing. The costumer Chris Acevedo found this great leather jacket and motorcycle boots that I was wearing. Very sexy. But then just a few days before opening night, Lisa
Peterson (the director) and Philip Kan Gotanda totally did a 180 with the look of this guy. I don’t want to give away the surprise, but when Miles finally enters he doesn’t look at all like the person Philip had originally described.
 
Q: What do you think about the play as a whole?
 
Kelvin: I think that Philip has reached a pinnacle in his craft and wordsmithing with this play. He has adapted a western classic, Hedda Gabler, and added layers of given circumstances that are culturally and historically more specific to the audience that is coming to see the play. I think Ibsen’s classic has always been flawed by a central character that is unlikable because it is difficult to understand her within the context in which the original play is set. By putting the play in the world of Asian America as Philip does in all of his works and putting his story in the context of the feminist movement and the political activism of the sixties, we are drawn into the story and we care about these characters so much more. These people are us. We can relate to it more. Philip’s play has more heat than the cold Scandinavian original.
 
Q: And what future plans are there for the play at this time?
 
Kelvin - I went out for a late night snack with Jodi Long and Lisa Peterson last night (Friday) after the show. Lisa had just flown in from New York where she teaches at Columbia U. Those two were talking about the possibilities of the show playing in New York. I think they’re both fairly connected in the Big Apple. Philip wasn’t even there last night. He flies in on Sunday to do a post show discussion after the Sunday 2:00 pm show (tix are still available) so he hasn’t even heard about this yet. So, this is truly a scoop for your website. This gossip is really hot. Overheard at Sukoharu at 11:30 pm last night.
 
Q: Great! Break a leg! What else is new?
 
Kelvin - I just shot a commercial for Bell South, so if you’re below the Mason-Dixon line anytime soon you might catch me on TV doing karate while talking about high speed DSL. I recently went out to the Cleveland Playhouse to help develop a Judy SooHoo play called “Solve For X” with Lodestone Theater Company. Look for this remarkable play. I can’t say anything more about it at this time as Lodestone Theater is currently engaged in high level negotiations with Judy Soohoo’s people and it would be unfair of me to leek
anything to the press that might adulterate or inform the future of this hot property. They’re just working out the final details.
 
Jack: Thanks, Kelvin. And thanks for the scoop – it’s our first!
 
   
   
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