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NEW YORK PREMIERE SET FOR NEW PLAY BASED ON UNEXPLAINED BLINDNESS
OF WOMEN WHO SURVIVED CAMBODIA'S KILLING FIELDS ATROCITIES

 

Eyes of the Heart, A Play by Catherine Filloux, Directed by Kay Matschullat, produced by National Asian American Theatre Company, Inc. (NAATCO) at INTAR 53, 508 West 53rd Street at 10th Avenue, New York City; Preview October 11; Opening night October 12th; Closing date October 30th. (Every night at 7PM, except Sunday, with matinees on Saturday October 23 at 2PM [with Panel, sponsored by Asia Society] & October 30 at 3PM.) Reservations at 212-244-0447. Tickets are $19. (Group Rates: $15 for 10 or more.) To secure tickets you may send a check to NAATCO, 520 Eighth Ave. Ste. 316, NYC 10018 (indicate date and time of show you wish to attend.)

Mia Katigbak, NAATCO Artistic/Producing Director, will play the lead role of Thida San. Also starring: Nadia Bowers, Alexis Camins, James Saito, Virginia Wing and Eunice Wong.

Sets: Mimi Lien; Lights: Clifton Taylor; Costumes: Suttirat Larlarb; Sound: Dave Morreale.

This season will celebrate a new phase in NAATCO's work, the presentation of original work. The fall production will be Catherine Filloux's Eyes of the Heart, rich with cultural, political, and social issues.

Eyes of the Heart achieves the admirable, and sometimes improbable task of presenting a devastating condition in a most elegant and poetic way. Eyes of the Heart is based on actual oral histories that Catherine Filloux compiled over five years of working with Cambodian refugee women at St. Rita's Refugee Center in Bronx, New York. It is about the psychosomatic blindness that afflicted predominantly middle-aged women who witnessed and survived the most horrific crimes under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. It is the story of one such woman who comes to California to live with her brother's family and with her American doctor begins the complex process of healing, finding a surprising role in her new home.

Eyes of the Heart has won critical recognition, receiving the Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays and the Eric Kocher Playwrights Award (National Playwrights Conference, O'Neill Theater Center).

Catherine Filloux's other plays about Cambodia include SILENCE OF GOD (Contemporary American Theater Festival, New Play Commission, 2002 Season) and PHOTOGRAPHS FROM S-21, a short play, which has been performed around the world. Other projects include: opera commission from Cambodian Living Arts with Cambodian composer Him Sophy; Fulbright Senior Specialist at Royal University of Fine Arts, Cambodia (2003); Asian Cultural Council Artist's Residency Grant, Cambodia (2001); Oral History Project: A CIRCLE OF GRACE with Cambodian Women's Group at St. Rita's Refugee Center, Bronx, NY; and articles about her theater work in Cambodia in Manoa: In the Shadow of Angkor and The Drama Review. She has just returned from Cambodia, where she taught playwriting at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, and organized a 26-short-play festival for her students, which was presented in December 2003.

Kay Matschullat, the play's director, has directed world premiere works by Ariel Dorfman and Derek Walcott. Her work has been supported by the Theater Communications Group, the NEA, the Samuel Rubin Foundation and she was the recipient of the Rudolf Arnheim Award from Harvard College.

Mia Katigbak, NAATCO Artistic/Producing Director, plays the lead role of Thida San. In 1999 NAATCO won an OBIE Award and in 2000 Ms. Katigbak was honored with the Excellence in the Field of Arts Award by Ma-Yi Theater Company. She recently appeared in LIGHT RAISE THE ROOF and ARCHITECTURE OF LOSS at the New York Theatre Workshop. She has acted at NYSF/Public Theatre, Ma-Yi Theatre; Cherry Lane Theater, Women's Project, Pan-Asian Rep, New Federal Theatre, Henry Street Settlement, all in New York City, and Berkeley Repertory Theater in California.

The Cambodian-American rapper Prach Ly and his colleague Silong Chhun have written a piece of music for the play. We have received a grant from New England Foundation for the Arts Fund for Cambodian Culture to support the production of Eyes of the Heart with Cambodian-American Sophy Theam serving as Assistant Producer, and Khul Tithchenda, one of Ms. Filloux's Cambodian spoken-word theater students during her Fulbright project, doing a six-week apprenticeship with the director, Kay Matschullat and with the playwright. Kay Matschullat joined Catherine Filloux in Cambodia, where she helped with Filloux's Fulbright Festival of New Plays and conducted a Directing Workshop with the actors from the National Theatre.

Outreach for Eyes of the Heart:

There will be a surrounding panel supported by Asia Society: CAMBODIA: WOMEN, REFUGEES AND AMERICA, on Saturday, October 23, 2004, immediately following the matinee of Eyes of the Heart (INTAR 508 West 53rd Street, at 10th Avenue.) The Matinee on October 23rd will be at 2PM, and the panel will begin immediately afterward, at about 3:45PM. The panel will last 45 minutes with 15 minutes for questions and discussion. On the panel will be:

Chivy W. Sok, Cambodian-American Deputy Director of University of Iowa's Center for Human Rights, who serves as Project Director of the Child Labor Research Initiative (CLRI). She joined the UI Center for Human Rights after five years of working at Columbia University's Center for the Study of Human Rights. Ms. Sok holds a Masters in International Affairs degree with a concentration in East Asia and Human Rights from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

Davin K. Hun, Cambodian-American survivor and Caseworker at St. Rita's Refugee Center in the Bronx. (Ms. Filloux worked at St. Rita's Refugee Center on an oral history project with the Cambodian Women's Group and taught E.S.L. to refugee-students there.)

Moderator: Toni Shapiro-Phim, Anthropologist specializing in Cambodian Dance and Culture; co-author of Dance in Cambodia, Oxford University Press.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004: Post-Performance Discussion on Cambodian Immigrant Experience Sponsored by New York University's Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program: mental health issues and the trauma of immigration with Catherine Filloux, playwright, and Dr. Leakhena Nou,

Cambodian- American medical sociologist and A/P/A Studies Visiting Scholar. The play begins at 7pm and the one-hour discussion will follow immediately at 8:30.

Thursday, October 14, 2004: Brief Post-Performance Discussion with Haing Ngor Foundation Director, Jack Ong: Dr. Haing S. Ngor was a successful gynecologist in Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge seized control of Cambodia. He survived four years of slave labor and torture during the Cambodian holocaust, escaped to the Thai-Cambodian refugee camps, and eventually made his way to America. While assisting fellow refugees in Los Angeles, Dr. Ngor was persuaded to become an actor, portraying journalist Dith Pran in Warner Bros. "The Killing Fields".  When he won the Academy Award and Golden Globe (Best Supporting Actor) for his performance, he used his fame to tell the world about his devastated homeland and the daunting challenges to reconstruct Cambodia. Dr. Ngor established a human rights and educational foundation along with fellow actor Jack Ong to aid Cambodia and Cambodians throughout the world. He also wrote a bestselling autobiography with co-writer Roger Warner. On February 25, 1996, Dr. Ngor was murdered outside his Los Angeles apartment, victim of a botched robbery by three gang members.

Following the performance of Eyes of the Heart, Jack Ong will speak about his human rights work with Dr. Ngor and discuss the new 2004 edition of Dr. Ngor's autobiography, "Survival in the Killing Fields". An actor, activist and Executive Director of The Dr. Haing S. Ngor Foundation, Ong is a former board member of the Screen Actors Guild. His TV credits include Friends, The Simpsons, Still Standing and Dharma & Greg. He performed in the world premiere stage presentation of The Reunification Hotel, written and directed by Tony and Oscar winner Julian Barry (Lenny). Ong's latest movie credits include National Lampoon's Gold Diggers and the upcoming Art School Confidential with John Malkovich, who co-starred with Haing Ngor in The Killing Fields. The play begins at 7pm and the brief discussion will follow immediately at 8:30.

Asian America TV Show: Eyes of the Heart artistic team interviewed by David Henry Hwang, to air on Sunday, September 26, 2004

SYNOPSIS: Eyes of the Heart By Catherine Filloux

Eyes of the Heart portrays a Cambodian immigrant family's pursuit of a new life in the U.S., as they struggle with the damage the Khmer Rouge inflicted upon them. We meet this family - a father, daughter and close friend - as their Aunt Thida arrives from Cambodia. Thida suffers from a psychosomatic blindness developed by hundreds of Cambodian women after witnessing the atrocities collectively known as the killing fields in the chaos of Cambodia in the'70's. As the family encounters her pain and her courage, Aunt Thida starts to come to terms with her past and begins to teach her sophisticated American doctor the ways of the human heart.

The friction between cultures is at the heart of the story, and Eyes examines the dangers and potential of that point of friction. The lines between East and West intersect constructively as the characters travel together on the journey towards healing.

The story is about a family and all its foibles ­ exploiting the humor of a single father trying to talk honestly with his teenage daughter about sex ­ while also constituting an epic portrayal of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable evil. Eyes of the Heart opens the audience to new worlds, using humor, poetry and theatrical imagery to tell a universal story of survival and hope.

   
   
   
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