Festival History

In September 2003, Theatre Communications Group (TCG) organized a convening of 21 theaters of color in response to common concerns about their survival and future in this country. Leaders from Asian American, Latino American and African American theater companies participated in a rigorous, thought-provoking, and affirming examination of the state of their art. Energized and compelled by the accounts of the various theaters’ experiences, and by the ideas and the spirit generated by the discussions, the six Asian American theaters represented at the convening were inspired to claim their place in the theatrical history in this country.The six companies, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, East West Players, Ma-Yi Theater, the National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO), Second Generation, and Mu Performing Arts, began discussions in June 2004 to build upon what had been learned at the TCG convening. A groundbreaking decision was made: to hold the first ever national Asian American Theater Conference. Spearheaded by Tim Dang of East West Players, the “Next Big Bang: The First Asian American Theater Conference” took place in Los Angeles from June 18 - 20, 2006. It was a resounding success.

Festival Executive Committee

Ma-Yi Theater Company

Founded in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company is an Obie Award-winning, not-for-profit 501(3)(c) organization whose primary mission is to develop new plays and performance works that essay Asian American experiences. We provide a home where artists can take big creative risks and investigate new avenues of collaboration as they hone individual and collective skills. We encourage our artists to engage their communities in vigorous dialogues that push Asian American aesthetics beyond easily identifiable Orientalist markers. We challenge popular prescriptions of what culturally specific theater should be by producing challenging, forward-thinking plays written by today’s emerging crop of new playwright.

NAATCO

The National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO) was founded in 1989 by Richard Eng and Mia Katigbak to:

  • Promote and support Asian American actors, directors, designers, and technicians through the performance of European and American classical and contemporary works
  • Actively develop an Asian American audience and encourage Asian Americans to become a significant part of a more diverse audience in American theatre
  • Cultivate in non-Asian Americans an appreciation of Asian American contributions to the development of theatre arts in America today

NAATCO performs this chosen repertory as written, with no forced Asian cultural associations. The repertory’s importance comes not only through the valuable training it provides for theatrical craft, but also from its ability to reach across ethnic boundaries to illuminate abiding characteristics of human nature.

Pan Asian Repertory Theatre

Pan Asian Rep is the professional theatre founded to celebrate Asian American artistic expressiveness on the living stage. It became a major New York theatre presence in 1983 with the long off-Broadway run of Yellow Fever, introducing the tough Japanese private eye with a heart of gold, Sam Shikaze. The company grew out of Tisa Chang’s experimental work at LaMama ETC with a core of Asian actors in such benchmark bi-lingual productions as the Peking Opera adaptation of Return of the Phoenix and the intercultural version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Memorable productions helped to expand the boundaries of American theatre, including: Lao She’s Teahouse, spanning 50 years of modern Chinese history; Ghashiram Kotwal, the Marathi musical expose of Brahmin abuse of privilege; and the adaptation, Shogun MacBeth.

Pan Asian Rep is now the largest producer of Asian American theatre with regular international and national touring and residencies. In 1992, the company began a five year plan towards institutionalization with support from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund for New Audiences Program and a 1994 Challenge Grant from The National Endowment for the Arts.

Name Change

2011 marked the first year that the Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists (CAATA) presented a combined Conference and Festival together, calling it ConFest. The name change was due to the consistant combined efforts of the above comittees. Vigor and intensity characterized the planning and realization of each Conference since then, leading their success, and inspired the Steering Committee to make another groundbreaking decision: to continue to hold the confrences under the new name.