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But Still Like Air

Velina Houston

Publication Year: 1997

In this pathbreaking volume, Velina Hasu Houston gathers together eleven plays that speak in the "hybridized, unique American voices of Asian descent -- and often dissent." These writers resist the bigotry that attempts to target them solely as people of color as well as the homogenizing tendencies of a multiculturalism that fails to recognize the varied make-up of Asian America. Anthologized for the first time, these plays testify to the rich complexity of Asian American experience while they also demonstrate the different styles and thematic concerns of the individual playwrights.

What are Asian American plays about? Family conflicts, sexuality, social upheaval, betrayal ... the stuff of all drama. Whether the characters are a middle-aged Taiwanese woman who is married to an Irish American and who dreams of opening a Chinese restaurant, a Chinese American female bond trader trying to survive a corporate takeover, or an ABC (American Born Chinese) gay man whose lover has AIDS, their Asian-ness is only a part of their story.

As a playwright, Houston is keenly aware of the rigid formulas that often exclude writers of color and women women writers from mainstream theater. But Still, Like air, I'll Rise brings forth vibrant new work that challenges producers and audiences to broaden their expectations, to attend to the unfamiliar voices that expresses the universal and particular vision of Asian American playwrights.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

Velina and I never formally decided to have an annual conversation; it is something that evolved out of our "bicoastal" friendship as we have followed the lines of our separate paths—lives that defy geometry, running simultaneously parallel, divergent, and intersecting. The conversation insists on beginning somewhere in the middle of where it last ended. It is continuous and looping...

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pp. xiii

I would like to express my gratitude to the people and organizations that helped bring this book to life with their trust, encouragement, counsel, assistance in research, and direct and indirect support: Sucheng Chan, Janet Francendese, Juli Thompson Burk, Roberta Uno, Endesha Ida Mae Holland, James Day Wilson, Lily Ling Wong, Oliver Mayer, Chay Yew, Angela Pao, Kiyoshi...

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pp. xv-xvii

To be marginalized in the United States is (especially for those marginalized because of their ethnicity) to have much of one's experience inadvertently or conveniently omitted from the nation's "history." Written from the heterosexual, patriarchal, Eurocentric perspective, this incomplete history presents itself as unchallengeable, immortal, and righteous; any examination of it...

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pp. 1-47

A Filipina daughter, with a penchant for emulating the heroines of '40s movie flicks, continues her father's legacy of telling stories to herself and to those around her. Moving between her world in present-day San Francisco and that of her father in his '30s world of rural California, she tells her version of dealing with bigotry much the same way...

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Day Standing on Its Head

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pp. 49-87

SET: Should be elemental, spare. For the most part empty. Perhaps a raised up stage area with a scrim. Feeling of the world should be that of a German Expressionist film-moody, black and white. The score, however, is more eclectic and for the most part indicated. Costuming should have an ambiguity of...

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Kokoro (True Heart)

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pp. 89-129

YASAKO: A tiny rock is cast out to sea by the great Sun Goddess Amaterasu and it grows into an island, strong and unwavering, beautiful and bright. I am a root in this soil. I grow best here, all blossoms, all fruits, always. [a beat] But, one day, the gardener comes and I am transplanted. The winds, the rain, the gnawing forces of erosion transform the blossoms, scattering...

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Dance of the Wandering Souls

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pp. 131-156

NOTICE: With the use of multiple roles, only ten actors and actresses are needed to produce the show. The full-length drama, including five dances, lasts about 90 minutes. Simple props can keep the cost of production at a minimum. The play can be done with a purely American cast...

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pp. 157-177

MARK: What am I today? TERRI: Today—you're a man. A Chinese man. But don't bother with that accent crap. I find it demeaning. MARK: A Chinese man. All right. And who are you? TERRI: Me? I'm—I'm a blonde woman. Can you remember that? MARK: I feel . . . very vulnerable....

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The Conversion of Ka'ahumanu

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pp. 179-225

SYBIL: In 1815, I, Sybil Mosely, felt the calling of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I confessed my faith before the congregation and now cling to the bosom of the church. Though I am a sinner, I now have hope that God will call me his own and receive me at his right hand....

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Cleveland Raining

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pp. 227-270

SETTING: The KIM family lives in a country house in Ohio, about a hundred miles south of Cleveland. The action is divided around the KIM's garage (a converted barn) and their front porch. The Volkswagen in the garage should be the most real object on stage. Everything else should be fluid, ephemeral, barely real. TIME: An apocalyptic time....

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Breaking Glass

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pp. 271-330

RICKI: Wait for the light. The light. How it glistens. How it keeps you from seeing clearly, cleanly. The pathway through the glass stopped by the glass. Mesmerized. Quieted. She holds it as far as her arms will reach. She holds it, trying to be part of the light...

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Junk Bonds

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pp. 331-393

The HOME for Contemporary Theatre production was performed in the round, using the stage as a boxing ring, microphone as squawk box, and red plexiglass floor to signify blood. The Cleveland Public Theatre production was also performed in the round, but designed as a football stadium. At Capital Rep, the play was performed 3/4 and the set was very stylistic and angular, abstracting...

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Kimchee and Chitlins

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pp. 395-450

SET: The world of the play must be symbolic and not literal. It must reflect the humor of the play, or be humorous in some way. Color choices should be bold. Most importantly, designs must provide a "home" on stage for the Chorus. Multi-layered platforms allow for fluidity of motion and quick changes of locale....

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A Language of Their Own

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pp. 451-513

MING: I can never forget what he said to me. OSCAR: I don't think we should see each other anymore. MING: It wasn't unexpected. It had to happen the way things were going. Which was nowhere. OSCAR: Of course, we can still be friends. MING: Sure. Friends. If that's what you want. OSCAR: That's not what I wanted. Not really. But it was all I could...

About the Contributors

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pp. 515-520

E-ISBN-13: 9781439906125

Publication Year: 1997