Q&A with playwright Jason Ma – Utah Shakespeare Festival

Jason’s mother wrote the book, Songs, and Music Mountains of gold, Which will premiere at the Utah Shakespeare Festival November at the West Valley Performing Arts Center. The son of an immigrant family, the mother wrote the play as an “attempt to re-focus, and expand, this special shot” of the building. The Transcontinental Railway, where Asian Americans played a huge role. For more information about mom, visit goldmountainthemusical.com/ Author.

Utah Shakespeare Festival: We see that this play is a tribute to your Chinese culture, and you tell two specific stories (your mother was waiting for a glass of orange juice in the morning and your father and cousin were interrogated on Angel Island as teenagers) Did you interview family members or your Dig more into the ancestral story as you wrote this play? Do you have any other stories?

Jason’s mother: Although my family name has been included Mountains of gold, The story itself came to me in an unexpected way. The initial trend came from who-knows-where in the middle of a show, while I was waiting in the scene, and I didn’t really want to write anything. A lyric / melody piece starts to cycle through my head and then, the person singing this snippet starts to tell me who he was. By the end of the next day, the first draft of the love affair between “Your Eyes” was over, and the world, character, theme, and plot that surrounded it fell into line in the months following that first encounter.

Festival: What was the hardest part of writing this drama / research etc?

What: Writing the first draft was quick. After that initial burst of inspiration, I spent the rest of that summer walking the streets of New York City, writing all day, and then going to the theater at night. Every extra moment was spent composing and writing the show. In the fall, I had the first draft. The research was often done after the initial writing of a scene. I’ll finish something and then think, “Is that right? What could it be ?!” Luckily, I was usually on foot, so I went to the library, and checked some authenticity.

Festival: This is your first full-length music, but you said that your experience as an actor has prepared you to realize that such details are needed. How has your experience as an actor helped you write the script?

What: I acted Miss Saigon, flower drum song, And King and I., Are all worthy / classic pieces of theatrical composition, but each of them can be problematic for the Asian community represented in them and may be limited to the actors acting in them. It’s important that we can tell our own stories and work through the pieces written by people in our own communities. My past decades as an actor have fueled my writing, because as much as I loved playing roles and other characters that weren’t specifically Asian, or starring in the classic “Color Blind” production, I still talked about roles and representations of specific types of Asian people. For humanity and self-reliance, something that Asian writers are uniquely suited to bring to light. It’s important that we add Canon, and there are many AAPIs [Asian American Pacific Islander] That’s exactly what the writers are trying to do.

Festival: You said because the festival is one of the best reputations for theater production, you were thrilled to be a partner, but why did you decide to partner with the festival? How did it happen?

What: Frank Mac came to one of our Spike 150 concert performances in 201 Sp. He contacted Max Chang, the executive producer of that concert; And Max arranged for us to meet and talk. The next thing I knew, I was in Cedar City was a wonderful welcome [Festival Founder] Fred Adams and then, being given a tour of the facilities and theaters. Honestly, I flew. Feels like putting on a festival field theater!

Festival: You mentioned that Utah is family oriented and has an appreciation for the arts, so this is a great place for a world premiere. Mountain of gold. Its proximity to Sierra Nevada is also why you chose Utah. I saw the actor appear at UNR and play Chu.

What: We didn’t choose Utah. Utah chose us. It’s interesting that it came up almost twice. We had a big concert in New York at the Times Center Performance Space in Times Square. Apparently, there were people in the audience who talked about this Chinese railway worker musical instrument, because within a few weeks I received an email from dear Judge Michael Kwan, which we lost unexpectedly last year. Mike was president of the Chinese Railway Workers’ Association and invited me to their conference in 2018. That’s where I first met Max Chang and where I found out he wanted to bring Mountain of gold Spike 150 in Utah to celebrate. Multiple trips to Salt Lake City and Ogden have taken place in the following months, and, as I have met more and more Utahs, I have come to realize that this is a natural home for the show and its family, abandonment and community themes. Combine it with music, storytelling and history and you’ve got a show that’s basically Utah.

Festival: Why did you include a love story? How do you think this contributes to the important message you are trying to convey?

What: One of the things that storytelling can do for all of us is the beautiful empathetic response that is part of our inherent humanity. The show contains elements of love stories and many other stories to create empathy and humanity. We all have a lot in common, a good story is the best way for us to reconnect with each other.

Festival: Do you think such dramas can help us understand these differences and solve some of these pervasive problems like others and inequality in today’s world?

What: I firmly believe that dramas and musical instruments have the power to lift us up and help make a difference. They are perfect by their nature, to stir the heart and start thinking.

Festival: As players, what should we see in this production that can help us enjoy it and / or understand it better?

What: For our game, let the story take you. It is not an intellectual part, but must be experienced with the heart. There will be plenty of time to think after the show.

Festival: Ali Eoldt [who is playing Mei] A world-class talent, and the actor is almost entirely Asian-American. Should we know anything special about the actors / actresses?

What: This actor and creative team brings with them decades of Broadway show experience. It’s a very special gathering of talent, and it’s flattering and mind boggling that they’ve all made a place in their lives to do this show. For this special production, the main challenge to cast the show was to choose from among the many talented Asian actors who auditioned for us.

Festival: Do you hope this drama will give the audience a gift?

What: What I expect more than anything else is for our audience to think about the lives and humanity of these migrant workers who have helped build our country, and perhaps think about all the waves of migration that have occurred in our history, from the very beginning. People from all over are coming to America. This is what defines us as a country and makes us great.

Visit wvcarts.org/gold-mountain to buy tickets to this drama.

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