Roundabout Theatre Company Announces Third Season of The Refocus Project: - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Friday, April 28, 2023

Roundabout Theatre Company Announces Third Season of The Refocus Project:

Eric Ting

Roundabout Theatre Company Announces Third Season of The Refocus Project: Elevating Marginalized Plays to American Canon

Roundabout Theatre Company is proud to announce the third season of The Refocus Project, its multi-year project to elevate and restore marginalized plays to the American canon. The 2023 series of readings will feature Asian American and Pacific Islander playwrights, including Prince Gomolvilas, Velina Hasu Houston, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, and Anuvab Pal.

In addition to readings of their plays, this year’s lineup will also include artistic support for plays by Jeannie Barroga, Philip Kan Gotanda, Edward Sakamoto, and Wakako Yamauchi in an essay series titled ‘Literary Ancestry Series: Responses from Ma-Yi Writers Lab’ in partnership with Ma-Yi Theater Company.

The Refocus Project was created to allow theater-makers, industry leaders, and educators to see works by underrepresented artists. With the third season, Roundabout will workshop and produce free readings of each play this summer in the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. In the fall, a streamed version of four readings will be available free of charge.

Year Three plays were chosen by a reading committee led by Lead Refocus Advisor Jess McLeod, and including Rehana Lew Mirza, Gaven Trinidad, Annie Jin Wang, and members of the Roundabout Artistic staff. The Refocus Project also features a robust selection of materials, available to industry professionals and the public, including an online resource library and community and education events.

Tickets for The Refocus Project are free and available by calling 212.719.1300, or online at

The Refocus Project launched in 2021 in association with Black Theatre United, spotlighting twentieth-century Black plays and their playwrights: Angelina Weld Grimké, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Childress, and Samm-Art Williams. Year Two of The Refocus Project was produced in partnership with Pregones/PRTT and featured Latinx artists: René Marqués, Fausto Avendaño, María Irene Fornés, Rosalba Rolón, and Desmar Guevara.

Roundabout’s upcoming 2023-2024 season includes the play Home by Samm-Art Williams featured in the first year of The Refocus Project. The play will run at the American Airlines Theatre in the spring of 2024 and is directed by Kenny Leon.

The Refocus Project is an important initiative to support marginalized voices and bring their works to the forefront of American theater. It provides a platform for these artists to be seen and heard and inspires the adoption of these titles in theatrical seasons and curricula across the country.

Tickets for The Refocus Project are free and available by calling 212.719.1300, or online at


OLA NĀ IWI (THE BONES LIVE) by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl (1994), directed by Cara Hinh

May 22, 2023 at 7pm

Kawehi is travelling home to Hawai’i after a work trip in Berlin, but she’s got a secret in her bag: a set of Hawai’ian bones she discovered in a German museum. With investigators hot on her heels, Kawehi embarks on a mission to repatriate the stolen bones and bury them while aided by friends and a mysterious young woman. As the mission progresses, Kawehi and everyone else involved must ask questions about what it means to respectfully handle human remains. 

Ola Nā Iwi was first produced by Kumu Kahua Theatre in Honolulu in 1994. It was recently revived by Kumu Kahua in 2007. 

CHAOS THEORY by Anuvab Pal (2005), directed by Arpita Mukherjee

June 5, 2023 at 7pm

Sunita Sen and Mukesh Singh are close friends pursuing academic careers; she’s focusing on Indian history while he is studying English literature. Taking place over 40 years, Chaos Theory follows the pair’s relationship as they immigrate from India to the US and both become professors at Columbia University. Anuvab Pal’s play asks what it takes to survive in a new country, what it means to thrive in academia, and how identity complicates all of it.

Chaos Theory was first performed in 2005 as part of the ArtWallah Festival in LA. The play was a finalist in the 2007 BBC World Playwrighting Competition and was produced again in 2010 by Pulse Ensemble Theatre. 

BIG HUNK O’ BURNIN’ LOVE by Prince Gomolvilas (1998), directed by Eric Ting

June 12, 2023 at 7pm

Five days before his 30th birthday, Winston’s parents reveal a surprising family secret that sends his life plans up in flames. Thus begins a whirlwind comedic journey in which Winston must reevaluate everything he thought he knew about himself and his parents. Big Hunk o’ Burnin’ Love is a farcical exploration of how we love and the responsibilities we owe our families, and how those two emotional duties are often intertwined.

Big Hunk o’ Burnin’ Love was first produced by East West Players in 1998, and subsequently by Second Generation Productions in New York City and by Asian Stories in America (ASIA) Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. 

TEA by Velina Hasu Houston (1987), directed by Jess McLeod

June 26, 2023 at 7pm

After the untimely death of their neighbor, four women meet at her home for tea. They are Japanese wives of American Servicemen who have come to America post-war with their new husbands, drawn together not by choice but by forced proximity and shared identity. Sequestered in Junction City, Kansas after the American occupation of Japan, the women must confront this loss head on, and ask themselves if the tenuous ties between them can ever stand in for true community. 

Tea was first produced at Manhattan Theatre Club in 1987 in a production directed by Julianne Boyd. Since then, it has been seen at East West Players in Los Angeles, and Silk Road Theatre Project (now Silk Road Rising) in Chicago, among other places. 


YANKEE DAWG YOU DIE by Philip Kan Gotanda (1988) 

Vincent Chang is a Japanese American actor in his 60s, who has been working steadily for years, taking any part he can get to earn a living and increase Asian American representation onscreen. Bradley Yamashita is a Japanese American actor in his 20s who is in the early stages of his career, trying to carve out an existence for himself in roles that aren’t just stereotypes. Despite appearances, when Vincent and Bradley meet, they find that they have less in common than expected. This lively two-hander explores the industry-wide mistreatment of Asian American actors in film, TV, and theatre, showing how different generations tackle the same, complicated questions about what authentic representation really means. 

The world premiere of Yankee Dawg You Die was produced by Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 1988 and moved to Los Angeles Theatre Center shortly after. Playwrights Horizons produced the New York premiere in 1989. It is one of playwright Philip Kan Gotanda’s earlier works. 

THE MUSIC LESSONS by Wakako Yamauchi (1980) 

Set in California’s Imperial Valley in the year 1935, The Music Lessons encounters Chizuko Sakata, a widowed mother of three, struggling to raise her children and make ends meet. When Chizuko hires Kaoru Kawaguchi, a young itinerant worker, to help her on the farm, his presence disrupts the family’s stasis and sparks Chizuko’s and her daughter Aki’s dreams of a better life. Wakako Yamauchi’s play transforms the people and places from her own childhood into a compelling family drama following first-generation Japanese immigrants in California. 

The Music Lessons was originally written as a short story entitled “In Heaven and Earth,” and was adapted into a play in 1977. It premiered at The Public Theatre in 1980 and was subsequently produced by East West Players in 1985. 

THE LIFE OF THE LAND by Edward Sakamoto (1987) 

Spencer has returned home to O’ahu, Hawai’i for a family reunion after building a successful life for himself in LA since leaving 20 years ago. The family gathers to catch him up on all that has changed and Spencer starts to wonder what he sacrificed when he decided to leave the island. Can Hawai’i ever feel like home again after so many years away? 

The Life of the Land is the third play in Edward Sakamoto’s Kamiya Family Trilogy, a trilogy that follows multiple generations of the same family over 60 years. The play was first produced by Pan Asian Repertory in New York City in 1987. The play as well as Sakamoto’s other work has been seen at theatres across the country.

WALLS by Jeannie Barroga (1989) 

In Walls, prolific playwright Jeannie Barroga weaves a rich tapestry of stories surrounding the competition to design the Vietnam War Memorial (“The Wall”) in Washington D.C. Set in the early ‘80s, and mainly at The Wall, the piece explores the war’s legacy and the memorial’s construction – including the convergence of politics and art – from the viewpoint of a wide array of characters. How do the racial and political tensions of an inherently contentious war affect our AAPI communities and a healing nation at large?

Walls premiered at the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco, California, in 1989 and was subsequently awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Access to Artistic Excellence Award. 

Major Support for The Refocus Project is generously provided by the Ford Foundation and Bank of America.

The Refocus Project is made possible by the Champions for Inclusive Theatre and Roundabout’s Forward Fund. We acknowledge the generous friends who support our many efforts to increase representation and inclusion in all aspects of theatre: Elizabeth Armstrong, Bank of America, Eugene and Joann Bissell and the Lillian Lincoln Foundation, Kevin Brown, Barbara and Peter Bye, Ginger McKnight Chavers, Ford Foundation, Jill and Barry Lafer, Gina Maria Leonetti, Iva Mills, Beryl Snyder, and Denise Littlefield Sobel.


PRINCE GOMOLVILAS (Playwright, Big Hunk o’ Burnin’ Love) is a Thai-American playwright whose plays include Big Hunk o’ Burnin’ Love, a groundbreaking comedy about a Thai-American family; The Theory of Everything, a Pan-Asian play that won a PEN Center USA Literary Award for Drama; Mysterious Skin, a stage adaptation of the Scott Heim novel; and The Brothers Paranormal, a critically acclaimed ghost story that’s been produced across the country and published by Dramatic Publishing. His work has also been performed in Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, and Thailand. His theatre-for-youth shows have been continuously touring elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools for more than fifteen years. He is a former Assistant Professor of Writing at the University of Southern California, and he received an MFA in Playwriting from San Francisco State University.

CARA HINH (they/she) (Director, Ola Nā Iwi (The Bones Live)) is an Indiana-born queer, fat, mixed Viet theatre maker currently based in Brooklyn. Recent select credits include Little Women at Perseverance Theatre, LASTHUNTER at INK'D Playwrights Realm, Buried Ruins with the Sống Collective, love you long time (already) at Atlantic MixFest and Transfer direction of Sanctuary City at Arena Stage and Berkeley Rep. Cara has been a Drama League Hangar Fellow, part of the Roundabout Directors Group, a Directing Apprentice at Actors Theatre of Louisville, SDC Observer on Hadestown and a Fellow at Baltimore Center Stage.

VELINA HASU HOUSTON’s (Playwright, Tea) literary career began Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club, expanding globally. With over 30 commissions, she’s been honored by institutions such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Japan Foundation, Doris Duke foundation, the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Institution, and Theatre Communications Group. She’s written for Sidney Poitier, Columbia Pictures, PBS, Eleven Arts, and other film entities. She founded graduate playwriting and the study of Asian American culture at the University of Southern California in the early 1990s; and is a presidentially appointed USC Distinguished Professor, USC Resident Playwright and School of Dramatic Arts/Iovine Young Academy faculty. In the early 1980s, she founded the first LGBTQI student organization at her undergraduate institution and the first community organization for mixed race Asians. A Fulbright scholar, she served on the state department's Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. She is Writers’ Odyssey Associate Artist, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, Los Angeles; a member of New Circle Theatre Company, New York, and its Writers’ Group; and on the Board of Trustees, Berklee College. Her archives are based at The Huntington Library.

VICTORIA NALANI KNEUBUHL (Playwright, Ola Nā Iwi (The Bones Live)) is a Hawaiʻi writer. Her plays have been performed in Hawai`i, the continental United States, and have toured to Britain, Asia, and the Pacific. Her anthology of plays, Hawaiʻi Nei, was published by the University of Hawaiʻi Press, and her second anthology, Navigaitng Islands is in production. She is the author of three mystery novels set in Hawaiʻi, also published by UH Press. Her short stories have appeared in various anthologies. She has received the Hawai`i Award for Literature and the Elliot Cades Award for Literature.

JESS McLEOD (Director, Tea) is a first-generation Korean/Filipina/Scottish director & social justice advocate specializing in risky new work about America. NYCLU/Creatives Rebuild Artist-In-Residence; Woolly Mammoth BOLD Resident Director; Resident Director, Hamilton Chicago. Recent NY credits include Atlantic, Roundabout, EST and Little Island. Regional credits include Woolly, Steppenwolf, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Goodman, Victory Gardens, San Diego Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Long Wharf, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Chicago Shakes, The Gift, A Red Orchid Theatre and developmental work at the O’Neill, WTF and The Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep. Jess also works frequently at the intersection of art & activism, and has created operas with community groups (Lyric), musicals with incarcerated teen Chicagoans (Storycatchers Theatre), musical walking tours (National Public Housing Museum), the #STOPASIANHATE video campaign for NY Rep. Grace Meng’s 3/26 Day of Action & Healing (co-creator) and recently curated Broadway Advocacy Coalition’s first-ever Arts In Action Festival. Currently under commission at La Jolla Playhouse and Co-Chair, with Michael Korie, of the Dramatists Guild Foundation’s Musical Theatre Fellows. MFA, Northwestern. | @mcjessmc 

ARPITA MUKHERJEE (Director, Chaos Theory) is a NYC based director and writer who recently made her Broadway debut as the resident director of The Kite Runner. Arpita was the Co-Book Writer and Associate Director on Monsoon Wedding, The Musical at St. Ann's Warehouse. Arpita previously directed Bollywood Kitchen by Sri Rao (Geffen Playhouse), House of Joy by Madhuri Shekar (San Diego Rep), and Eh Dah: Questions for my Father by Aya Aziz (Next Door @ New York Theatre Workshop). Arpita has developed work at the Public Theater, WP Theater and O’Neill Theater Center, amongst others. She is a 2021 Resident Director at the Drama League, a 2018 - 2020 Women’s Project Lab Member and a 2018 Eugene O’ Neill National Directing Fellows and an alumni of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. Arpita directed Running, a film written by and starring Danny Pudi and co-wrote the screenplay for the Disney+ Hotstar film Gulmohar with director Rahul Chittella. Arpita is currently developing projects for WIIP, AMC, and a Netflix feature directed by Mira Nair, with music by Pharrell Williams. Arpita is the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Hypokrit.

ANUVAB PAL’s (Playwright, Chaos Theory) stand-up comedy special The Nation Wants To Know, has played over 500 sold out shows from Mumbai to Sydney to San Francisco. His show, Empire, a comedy show based on the history of the British Empire in India, has played in 12 cities worldwide and been called “Spectacular” by CNN and “A laugh riot with brilliant ideas” by NDTV. Empire can now be seen as a comedy special on Amazon Prime UK, part of Soho Theatre Live Series 3. Anuvab is the only Indian stand-up comedian after Russel Peters to sell out The Gotham Comedy Club in New York in record time. He’s also the only Indian comedian invited to perform at Harvard University. Times of India lists him among India’s top 5 English speaking comedians, having played over 750 shows and sold-out houses across India, the Middle East, Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco, South by Southwest Austin Texas, Laugh Boston, New York. In 2016, Anuvab was chosen among the top 14 comedians in India to have his comedy special available on Amazon Prime Video among the premiere shows of Amazon's India debut, and joined the hilarious pan-global satirical podcast The Bugle alongside Andy Zaltzman. It is with Zaltzman that he has co-created the upcoming comedy (BBC Radio4) series Empire-ical Evidence and Future Empire-Fect. Pal’s sitcom pilot titled Empire featured as part of Festival Of Funny (BBC Radio2) starring actor comedian, writer, presenter Stephen Fry. Anuvab’s UK TV and Radio credits include QI (BBC2) Big Asian Stand Up (BBC2) The News Quiz (BBC Radio4) The New Year’s Eve International Show (BBC World Service) Comedians VS News (BBC World Service) Fred At The Stand (BBC Radio4). Anuvab is also a prolific writer. He was the screenwriter of the Bollywood films Loins Of Punjab Presents & The President Is Coming, both of which screened at leading film festivals around the world. As well as the author of 4 hit stage plays: 1 888 Dial India, The Bureaucrat, and Chaos Theory, which have become bestselling novels published by Random House and Picador respectively, and The President Is Coming, which was developed by the Royal Court Theatre in London. His work has been featured internationally in Time Magazine, CNN, BBC, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Vogue, Elle, The Economist, Financial Times, The New Yorker, and many other publications. He currently writes a weekly column for The Economic Times and Times of India. Anuvab has turned his attention towards the UK and looks to share his observations on the British influence of India and absurdities thereof to a wider British audience. 

ERIC TING (Director, Big Hunk o’ Burnin’ Love) is an Obie Award-winning director whose recent directing credits include the world premieres of Lloyd Suh’s The Far Country (Atlantic Theater Co) and Bina’s Six Apples (Alliance, Children’s Theater Co); Marcus Gardley’s Lear (Cal Shakes, co-director); and Between Two Knees by the 1491s (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). New York: Manhattan Theatre Club, Public Theater Under the Radar, BAM Next Wave, Soho Rep. Regional: Yale Rep, Long Wharf Theatre, Hartford Stage, McCarter Theater, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Philadelphia Theatre Co, Cincinnati Playhouse, Goodman, Victory Gardens, Denver Center, CTG, ACT, Berkeley Rep, Seattle Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival. International: Singapore, France, UAE, Holland, Canada, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bali.


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