LODESTONE THEATRE ENSEMBLE

under the artistic direction of Philip W. Chung & Chil Kong
proudly presents our final production

The World Premiere of

GRACE KIM & THE SPIDERS FROM MARS

A new comedy for anyone who’s ever felt like they were born on the wrong planet…

Written by Philip W. Chung
Directed by Jeff Liu
Produced by Stephanie Chang, Michael Chih Ming Hornbuckle & Peter J. Wong

Starring: Feodor Chin, Elizabeth Ho, Elaine Kao, Jully Lee, Rachel Morihiro, Hanson Tse, Kelvin Han Yee, Junko Goda, Dan Jyung, Christopher Takemoto-Gentile and Tina Tong.

Inspired by classic screwball comedies, GRACE KIM & THE SPIDERS FROM MARS tells the story of Grace, a young Korean American woman, who has withdrawn from the world after the death of her mother ten years ago. But Grace’s life is thrown upside down when she meets her sister’s fiancé and falls in love with him. This play was written to be Lodestone’s last show of its tenth and final “Beginnings and Endings” season and will be permanently retired after this run.

November 14-December 20, 2009
Thursday-Saturday 8pm, Sunday 2pm (NO SHOW THANKSGIVING, NOV. 26)

ALL THURS. SHOWS: 2-for-1 general admission tickets if you say the codeword “Ziggy Stardust” at box office

$12 general admission (Special Low 1999 Ticket Price)
$10 (groups of 10+)
$25 Opening Night Gala (Nov. 14)–S
OLD-OUT
All Sunday matinees (except Dec. 20) are pay-what-you-can ($1 minimum)

GTC Burbank
1111-B W. Olive Ave.
Burbank, CA 91506

The theatre is in George Izay Park between S. Victory Bl. and N. Griffith Park Bl. Park near the jet plane at 1111 W. Olive and walk past the Olive Recreation Center. The theatre is behind the rec center; the entrance faces the softball fields.


RSVP: (323) 993-7245 or go to http://www.lodestonetheatre.org for more info.

 

Chil Kong and Philip W. Chung.

More than a few months ago I had the pleasure to sit with two of the co-founders of Lodestone Theatre Ensemble and breathe in the trademark passion that has fueled the company’s 10-year body of work. Researching their production history (I only discovered them in 2006) triggered a genuine sense of loss for the plays I had missed and the realization that 2009 is it! Their last play, GRACE KIM & THE SPIDERS FROM MARS opened November 14th (see separate post) and will be running through December 20th. Suffice to say this is your last chance to be touched by the courageous and fiery duo who lost their funding after their first play all because of a bare bottom.

SS: Let’s go back to the beginning. After the L.A. riots, veteran actor Soon-Tek Oh urges the new generation of Asian American playwrights to tell their own stories to counteract the media’s tendency to portray Asian Americans as immigrant store owners who fall victim to violence.

Chil Kong: Yes. Soon-Tek Oh mobilized us. But it was more about the energy between Phil, Tim Lounibos, Bokyun Chun and I. We were passionate about our vision of the future of Asian American theater and we each had our own ideas about how we wanted to see a theater function in Los Angeles and we talked and talked and talked about it for four months. A lot of it had to do with timing for us; we were at the right place at the right time. We started forming when East West Players was moving from their small black box to their big theater so there was a gap. We filled that vacuum. We’ve been very lucky. From that Lodestone was born.

SS: What is the meaning of the word Lodestone?

Chil Kong: We had so many names. Tim Lounibos did some research and he found out about those magnetic compasses which Chinese explorers used to guide them.

SS: What did you set up to explore?

Philip W. Chung: Up until that point and to a certain degree now a lot of Asian American theater revolves around certain themes, certain subjects; it has to address the Asian American experience. Are we doing plays by South Asians? Are we doing plays by Vietnamese? They have to be inclusive. Because those theaters already existed, we didn’t feel we needed to do that. It gave us a chance to not be confined by those kinds of criteria. If we wanted to do a new play by a White writer then we could do it and we have. If we wanted to do Tennessee Williams, we could. That was the only philosophy and it hasn’t really evolved.

Season 4: 2002-2003

SS: Lodestone, like many small theater companies in LA, has not-for-profit status. Does it influence the choices you make? Do you have to do plays that are community oriented to get grants?

Chil Kong: Yes and No. Yes for certain things we will definitely go after those grants. No because we never wanted to pick the material that we wanted to do based on financial consideration. We didn’t want our choices based on “now we have to get this grant so we have to do a play about this issue.” We always had to stay at a certain level but that’s fine because it gave us creative control.

SS: What do you mean by “a certain level”?

Philip W. Chung: The smaller you are the lower your budget, the more creative control you have. The idea is to work from that model, which represents a lot of theaters in LA, where you don’t have to be depending on those grants. We have picked materials where we thought no one was going to come and see this. But it was ok because artistically it was something we wanted to do and that was more important. If it’s artistically sound, that’s the first criteria.

Chil Kong: It is very dangerous for a company to let their choices be directed by grants, it’s a wag the dog contest. Now, instead of your artistic vision driving your company, it is a commitment to different funders. Now it’s propaganda, now you’re doing things for money. Ultimately the good artistic material will have an audience. After 10 years we’ve been accustomed to that.

Philip W. Chung: We lost most of our funders after our second play LAUGHTER, JOY & LONELINESS & SEX & SEX & SEX & SEX, which I wrote. The subject matter turned them off.

Chil Kong: At the end of the run, I spent a week on the phone with two of our biggest funders screaming at me about betraying them. They were upset because there was a man’s naked butt on stage. I remember being very frustrated and yet laughing. The worst times are also the best times. That experience told us we were doing the right thing.

Philip W. Chung: The play actually ended up doing very well with our audience.

(more…)

REverse1

Ewan Chung, Emily Kuroda and Peggy Ahn in Nic Cha Kim’s RE:verse. Photo by Nic Cha Kim.

“After 10 years, Lodestone Theatre Ensemble is calling it quits. No, this isn’t another sad tale of an arts group crunched by the imploding economy. L.A.’s maverick Asian American stage company simply decided that it’s time to go.”We felt we had hit our stride,” says co-artistic director Philip W. Chung. “We had done all that we could with this incarnation.”… Lodestone’s final season is designed to showcase its desire to tell unconventional stories in unconventional ways (its motto is “plays without rules”) and an affinity for life’s dark sides, tempered by a sense of humor. “We’ve always done whatever we wanted,” says Chung. That’s meant shunning staples of Asian American theater — generational struggles, cultural identity crises — and pursuing “new plays by new writers, plays with more edge that might even be seen as twisted.” From “Lodestone Theater Ensemble is going out on its own terms” by Karen Wada, Los Angeles Times, 05/03/09. Click here for full article.

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Feodor Chin and Peggy Ahn in Tim Lounibos’ BE HAPPY. Photo by Nic Cha Kim.

Tim Lounibos, co-founder, who wrote BE HAPPY one of the 4 one-acts comprising TEN TO LIFE, the first show of the final season: “I’ve been with Lodestone from the start and spent the past one and a half years in a dark claustrophobic room with my fellow Lodestone colleagues, creating a perversely compelling show to kick off our final year. TEN TO LIFE is part Twilight Zone, part Outer Limits, part Hitchcock and, hopefully, 100% entertaining-exactly what Lodestone should be.”

HaciendaHeights2

Feodor Chin, Janet Song and Ewan Chung in Annette Lee’s HACIENDA HEIGHTS.

I saw the show last Saturday and all I can tell you, without giving away too much, is that it lived up to its bizarre, entertaining, perversely compelling  and twisted expectations.  My unnatural opinion – to stay in the spirit of TEN TO LIFE – is that watching Annette Lee’s HACIENDA HEIGHTS made me feel like an organ being transplanted into a body that never quite accepted me: the whole wasn’t greater than the sum of its inventive yet odd parts. Tim Lounibos’ first creation,  BE HAPPY, is a house of dangerous mirrors reflecting the most vulnerable aspects of ourselves and constantly keeping us on the edge of our restraint seat thanks also to the wonderful chemistry between Feodor Chin and Peggy Ahn. I already knew that Judy Soo Hoo was one of the Brothers Grimm’s most talented cousins. Phantasmagoria is the word that came to my inquisitive mind as I struggled to describe her RED DRESS. When I looked up the eccentric noun on http://www.thefreedictionary.com, its definition perfectly described what I had witnessed: “A fantastic sequence of haphazardly associative imagery, as seen in dreams or fever.” I’m only sorry I didn’t get all of the explosive finale because of a certain magic wand used by actress Emily Kuroda with such authority that, on that night, it drowned out her voice.

I know, I know, it’s only three stories and I said TEN TO LIFE consists of 4-one acts. In Nic Cha Kim’s RE:verse, Jully Lee (I always look forward to see her perform,) Ewan Chung and Feodor Chin show off their range and hit many notes, from ardent to discordant,  in quite a few interesting and compromising positions. I really can’t say anything more about it. And certainly not anything wrong. My hands are tied. I shouldn’t say that. I don’t want my hands tied. You see, I’m afraid the author will go after me if I say something wrong about RE:verse. If he greets you in the lobby, don’t be fooled by his gentle nature… and please, I urge you, don’t tell anyone that I said on the blogosphere of 112.8 millions and counting, that Nic Cha Kim is…. unrepentantly WICKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!

REverse3

Jully Lee and Feodor Chin  in Nic Cha Kim’s RE:verse. Photo by Nic Cha Kim.

The cast includes Peggy Ahn, Feodor Chin, Ewan Chung, Elpidio Ebuen, Emily Kuroda, Jully Lee, Janet Song, Carin Chea, Vincent Gabucan, Junko Goda and Joon Lee. The show is directed by Alberto Isaac.

Through June 7th. For show times, admission prices and directions to the GTC Burbank, go to http://www.lodestonetheatre.org.