PLAYS | MUSIC | WRITINGS
serialized, excerpted, screened, played, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...
Note - I have purposely left some of these scripts with notes and rewrites included. Thought it might be interesting. If there is interest, I might publish earlier drafts of works to track through the progression of rewriting and development. E.g., After The War took three to four years. A Fist Of Roses took 3 years. The Ballad of Yachiyo around 6. Chang and Eng - off and on roughly 25 years or so.
If you wish to download a script, click on the right-most icon (the arrow in the box) at the top of the viewer. Once you are redirected to the Google Doc page, click File in the upper left-hand corner and then 'Download original'.
AFTER THE WAR BLUES
Written as a companion play to THE WASH
Below: Portrait of my friend Anthony Brown's parents.
THE WIND CRIES MARY
NATALIE WOOD IS DEAD
Wrote this as the female counterpart to Yankee Dawg You Die.
Workshopped and staged reading with the Mark Taper Forum at the Actor's Gang in LA, The Royal Court Theater in London; Campo Santo in SF. Premiered at Campo Santo with Loy Arcenas directing.
BALLAD OF YACHIYO
I DREAM OF CHANG AND ENG
APRICOTS OF ANDUJAR
Apricots of Andujar. A Chamber Performance Opera (a work in progress)
March 28, 2012
Rehearsal. Workshop PerformanceWestern Michigan University.
John Duykers - Performer
Max Duykers - Composer
Joel Davel – Musician-Perfomer
Philip Kan Gotanda - Librettist
Missy Weaver - Director
IN THE DOMINION OF NIGHT
a full length spoken word performance play
#1 in the Garage Band Plays Series.
featuring - the retro jazz ensemble - the new orientals
dan kuramoto - horns
danny yamamoto - drums
taiji miyamoto - bass
with - joe ozu
Video Director: John Esaki
A FIST OF ROSES
Collaboratively created, developed and directed by Philip Kan Gotanda and Campo Santo with Movement Direction by Erika Chong Shuch, Live Music/Beat Box by Tommy Shepherd
Featuring: Michael Cheng, Donald Lacy, Rajiv Shah, Tommy Shepherd and Danny Wolohan.
A Fist of Roses uses elements of personal narrative, live beat boxing and movement to explore the definition of masculinity in our culture and its relationship to violence-primarily violent acts in relationships. Developed by Philip Kan Gotanda and Campo Santo through a series of interviews, open readings and public discussions with audience members and community group
World premiere with Campo Santo+Intersetion for the Arts.
Student Production at UC Berkeley Dept of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies.
Directors - Gotanda and Shuch.
AFTER THE WAR
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Presenting a play of mine. Did it a few years back at ACT in SF directed by Carey Perfloff. Very proud of this one.
#5 ANGRY RED DRUM
#5 in the Garage Band Plays Series
2011 Asian American Theater Co., 2008 Theater Dept UC Davis.
It started with a slip of the tongue. A name my father let inadvertently drop during a casual, late-night conversation about his days growing up in Kauai. A sister, Yachiyo, whom I had never heard mentioned before in all the talk-story sessions with him. Yachiyo. No one wanted to talk about her. She was to be forgotten. Her name not spoken. And yet it was. Yachiyo. Maybe it was the unconscious urge on the part of my father to release the secret shame. Speak the name that had been left unsaid on his lips all these years.
I learned the barest of details. She was my father’s eldest sister; she fell in love with a married man, got pregnant and after walking home all night through cane fields and red dirt, committed suicide by ingesting ant poison. The year was 1919.
I also acquired the only remaining photo of Yachiyo taken shortly before her death. And one more. Both gotten from my cousin Kiku in Waimea just before Hurricane Iniki erased all other traces of her in a swirl of wind and water. The other was of Yachiyo’s funeral.
Something about Yachiyo’s story got into my body, into my soul. I wanted to try and write her story. And so I did. Try. I tried for years to write her story. I put it aside several times, returning later only to be disappointed again in my attempts. I did several drafts from several different character viewpoints, deconstructed the linear narrative after an encounter with David Hockney and his photo collage technique, and even took a special trip to Kauai spending several days searching the Kekaha Japanese Cemetery for her headstone because my cousin Yukio told me it might still be there.
No matter what I did I could not conjure up who she was. What her voice was. I had done my homework, read the oral histories, spent time with my relatives and kept her photo looking at me on my desk. This I would intermittently exchange with her funeral picture. Never together, only one at a time. It somehow seemed wrong to put her portrait next to the picture of her casket. The two together spoke to a betrayal that I found unsettling. I waited for her to speak to me, her voice to be heard, to come in my dreams and reveal the story to her nephew, the writer. Nothing.
In time, the intervals of abandonment grew longer. Her pictures were set aside with others of family. New and more urgent writing projects came to the fore and Yachiyo’s name was left unspoken. Again.
Then, several years ago, my wife Diane had an operation. While she was recuperating, the doctors and nurses were nice enough to let me stay inside her room. I took out my computer and began to write. Over the next few days and nights, sitting next to my sleeping wife, in that environment of the hospital, I came up with the draft that eventually became the play.
It is not the true story or even a story drawn from complete factual interpretation. It is the story that came out, by accident, at a moment of non-expectation. A nephew’s made-up tale to complete something incomplete in his own family’s story.
I have always felt people’s lives, no matter how brief, no matter how seemingly uneventful on the surface, make a kind of ripple in their historical time, sending into motion a series of connected disturbances, interrelated emotions and intentions that seed the universe, eventually branching out to become its fruit – never lost, never really seen, but always present.
Perhaps Yachiyo looked at her younger brother, my father, in a certain way. Said something, did not say something, stroked his head, made him laugh. Perhaps they sat side by side at my grandfather’s fish farming pond in Mana, touching the water’s surface and sending into motion that ripple that led to him one day speaking her name to a son who wanted to remember. After so many years. So many years of being unsaid. Yachiyo. There, I have said it. Said it as my father finally said it. Yachiyo. After all these years of silence. After all these years of buried shame.
LOVE IN AMERICAN TIMES (excerpt)
Mature, well-appointed WOMAN lit in the shadows.
Mrs. Green: I was in California standing on a hill overlooking the 280 Freeway, the Pacific Ocean in the distance – Watching cars making their way to and from Silicon Valley when it came to me. Asian women and rich white men. It’s the perfect 21st century complement. Let’s examine this. The power couple. Two Asians? I’m sorry, that’s not a power couple. At least not an American power couple. A Caucasian man and a Caucasian woman - good looking, tall, well-dressed? Well, yes, but it’s so last century. White male and an African American woman? Trying too hard, too self-conscious-look-at-me-I’m-so-liberal. A Latina and a white male? That’s still not here yet, but it’s coming. But the white male and the Asian woman. Doesn’t it seem so -- inevitable? Two heavenly bodies brought together by the forces of early 21st century post-PC re-racialization, old-boy gender tendencies under the guise of faux liberal exhibitionism; U.S. imperialism clinging to the vestiges of its old world penisization, the Chinese economic sword of damocles swinging closer and closer, threatening to cut into the allignment of this perfect circle jerk - it hit me. The clouds parted over the valley and it was as if God spoke to me. A stunningly beautiful Asian woman and a stunningly rich White man.
During this we hear echo-like sounds of women’s voices singing -
Scarlett: There’s a custom called, hone wake, ‘dividing the bones’. You do that so you can be buried in two places. My mother wanted part of my father’s ashes scattered in the ocean halfway between Japan and Korea. She always thought he must be part Korean because he married her against his family’s wishes. Actually, my mother’s family was even more against it. My mother couldn’t go. I went alone, I was twelve. Caught the boat, it was night. At some point you begin to see the lights of Pusan, that’s how you know you’re halfway.
-- We hear the voices of people singing **Arirang, a Korean song amidst weeping --
As I made my way to the side of the boat, I saw that there were others doing the same thing. They had candles and were scattering ashes. And they were singing. I heard a voice say, ‘You will be all right’. I turned and there was no one there. I scattered my father’s ashes. I came home.
Sound fades out --
Jack: The voice?
Scarlett: I pray but no one answers. Do you believe in God?
Scarlett: You think sex answers everything.
Jack: It’s driving the engine 9 times out of 10.
Scarlett: It’s given way too much attention in this culture. Especially now the Boomers are aging, - Jesus, if I have to see another advertisement about penile enhancement, sexual prolongation or Viagra, I’m going to scream. Why is it so goddamn important, Jack?
Jack: So you don’t like fucking?
Scarlett: Please, do you have to be crass? I do like sex but it’s not that important. Maybe when you’re 16 but when you’re 30? 40? Some of my women friends... It’s like they have the complete box sets of Sex in the City and they’re patterning their lives after the characters. There are more important considerations.
Jack: Like what?
Scarlett: Can you sit down with your partner, not talk about anything and be fulfilled? And when you do talk with your partner do you really listen to what they’re saying?
Jack: Sex is very important, Scarlett. It was important when I was sixteen, it’s important to me now.
Scarlett: You’re 70 Jack --
Jack: Who the hell cares how old I am, I like to fuck, I should be entitled to fuck, it’s my right as an American to fuck. I resent you insinuating I use Viagra.
Scarlett: I didn’t insinuate --
Jack: It’s about the only way adult human beings have to be intimate these days --
Scarlett: Jack can’t be intimate with another man then?
Jack: Why do you think men have to sit around in a circle pounding drums. Watch football games together? When you have sex you cut away all the bullshit and it’s just you – raw, unadulterated you, all laid out there --
Scarlett: That’s being an animal --
Jack: That’s what we are Scarlett - You work out there in the real world, little fish get eaten by bigger fish and the biggest, loudest cock rules the hen house, it’s pretty goddamn basic.
Scarlett: I refuse to believe we’re just animals.
Jack: When someone’s inside of you, when you’re having sex, doesn’t it mean something to you?
Scarlett: It does, of course it does. But it’s so much more than just having something inserted into your body. It’s all so focused on the act, on the position, on the body parts. We have the capacity to elevate ourselves above the pig and the horse, to make love-making into a formidable action of psychic, physical, intellectual – yes, intellectual – congress that when done with phylogenous instigation and ontological commitment can elicit the force of not just the two selves, but of all of civilization in your orgasm.
Jack: You think about this a lot, don’t you?
CHILD IS FATHER TO MAN
Produced by Silk Road Risings Theater. Performed as part of the SHINSAI Project.
-- Al Kooper --
A Man’s BODY dressed in a funereal suit lays on a raised platform.
A MAN appears and looks at the body. Dressed in a dark suit, white dress shirt, open with no
tie. He wears no socks or shoes.
He moves around the body. Studies it --
The sound of fluttering wings –
Man: My little niece wakens and says a bird, a big beautiful bird came out of the top of Grandpa’s head, flew around the room and then went out the window.
The phone rings. It is the hospital.
We gather around the hospital bed and look at my father’s body. It is 3:45 in the morning. My two brothers and I are exhausted. My mother quiet. My father looks... He’s a corpse. Sunken cheeks, drawn grayish skin. I am repulsed. Whatever or whoever this is, it is not my father. This is a large sick animal wandered into this hospital and fallen dead in his room. An ancient trunk of some long felled decaying oak. A whale that mysteriously beached itself and chosen death in this very public place of hope and healing.
This is a sick joke perpetrated by a cruel, cruel god. This empty container. This discarded packaging of something once so...
The Man takes two Coins from his inside pocket and places them over his father’s eyes.
He heard they needed Japanese doctors on the west coast, so on break he hitched a ride from the University of Arkansas Med School to see for himself. His mother and father were born in Hiroshima and he on the Island of Kauai. He meets the daughter of a well-to-do businessman, they marry, the War breaks out, they are hauled all the way to Rohrer Arkansas and are imprisoned there for 3 years.
They return. Home. They beget 3 sons. One becomes a doctor. One becomes a law professor. One becomes... The father wonders where this son comes from. No one in his family, no one in his wife’s family has ever shown this odd affliction. The father lectures the son, grounds him, threatens to cut him off in hopes to reshape this errant internal mapping. The son himself attempts to break this imperative by returning to school and becoming a lawyer. But it will not erase itself, it will not mutate. It continues to inform, the youngest son reverts and the father disowns him.
They struggle. They war. To establish contested territory. His and his legacy. To the death of. Something. It is mythic, biblical, it is stupid. And yet a tale repeated over and over since the beginning.
The son writes a play. The father attends. It is about the father. The stories the father told his son -- when the kiabe tree broke and the bees swarmed the house; how his 7 year old brother rolled and smoked cigarettes to his own father’s delight.
This father watches silently, the son watches the father watching. Unnoticed by either, they share the same nervous habit of tilting their heads and rubbing their earlobes. Afterwards, the father nods and grunts something that sounds like a cough, that sounds like an approval. He turns and walks away.
The father didn’t say, “You’re a bum, when are you going to get a real job”. All things considered, the son reflects, not bad. He wishes they could have talked about baseball and such.
The father pauses at the stairs. What he wanted to say is, ‘I am dying, will you come to me and speak of things a father and son speak? Baseball and such?’
The son goes home and dreams. Of ragged things that chant and howl.
Of secret libraries and fish with no eyes. Of mango and tea. Of rain that whispers its love over and over.
The father wonders in his odd moments – Was it his genes? Was it the fact that he agreed with his head strong wife to allow the son to take piano lessons? Was it because his own mother liked to singshigin, that awful Japanese caterwauling, when the night was so full of pikake bloom she could not sleep. Or was it his own father’s father who was known to break out in impromptu dance and song after several jars of cheap shochu? Or maybe even before that? Someone he did not know of? Someone not even Japanese?
He is distracted by the chatter of sparrows. He does something he has never done. He turns to listen --
The son no longer looks back. He just knows his body has an inclination. It always has. He listens to his body. He listens carefully and cultivates an ear for its shapes and rhythms. He listens. To his body. He makes good art, he makes bad art. But it is his own body’s speak and music, of that he is sure. Where it comes from, he does not know: The story of the great grandfather who danced in drunken abandon, the grandmother who practiced classical singing amidst narcotic blooms of a sleepless Kauai night, the father who agreed to let the mother give the son piano lessons. Perhaps even before. Even before.
Buddhist funeral sutra chanting --
A psychic once told the son he would have three sons. She could see them around him waiting to be born. He had three fine lines coming off of a deep horizontal crease in the left quadrant of his dominant hand. Further proof of his impending fatherhood.
It is while the father listens to the sparrows’ cries that his *heart breaks.
He holds out his hands, palms up --
He looks at his hand now. There are no lines coming off the horizontal crease.
Turns his hands palms down --
He has no sons. No children. He wonders who will mourn his dying.
The chanting fades --
The man reaches into his coat pockets and brings out two handfuls of rice. He holds his hands up
and lets the rice pour in a stream onto the stage. The rice makes a crisp clattering sound and
scatters. Silence --
He wishes he could leave. He wishes he could run as fast and as far as his legs will take him. The son is still a boy and these remains are an irreducible truth of his failures.
The minister is finishing his business. The son lingers. Tilts his head and rubs his earlobe --
It is said that for a child to become an adult, he must touch the body of a dead person.
Pause. Then. He reaches out to touch his father –
Black out. The flutter of wings --
End of play.
* heart breaks: he dies