Asian Story Theater began in 1989, dramatizing Chinese folk tales as a project sponsored by the San Diego Chinese Center. The first production was The White Snake (1989-90), presented at the Lyceum Space Theatre and subsequently toured to county schools, libraries, and recreation centers. In 1991, the company staged its first adaptation based on the 16th century fantasy novel Journey to the West, featuring the Monkey King. Additional productions followed each year. In 1995, the company incorporated as the Asian Story Theater, independent of the San Diego Chinese Center, to diversify programming and expand touring operations to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Each year since, Asian Story Theater has produced at least one production in pursuit of our mission and to increasingly diverse efforts, including a full-length musical about the artist Paul Gauguin (The Musical Paul Gauguin, November 2011-May 2012), as well as partnering to produce a pilot television episode, based on the 2006 production Shave Ice (December 2013).
The company also produces a continuing a series of annual theater productions linked to the Lunar New Year Celebrations--such as the recent RAM-GIRL and current Monkey in the Mirror. New production partners and collaborators have resulted in shows with an increasing community impact, such as the 2015 Stories of the Sun Cafe, in conjunction with local Japanese and Chinese community organizations, and the upcoming Halo-Halo: Mixed together Stories of San Diego's Filipino American Community (March 2017).
ARTIST STATEMENT: KENT BRISBY, LEADER
I’ve read that most creative artists find their thematic focus as teenagers, often as early as 13 or 14, then spend the rest of their creative lives exploring different permutations. It’s probably true of me. I grew up in a foreign place, among the small minority of Americans around the Pacific Islands of Micronesia. My everyday life was suffused with cultural discovery.
Now as a mid-career playwright, director, and producer, my work has indeed focused on the interaction of cultures, explicitly or symbolically, fueled by research today and perhaps the subconscious instincts of my particular youth. I have written for and helped lead companies committed to African American (including Human I Theatre and San Diego Black Ensemble), Latino (Teatro Máscara Mágica), and Asian and Pacific Islander (Pacific Asian Actors’ Ensemble and Asian Story Theater) folktale and performing art traditions. Other projects seem less obviously connected. But the story of American artists blacklisted in the 1950’s, no less than the Mexican Revolution, are also stories of class-culture conflict. Even my musical about the “French” artist Paul Gauguin is the story of how his voice came to synthesize the cultural dynamics of his time in Peru, the Caribbean, and Brittany, long before his more familiar time in, the Pacific Islands. There is unlimited dramatic potential in exploring and ultimately understanding new and different cultures. In a world where culture clash is so common, with distances shrinking and virtual exposure exploding, there is no more important issue I know to address.