NAATCONational Asian American Theatre Company (New York, NY)
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DURING REHEARSALS, CHENDA ASSISTS the director Kay Matschullat and the assistant stage manager Suzie Cho, providing the NAATCO actors meticulous details for the Khmer props used for the Buddhist temple and the engagement party for Serey and Savath, the Cambodian-American couple who kissed so visibly on their date.
She shows NAATCO's artistic/producing director Mia Katigbak, who portrays Thida, how Cambodian women fluidly sink to a sitting position at a temple, with her legs tucked neatly to her side, and reassures Mia that if her legs fall asleep it is okay to switch them to the other side.
I am left somewhat alarmed at the thought that a man may be trying to meet Chenda to marry her during her NAATCO apprenticeship, but I never hear anything more about it.
NAATCO USUALLY PRODUCES CLASsical works and adaptations cast with Asian-American actors, and Eyes of the Heart is its first original work.
On opening night of NAATCO's Eyes of the Heart, Cambodian-American peace activist/survivor Arn ChornPond is seen crying in the lobby; he tells us that his own mother went blind after the Khmer Rouge.
So NAATCO has taken on Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, Thornton Wilder, Chekhov, Shaw, Garcia Lorca and Bertolt Brecht.
Other NAATCO productions have tapped into a more overtly political vein.
Katigbak herself penned an adaptation of NAATCO's revelatory 2002 production of Fuenteovejuna, a Spanish Golden Age work by Lope de Vega about a small town in the 17th century under the rule of a brutal colonial military governor.
Similarly, NAATCO's Antigone aims to strip the drama of some of its incidental spiderwebs, many engendered by tin-eared translators.
That's basically the thrust of what it is that NAATCO does.
Through this program we granted free space for culturally specific and nontraditional performing arts companies, including NAATCO and Ma-Yi Theater Company.
When NAATCO first came about, it was a hard sell, not just for non-Asian-American audiences, but for Asian-American audiences who were questioning our motives.