Mu Performing Arts is offering staged readings of a quartet of plays that represent different parts of the Asian diaspora in its annual New Eyes Festival. The readings, all directed by Randy Reyes, take place at the Playwrights’ Center. The festival kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Thur., Jan. 23, with May-Lee Yang’s “The Divorcee Diaries.”
Yang (right) is Hmong-American and her play centers on the conflict that arises when people try to keep traditions that arose in circumstances that no longer apply.
“Hmong culture is unique in many aspects, especially when it comes to marriage, divorce, multiple wives,” said Reyes. “During the wars, it was practical, for the survival of the community, for a man to have multiple wives, as so many were fighting and dying. But in America, if you have multiple wives, is that upholding tradition or just being selfish?”
The festival continues with Jessica Huang’s “The Purple Cloud.” Huang (left), who is bi-racial, traces her family history to China in a search for better understanding of her hapa identity. The play has a chorus of four stones (played by people) that are twinned to animal spirits, seasons, and elements. (7:30 p.m. Fri., Jan. 24)
In Mia Chung’s “You for Me For You,” two North Korean sisters try to escape their desperate straits through China. One makes it to America, the other gets stuck. The one who makes it out returns years later to rescue her sister but meets complications.
“It’s a tactile, emotional play, not something about the facts of what is happening in North Korea,” said Reyes. “You For Me For You” was produced at Woolly Mammoth in Washington, D.C. The playwright is refining it. (7:30 p.m. Sat., Jan. 25.)
The festival concludes with “Sam the Ham,” Andrew Seito’s story about a Japanese-American family with an overbearing father and three boys. Two of the brothers are accomplished athletes while the third is a schlub. After the father dies, the third brother, Sam, tries to grow up even as he is burdened by his history. (2 p.m. Sun., Jan. 26.)
The Playwrights' Center is at 2301 E Franklin Av., Mpls. Admission is free but reservations are required.