Letters From Home - World Premiere
Written and performed by Kalean Ung
October 26 - November 18
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3:00 pm
$15 Student Admission
$25 General Admission
$35 Generous Admission
3191 Casitas Avenue, #130
Los Angeles, 90039
Written and performed by Kalean Ung
Music by Chinary Ung
Directed by Marina McClure
Visual Projection Art by Hsuan-Kuang Hsieh,
Costume Design by Beryl Brachman
Sound Design by Chris Porter
Lighting Design by Jason Mann
Set Design by Mark Kanieff
Stage Manager Jenny Park
Your contribution now will not only help bring Letters From Home to ISC Studio audiences, but also ensure a robust future for this important work.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
“I think of mother quite often. During Pol Pot’s reign, I had dreams of her. In the dream I would ask her, Am I in a dream? My mother replied, “No, child, this is real...”
Written and performed by ISC Ensemble Member Kalean Ung and developed in the ISC Studio, Letters From Home is the extraordinary story of Kalean’s discovery of her family history and, ultimately, herself.
Her father, composer Chinary Ung, arrived in America in the 1960s. A young music student, he soon found himself on a harrowing quest to rescue family members from the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. 40 years later, Kalean discovered a locked drawer full of letters to her father from family members, each one imploring him for help. This revelation forced Kalean to confront her family history at the same time she was playing some of Shakespeare’s most challenging roles and preparing for her wedding.
Letters From Home weaves together storytelling, music, and Shakespeare, in a powerful exploration of generational trauma and the ability of art to transform pain into unexpected moments of grace.
CAMBODIA UNDER THE KHMER ROUGE
The genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge regime was one of the worst mass killings in the 20th century. Up to two million Cambodian people were killed: roughly 20% of the country’s population. Kalean's family story reflects the story of many Cambodians during this unimaginable (but all too real) part of our shared human history. Learn more here.
INTERVIEW: BROADWAY WORLD
"The letters lived in a drawer in my father's closet and I did not know they existed until 2016. He hadn't looked at them since the 1980s. He had burned many others after he had read them decades ago. I knew that my father revealing this to me was a tremendous gift, and that these letters were gold. As he translated and transcribed them, we both realized just how beautiful and important these letters were to pay tribute to the family's suffering, as well as all other people who have faced genocide...." Read the whole article here.
INTERVIEW: TRANSATLANTIC PANORAMA
ABOUT THE ARTISTIC TEAM
Kalean Ung (Playwright and Performer) is an award winning actress, singer, and interdisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles. She has performed at The Kirk Douglas Theatre, Theatre @ Boston Court, REDCAT, Highways Performance Space, The Actors’ Gang, The Getty Villa among others. She has worked with critically acclaimed theatre companies such as Critical Mass Performance Group, Independent Shakespeare Company, Four Larks Theatre and CalArts Center for New Performance. Her recent acting LA credits include: MEASURE FOR MEASURE (Isabella), THE SNOW GEESE (Viktorya), A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (Titania), THE TEMPEST (Ariel), RICHARD III (Margaret), OTHELLO (Desdemona) with Independent Shakespeare Co. (ISC),PAUL SAND PRESENTS: KURT WEILL AT THE CUDDLEFISH HOTEL at the Actors’ Gang, PERICLES (Marina) with ISC, THE TEMPTATION OF ST. ANTONY (Queen Sheba) with Four Larks Theatre (Ovation Award Winner), PURPLE ELECTRIC PLAY! (The Vital Organ) at Machine Project, TWELFTH NIGHT (Viola) with ISC, PROMETHEUS BOUND (Chorus) directed by Travis Preston with CalArts Center for New Performance/ Getty Villa, and the title role of ALCESTIS directed by Nancy Keystone with Critical Mass Performance Group/ Theatre @ Boston Court. Other LA favorites include: CAMINO REAL (Esmeralda) directed by Jessica Kubzansky at the Theatre @ Boston Court and JOMAMA JONES: RADIATE! (Sweet Peach) at The Kirk Douglas Theatre Pillsbury House Theatre. Recent opera roles include: GALILEO (Andrea) with The Industry, BOTH EYES OPEN (Catherine) with First Look Sonoma, LIGHT AND POWER (Tesla) with wildUp at the Hammer Museum, THE MORTAL THOUGHTS OF LADY MACBETH (Witch) directed by Yuval Sharon, as well as FAIRY QUEEN (Hermia), THE MAGIC FLUTE (Second Lady), WINTER'S TALE/ MOTH (Bird), and DICE THROWN a chance operations opera by John King at CalArts. LETTERS FROM HOME is Kalean's first solo show. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Acting from California Institute of the Arts and her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Kalean is a faculty member at CalArts, teaching voice. She has also taught at CSUN, CalState LA, and NYFA. More news at www.kaleanung.com
Chinary Ung (Composer) Chinary Ung is often associated with that group of Asian-born composers whose music incorporates aspects of eastern musical characteristics into a western classical music setting. Aside from specific cultural and generational distinctions, the principal difference between Ung’s work and theirs is that for many years he was prevented from engaging directly with the source of his cultural heritage as his native country was being torn apart by the scourge of the Khmer Rouge. Indeed, as the people and culture of Cambodia were being systematically destroyed, Ung took it upon himself to rescue some facet of the traditional music he had known as a child, reconstituting Cambodian musical traditions through his performances on the roneat-ek – the Cambodian xylophone. This project reflects the qualities of responsibility and of hopefulness that are so strongly a part of Ung’s personality.
Ung’s Cambodian roots are woven into the fabric of his identity, but the musical aspects are, as a result of his peculiar circumstance, keenly related to memory. For many years – through the late 1980’s – Ung’s music had a plaintive character in its modally-inflected, melodic behaviors, as if he were reaching back to another time uncorrupted by political tumult. Ung’s work of this period established him as a major figure in American music, winning citations from virtually every major musical arts institution in his adopted country. For Inner Voices he was given the Grawemeyer Award, the first American recipient of this prestigious prize in music composition. That work, along with the Spirals series indicates a self-referential artistic project where one seeks spiritual strength and inspiration through meditation and quiet contemplation, traits of Buddhist spiritual exercises. The Spirals series in particular shows an affinity for the connection between pieces.
Ung’s extensive orchestral catalog has been commissioned and performed by major orchestras throughout the United States and abroad, including those in Philadelphia, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Tokyo, Sydney, Basel, as well as the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the American Composers Orchestra. Boston Modern Orchestra Project released a recording of Ung’s orchestral music in 2015. Ung’s work has been commissioned by the Meet the Composer/Reader’s Digest Commissioning Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ford, Koussevitsky, Joyce, and Barlow Foundations. In 2014 he was given the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Award by the New York-based Asian Cultural Council.
By any measure, Chinary Ung is an astonishingly prolific composer, yet his focus is rarely turned inward. Indeed, one notes in his activities as a cultural leader and educator a profound sense of responsibility to a broader cultural and societal context. In the years since the holocaust Ung has worked with numerous institutions and individuals who share his dedication toward preserving Cambodian culture and forging cultural exchanges between Asia and the West, such as The Asian Cultural Council. He was President of the Khmer Studies Institute in the U.S.A. between 1980 - 1985, and was an advisor for the Killing Fields Memorial and Cambodian Heritage Museum of Chicago and a member of the Cambodian-Thai cultural committee.
As an educator, Ung has taught courses in Southeast Asian music and he has instructed generations of young composers at several institutions in the United States, and now, through a series of residencies, in Asia as well. In this regard he follows the example of his mentor, Chou Wenchung. He holds appointments at University of California, San Diego, where he is Distinguished Professor of Music, and at Chapman University, where he is a Presidential Fellow and Senior Composer in Residence. For the 2017-2018 academic year he is the Karel Husa Visiting Professor in Composition at Ithaca College. Recently, he is being named as The O’Brien Visiting Professorship, Scripps College at its March 2018 festival, The Missing Pictures and Sounds Memory: The Arts in Post-Genocide Cambodia. He and his wife Susan direct the Nirmita Composers Institute each summer, with the goal of providing compositional direction and opportunity to musicians from Southeast Asia. (Written by Adam Greene
Marina McClure (Director) is an American artist who grew up internationally. She specializes in developing new intercultural work that creates space for exchange between artists and with the audience. Through her multidisciplinary art lab, The New Wild, she creates emotionally charged theater, opera, and spectacles by fusing striking visual design and physical performance. This season she is an artist-in-residence at BRIC Arts Media in Brooklyn, developing Tear a Root from the Earth, a new musical for Afghanistan in collaboration with Qais Essar and Gramophonic. Marina is a resident director at The Flea, where she recently directed the world premiere of Steph del Rosso’s Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill and an episodic adaptation of Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics. Other recent: CasablancaBox (2017 Drama Desk Nomination for Unique Theatrical Experience, HERE), Leisure, Labor, Lust (The Mount), Wing It! a giant puppet parade and large-scale community performance for the Tony-winning Handspring Puppet Company in celebration of South Africa's National Day of Reconciliation. Marina teaches directing at The National Theater Institute at the O’Neill and frequently directs student work at Dartmouth College, Brown University and NYU-Tisch. MFA: CalArts. www.marinamcclure.com
Beryl Brachman is a costume designer based in Los Angeles. Her work utilizes graphic shapes to examine the relationship between culture, technology, and the body. Some of her recent credits include: When We Were Young and Unafraid (Dir. Blake Harris, marilyn Monroe Theater), House on Mango Street (Dir. Alex Meda, Greenway Court Theater), CM 1665 and Code~dIsSoNaNcE~REVERIE (Chor. Nina Flagg and Chor. Andre Tyson, REDCAT), and Samir (Feature Film). Beryl received her MFA in costume design from California Institute of the Arts. She also trained in kimono dress and etiquette at the Miyabi Yuki kimono school in Kyoto, Japan.
Chris Porter (Sound Design) is an award-winning, Los Angeles-based composer of concert works, film scores, theater music, and other performance events. Often working or collaborating as a sound designer and/or writer, his projects have been seen and heard both across the country and around the globe. www.chrisportercomposer.com
Hsuan-Kuang Hsieh (Video Projection Design) is a multidisciplinary artist, born and raised in Taiwan, currently living and working in Los Angeles. This dislocation from her homeland deeply influences the narrative of her work. While rediscovering her roots in Taiwanese heritage and history, her work explores the complexity of multicultural identity from a contemporary perspective, with particular attention to landscape as a source of identity. By juxtaposing these landscapes with personal objects, performance, and archival text and images, her work frames the metaphor of the human condition within the mirage of memory, media and reality.
Drawing from a background in photography and theatrical performance, her practice highlights the audience’s experience by framing the act of viewing as an action. She integrates emerging media, performance, installation, film, puppetry and hybrid forms of photo sculpture and text to create live, time-based experiences for her viewers.
Hsuan-Kuang's work has been shown in both national and international venues, ranging from theatres and festivals to galleries and museums. www.hsuankuang.com
Jenny Park (Stage Manager) Is Independent Shakespeare Co.'s resident Stage Manager. In the Studio, she stage managed for Othello, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Snow Geese, and All’s Well That Ends Well. In the ark, she was Stage Manager for Measure for Measure and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She graduated from California State University, Northridge with a BA in Theater.