The UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performances Studies is staging The Dream of Kitamura, award-winning playwright Philip Kan Gotanda’s early imagining of what theater might resemble for a young Asian American artist.
The mythic murder mystery about a family living in the shadow of a dream, featuring inspired choreography by Katie Faulkner, is being presented at the Zellerbach Playhouse April 20-29 as the TDPS department’s final presentation of its 2017-18 season.
“I was a young artist, I was a young Asian American artist, still inventing a theatrical sense of what that would mean for the stage,” Gotanda said about the experimental play he wrote in 1981. He drew inspiration from a real nightmare he experienced, as well as Butoh, martial arts, spaghetti westerns, The Three Stooges and Gagaku, Japanese court music.
Kitamura was first presented at San Francisco’s Asian American Theater Company and until the upcoming production, the play has been performed by exclusively Asian casts. Today, Gotanda is directing a culturally and racially diverse student cast with Korean, Native, black-South Asian, Irish, Latinx, white, Guatemalan, Filipino and Costa Rican performers.
“Although it is the same script, my approach now is different,” Gotanda says. “How I engage the world now is quite different. How I think about American theater is different, in particular as seen through the practice of teaching at the university; The Dream of Kitamura at TDPS is a new play.”
Gotanda is the creator of one of the largest bodies of Asian American-themed work.
His many awards include: the Guggenheim, Pew Trust, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts-Theater Communications Playwriting Award, a PEN Center West Award, LA Music Center Award, 2007 Japan Society of Northern California Award, a Chinese For Affirmative Action Award, Asian American Theater Company Lifetime Achievement and a Sundance Film fellowship.