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Happy Birthday, Pork Filled Players/Productions!

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Dear Pork Filled Productions (née Pork Filled Players) AKA “The PFPs”,

Happy 20th Birthday from your Canadian cousins!

Twenty years is long time to be doing anything – not to mention doing it well. For the past two decades, through the vehicle of comedy, the PFPs have been an industrious, energetic and inspirational megaphone for diversity, amplifying stories that need to be told and gleefully staking out a place for the marginalized. And they’re not even old enough to drink yet.

If we had to pick three words to describe the PFPs, they would be “Yummy”, “Funny” and “Generous.” The next three words would probably be “Important” followed by various sloppy, kissing sounds and then finally “Generous” again, because that’s important enough to mention twice. You simply cannot tell the story of the PFPs without talking about their generosity – the generosity of their spirit, the generosity of their talent, and the generosity of their mission.

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We first encountered the PFPs at a sketch comedy competition held a long time ago in a faraway land (well, actually 2003 in Vancouver, Canada). We were a bunch of rookie upstarts in khaki pants with the ridiculous name, Assaulted Fish. They were the polished veterans. They sang! They danced! They ate fire! We were immediately struck by two things: number one, “Holy Cow, these Americans are really funny!” and number two, “Wow, they’re super nice people, too!” And also a third fleeting thought, “Who’s this Roger Tang guy who seems to be lurking around in the background all the time? He doesn’t ever seem to be doing anything…”

Ah, what fools we were.

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It could have ended there but it didn’t (and this is where the generosity part really starts). Unbeknownst to us, the PFPs were keeping tabs on us; not in an obsessive, creepy way, but enough to know that we had lasted longer than the usual two-year mayfly existence of most sketch comedy troupes. And here’s the thing: they invited us down to Seattle to perform with them. Not once, not twice, but year after year after year. They shared their stage with us. They shared their audience with us. They even shared their living quarters with us, despite the fact that not all of us are regular bathers. But more than anything, they shared their mission with us. Watching the PFPs in action confirmed for us that it was possible to use comedy to tell powerful, inclusive, entertaining stories through our unique perspective as Asian North Americans. We all have stories to share, and they’re valid and worthy and most of all, ours to give voice to.

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Over the years, it has been thrilling to watch the PFPs evolve from a sketch comedy troupe to a full-fledged theatre company. Similarly, it has been exciting to see the individual members change and grow in their artistry even if their paths eventually led them away from the main group.

Little did we know on that day so long ago, when we first saw them march across the stage dressed like Dim Sum, that this would lead to a personal and professional friendship that has so far lasted for 15 years. Congratulations PFPs, and thank you for the memories, the opportunities and the comradeship.

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Here’s to 20 more years!

With love from

Diana, Marlene, Kuan & Nelson

AKA Assaulted Fish

 

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Unleash the Pulp: Blood Makes Noise by Kuan Foo Debuts at Seattle Staged Play Reading Festival

 

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Congratulations to Assaulted Fish member, Kuan Foo, on the upcoming debut of his latest play, Blood Makes Noise! Kuan is one of seven playwrights featured in Pork Filled Productions‘ staged play reading festival, “Unleashed! New Pulp Stories for the 21st Century“, taking place in Seattle, Washington from October 30 to November 4, 2017.

About Blood Makes Noise:

It’s not quite a zombie apocalypse, more of a zombie annoyance. Across the country, a small number of corpses have mysteriously reanimated and quietly gone into hiding. But what happens when these “After-Lifers” try to step out of the shadows and join the rest of humanity? Is being dead a barrier to getting a life? Blood Makes Noise.jpg

Date: Saturday, November 4, 2017
Time: 2:00 pm
Place: Theatre Off Jackson, 409 7th Avenue S in Seattle’s International District
Cost: US$6 (plus service/venue fees)
Tickets: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3061231

Directed by May Nguyen. Featuring performances by Virginia Marie Gabby, Rachel Guyer-Mafune, J. Edward Lee, Mario Orallo, and Michael Yichao.

Blood Makes Noise is Kuan’s second play to premiere on stage this year (making it 2 for 2 in terms of his new year resolutions.) In July, his first play Self-ish debuted at the Toronto Fringe Festival to solid reviews. Self-ish starred fellow Fish member Diana Bang with Assaulted Fish alum Dawn Milman as director.

Kuan will be in esteemed company at Unleashed: he shares an afternoon double bill with sketch comedy veteran and Pork Filled producer Roger Tang and his play, Dawn of the She-Devil of the China Sea.

For more information about the Unleashed festival, including a Q&A with Kuan, visit Pork Filled Productions.

About Unleashed and Pork Filled Productions:

Pork Filled Productions celebrates playwrights of color with Unleashed! New Pulp Stories for the 21st Century, a staged reading festival of seven new plays, produced in association with the Theatre Off Jackson, October 30 to November 4, 2017 at the Theatre Off Jackson (409 7th Ave. S. in Seattle’s International District).

From steamy nightclub noir, to sword and sorcery on the high seas, to imaginative science fiction exploring DNA technology and implanted memories, Unleashed helps give a voice to playwrights of color who want to break through the rigid norms and expectations of mainstream theater. With a diverse selection of Korean American, Chinese American, Chinese Canadian, and African American playwrights, Unleashed will showcase the wildly creative and outside-the-box stories that often get overlooked from writers of color.

Spinning off from the long running sketch comedy group the Pork Filled Player, Pork Filled Productions stretches the boundaries of Asian American theatre. Reflecting the imagination and creativity of modern Asian American artists, Pork Filled Products redesigns traditional Asian American theatre to embrace the full spectrum of genres, from steampunk (The Clockwork Professor and The Tumbleweed Zephyr by Maggie Lee), to supernatural comedy (Big Hunk o’ Burnin’ Love by Prince Gomolvilas), to racial identity farce (Yellow Face by David Henry Hwang), to even Kung-fu zombie Shakespeare (Living Dead in Denmark by Qui Nguyen).

 

 

Fish at the VIFF

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Need a Fish fix this coming week? Check out Nelson and Diana at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Nelson will be appearing in Meditation Park, the latest film from Vancouver director, Mina Shum (Double Happiness), starring Cheng Pei-Pei (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy). (Showtimes: Sept 28, 30 & Oct 11)

Diana will be in Entanglement, starring Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley) and Jess Weixler (The Good Wife). (Showtimes: Sept 30 & Oct 7)

As an added bonus Diana’s sister, Andrea Bang (Kim’s Convenience) will be appearing in Public Schooled. (Showing Oct 2)

Fringe 2017 Reviews, Part 1

Note that the following reviews are the completely subjective opinions of the specific writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish.

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Gina Leon & Michael Germant in Gruesome Playground Injuries

Gruesome Playground Injuries

Playwright Rajiv Joseph was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” an epic, phantasmagorical investigation into the Iraq War. “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” which came out after “Bengal Tiger,” seems to get a lot of stick from reviewers for basically not being as ambitious as “Bengal Tiger.” While it is true that “Injuries” is more of a string quartet compared to the symphonic sweep of “Bengal Tiger,” it is a no less sophisticated and affecting play. This becomes manifestly clear when it is blessed with strong performances, as it is in this mounting by Island Productions. “Injuries” tracks best friends Doug and Kayleen as their lives intersect over 30-year period, usually because one or both of them have sustained some kind of horrendous wound. The physical damage suffered by Doug and Kayleen corresponds to the emotional damage inflicted on them, sometimes by the outside world, sometimes by each other. Daredevil Doug’s injuries tend to be physically disfiguring, while the introverted Kayleen bears the more invisible scars of child abuse, eating disorders and self-harm. The play jumps around in time and makes great demands on the actors, who may have to play anywhere from ages 8 to 38 and varying levels of physical and emotional pain from scene to scene. Fortunately, Michael Germant and Gina Leon dig deep and are more than able to meet the challenge. Germant in particular invests Doug with an open sincerity that keeps him grounded and likeable even as his motivations and injuries become increasingly operatic and implausible. Emotionally intense, blackly comic and profoundly moving. – KF

Cry-Baby: The Musical

You’ll have a (ahem) wail of a time at “Cry-Baby: The Musical”. It’s a fun and witty takedown of 1950s tropes: innocent upper class good girl meets wrong-side-of-the-tracks bad boy with a heart of gold. This high-energy production features a talented, diverse cast anchored by some stand-out performances, particularly Victor Hunter who plays the titular lead Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker and Synthia Yusuf who plays the loopy Lenora Frigid. There’s potential to play Cry-Baby Walker strictly for laughs, but Hunter imbues the character with heart and nuance. Similarly, Yusuf transcends what would typically be a “crazy lady” role by giving a committed, pitch-perfect comedic performance. In dialogue or song, every performer nails the comedy and choreography. It was a sell-out crowd on Monday evening, so make the trek to the Firehall Arts Centre and see this solid production before it’s too late. – MD

5-Step Guide to Being German

Paco Erhard has a problem. All his life he has been taught to be ashamed of being German to the point where he is terrified of offending Jews and sometimes introduces himself as half-Spanish to “take the edge off of being German.” Suddenly, recent events in the US and UK have thrust Germany from being the reprehensible “runner-up” in two World Wars into the unfamiliar role of being the guardians of European and world democracy. What is a self-respecting, guilt-ridden German to do?

Well, make hilarious stand-up comedy apparently. Although the “5-Step” conceit gets dropped fairly early, the majority of the show is a self-deprecating exploration of the quirks and contradictions of being German. Erhard’s show makes you realize how much we North Americans have bought into the stereotype of Germans as homogenous, humourless, efficiency robots. Instead, Erhard portrays a Germany that is filled with local and regional diversity and suggests that the German love of order comes from a long history of trying to hold those fighting regions together. Erhard also does not shy away from talking about the Germany’s dark past and how it has shaped his own self-image as a German on the World stage.

While Erhard is merciless in lampooning German culture (a particularly funny bit involves driving habits on the Autobahn) he takes equal aim at other European cultures (he compares the British claim of “ending slavery” to saving someone from being punched in the face by not punching them anymore) and even throws in a few barbs at the US and Canada. But ultimately his goal is to point out how silly and dangerous national chauvinism can be and how it is better to laugh at our differences than fight over them. Erhard is an energetic performer who is both intelligent and funny, which may not make him a good German (in his view, Germans tend to compartmentalize these two qualities), but makes him well worth seeing. – KF

7 Ways to Die, A Love Story

Alexander Forsyth and Joylyn Secunda are charming performers who propel this “romantic comedy about suicide” through their excellent movement, mask and mime work with nary a word being spoken. Their characters, Irving and Rachel, are strangers and neighbours: they live in the same building across the hall from each other. There’s chemistry between the two, but neither of them act on it, preferring instead to retreat behind well-secured doors. It’s never made clear why Rachel wants to kill herself, but she attempts to do so in stylized, prop-heavy fashion — and is thwarted each time by Irving’s increasing concern for her welfare, which starts off as neighbourly but develops into much more. One caveat: although Rachel and Irving [Spoiler Alert] ultimately overcome their isolation and loneliness by finding each other, suicide is a serious, complex topic and I had difficulty reconciling the idea of romance being a way to save someone from self-harm. – MD

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Some of the cast of Cry-Baby: The Musical