Unless you’ve been following the DC theatre scene for more than a decade, Stan Kang may not be an actor you’re familiar with. Although he starred in numerous productions around town at places like Washington Shakespeare Company, Studio Theatre, Horizons Theatre and the Kennedy Center, he took a hiatus from the stage in 2002 to raise his children.
“Somehow, I walked into a role of a lifetime,” Kang says. “I play David Henry Hwang in this autobiographical piece, which originally I thought was an interesting satire about race and casting, but in rehearsals, I came to view it as a tribute to his father. The emotional core of the story is his relationship with his dad and that’s what I gravitated to, to help me complete my arc.”
For those unfamiliar with the story, Yellow Face follows a fictionalized version of David Henry Hwang leading the public outcry against the true-to-life casting of a Caucasian actor as the Asian pimp in Broadway’s Miss Saigon —which Hwang called “yellow face” casting. But, when Hwang himself unwittingly casts a white actor to play the Asian protagonist of his new play, a mélange of hilarity and hypocrisy ensues.
“It’s a fascinating piece that combines elements of his real life and lots of the pieces are anecdotes that happened to him—he protested against the casting of Jonathan Pryce as the Engineer—and everyone was really up in arms about this idea of a Caucasian playing an Asian and he delves into the ramifications of race and what race means,” Kang says. “Then he fictionally casts a white guy as an Asian and that’s where the comedic pieces come out, as he starts to lie and cover that up.”
While away from the stage, Kang spent a lot of his time concentrating on his role as executive director for the non-profit Educational Theatre Company, whose mission is to unlock the potential of children and adults through immersion in theatre arts.
“My wife (Elizabeth Kitsos-Kang) and I have been keeping our hand in this; she teaches drama at George Washington University and I do film and readings, but both of us have avoided the all-encompassing professional theater schedule,” Kang says. “This process has been the most amazing, creative experience I have had.”
Closes February 23, 2014
1529 16th Street NW
2 hours, 15 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $35 – $50
With a resume that boasts movies and TV such as Fallen, 12 Monkeys, Murderous Intent, and Homicide: Life in the Street, Kang says theater is much more satisfying to him as a performer.
“In TV and film, there is a repetition. The director shoots you as many times as he wants and you have no control. They go back to the editing room and they control your performance and you may not have thought that was your best take,” he says. “In theater, you’re working with a director and once the show starts, you’re there and it just goes and the arc completes. You get immediate feedback, and that’s what I missed.”
So, will Kang be gracing the stage again once this production ends?
“No,” he says. “It’s my wife’s turn next to find a project, and I think we will both try to find one project a year, but for me, it would have to be the right role. I can’t imagine trying to make the sacrifices schedule-wise to do this regularly again. But for this, this was a role of a lifetime.”
Yellow Face trailer from Theater J on Vimeo.
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