“Real People. Real Lives. Real Theater.”

The Inaugural

July 31 – August 7, 2011 at the Ko Festival of Performance,
on the Amherst College campus in Amherst, MA

Undesirable Elements is designed to help individuals and communities confront and overcome cultural insularity by fostering a greater understanding of the commonalities that bind us all.”

Photo by Adam Nadel

The Ping Chong & Company (PCC) Summer Institute has been designed to engage and inspire artists, activists and community organizations interested in developing unique performance projects that explore oral history and art and social justice engagements. We are looking for a diverse group of participants: arts practitioners, students, educators, teaching artists, social justice advocates, and community organizers are encouraged to apply. This intensive week-long workshop will explore the innovative community-based performance and documentary theatre practices behind Ping Chong’s award-winning Undesirable Elements series:

  • Learn the process of creating an ensemble-based oral history work;
  • Learn how to conduct interviews and develop original script components based on the Undesirable Elements process;
  • Learn strategies to build relationships with community organizations utilizing interview techniques, documentation and the Undesirable Elements curriculum components;
  • Learn more about the history of Undesirable Elements and experience Master Classes with one of the leading theatre auteurs of a generation, exploring the aesthetics and social justice issues of other Ping Chong multidisciplinary works such as Cocktail, Blindness and The East West Quartet.

Workshop will be led by:

Ping Chong (Founder/Artistic Director, Ping Chong & Company) is an internationally acclaimed theatre director, playwright, video and installation artist. He is a seminal figure in the interdisciplinary theater community and the Asian-American arts arena. In his 39 year career in the theater, he has been a restless explorer of new possibilities and new directions, always pushing at the boundaries of what theater is and can be. Mr. Chong’s work has been presented at major festivals and theatres around the world including: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center Festival, Seattle Repertory Theatre, New Victory, Brooklyn Academy of Music, La MaMa E.T.C, Spoleto USA Festival,, Vienna Festival, RomaEuropa Festival, Tokyo International Arts Festival, Singapore Festival of the Arts, and many others. His 2005 puppet theatre production, Cathay: Three Tales of China, an international collaboration with the Shaanxi Folk Art Theater of Xian, China, received 3 Henry Hewes Design Awards from the New York Theatre Wing, and had its Asian premiere in Xian, China in 2010. Mr. Chong has taught at numerous universities, including Harvard and New York University. Among his many honors and awards, he has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, two BESSIE awards, two OBIE awards, including one for sustained Achievement in 2000, and a USA Artist Fellowship in 2006. Chong’s first collection of plays, The East-West Quartet, was published by Theatre Communications Group in 2005, and his play Cocktail (2007) was recently published by the University of Washington Press. A book on the Undesirable Elements series is forthcoming from TCG. Recent projects include The Devil You Know, a puppetry adaptation of The Devil and Daniel Webster, which premiered in 2010 at La MaMa ETC, as part of the Under the Radar Festival, and, Throne of Blood, the stage adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s film masterpiece, which premiered at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in July 2010 and was presented at BAM’s Next Wave Festival in November 2010.

Talvin Wilks (Summer Institute Coordinator, Ping Chong & Company) is a director, playwright and dramaturg based in New York City. His plays include Tod, the boy, Tod, The Trial of Uncle S&M, Bread of Heaven, and An American Triptych. Directorial projects include Banana Beer Bath by Lynn Nottage (Going to the River Festival/EST), On the Way to Timbuktu by Petronia Paley (Ensemble Studio Theatre – AUDELCO Nomination for Best Director of a Play), Relativity by Cassandra Medley (Ensemble Studio Theatre – AUDELCO Nomination for Best Director of a Play), UDU by Sekou Sundiata (651Arts/ Brooklyn Academy of Music), No Black Male Show (Joe’s Pub/The Public Theater) and Pagan Operetta (The Kitchen) by Carl Hancock Rux, Legends by Leslie Lee (St. Louis Black Repertory Company), and the Obie Award/AUDELCO Award winning, The Shaneequa Chronicles by Stephanie Berry (Ensemble Studio Theatre). He has served as co-writer/dramaturg for eight productions in Ping Chong’s ongoing series of Undesirable Elements/Secret Histories, and dramaturg for four collaborations with the Bebe Miller Company, the upcoming Necessary Beauty, Going to the Wall, the Bessie Award winning, Verge, and Landing/Place for which he received a 2006 Bessie Award. He is currently writing a book on black theatre, Testament: 40 Years of Black Theatre History in the Making, 1964-2004.

Sara Zatz (Associate Director, Ping Chong & Company) has worked with Ping Chong & Company since 1997 and became the manager of the Undesirable Elements series in 2002. Working in collaboration with a wide range of partner organizations, from regional theaters to community-based arts organizations, she has overseen the production of over a dozen original works in the series and served as co-author with Ping Chong on ten productions, including Undesirable Elements (Asian America) which was published in the 2008 New York Theater Review. Most recently, she served as the lead artist on Secret Survivors, focusing on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. In over a decade in arts management, she has worked with the Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater, the composer Tan Dun, and Lincoln Center Festival, among other arts organizations. She holds an M.Phil in Irish Theatre Studies from Trinity College, Dublin.

About Undesirable Elements

Undesirable Elements is an ongoing series of oral history theater works examining issues of identity in the lives of individuals in specific communities. Each production is made with a partner organization in a host community, with local participants testifying to their real lives and experiences. Undesirable Elements exists as an open framework that can be brought to any community, and be tailored to suit the needs and issues facing that community. Each production is made with a host organization based in the local community, with local participants testifying to their real lives and experiences. The development process includes an extended residency and rehearsal period during which Ping Chong and collaborators conduct intensive interviews with potential participants. These interviews form the basis of a script that covers the historical and personal narratives of the individuals. The script is then performed by the interviewees themselves, many of whom have never before spoken publicly. The series is designed to help communities confront and overcome cultural insularity by encouraging a greater understanding of the commonalities that bind us all.

Since 1992, over 40 productions have been made in cities across the United States and abroad. Recent works have explored themes such as immigration, the disability experience, Native American identity, and the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse. In 2008, Ping Chong & Company launched an in-school education program based on the Undesirable Elements series, working with middle school students to use writing and performance to express their own voices and identities. A current project in Syracuse, NY explores the efforts of the Congolese refugee community to find avenues toward reconciliation.

CLICK HERE to download an application for the Ping Chong & Company’s Summer Theatre Institute.