Courtesy National Arts Centre
Last year, Richmond audiences delighted in King of the Yees at Gateway theatre. This year, the same Gateway production starts a two-and-a-half-week run at Canada’s National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa on Oct. 27.
“It’s such a great honour that a Gateway show is here,” says Jovanni Sy, male lead in King of the Yees and Gateway’s artistic director speaking before curtain time on opening night.
“You are always aware when you’re at the National Arts Centre and you walk in the corridors backstage; you see the photographs of all these artists who played in this space for past 50 years. They are some of the greatest artists Canada has produced.”
The centre’s artistic director for English theatre, Jillian Keiley, seeks outstanding plays to present to on our country’s national stage.
“There’s fascinating stories in this country and what an opportunity we’ve got to offer people a season of what Canada is and what Canada can be.”
Sy says, “The National Arts Centre under Jillian has been really quite interested in second productions for companies and that’s kind of a great thing for our national theatre. It means Jill and her associates see a lot of things across the country to pick and choose a slate that is inspiring and representative of what’s going on around the country.”
Of her reason for her choice, Keiley says, “The job of the theatre is to tell the truth and great theatre’s always got a layer of real truth in it.”
Lauren Yee’s play looks at the issue of what Anglo-Canadians think is Chinese-Canadian culture, what it really is, and how each generation looks at their heritage differently, sometimes getting further from their roots.
Conflict and humour ensue.
Sy says there have been some changes in the play, tweaked by the playwright over the past year, as King of the Yees played in Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle with different theatre companies.
While there are some new lines to learn and old ones to remember after a year, Sy says that he is delighted that the same cast, with director Sherry J. Yoon, returns for the Ottawa centre’s run.
“They are extraordinary actors, but more importantly they are great people. It wouldn’t have felt the same without the whole crew.”
In case you missed it here last year, the centre summarizes King of the Yees: “It’s mid-rehearsal, and two actors playing Lauren and Larry deliver their lines. All is well until the real Larry wanders onstage. When the real Lauren–the playwright–leaps up from the audience, chaos ensues. Throw in some rogue spectators, a corrupt senator, lion dancers, ghostly ancestors, and a few firecrackers, and you have King of the Yees, an unapologetic take on Chinese culture and tradition in North America…an epic joyride through Chinatown.”
The centre’s artistic director Keiley says of the theatre, “It’s one of the places we can just be and let events unfold in front of us and watch it with release and watch it with freedom.”
At almost twice the size of Richmond’s Gateway Theatre, the National Arts Centre has seen good ticket sales both for opening night and the entire run.
Sy said the numbers were strong even for the two preview nights.
“They went well; the audiences were warm and receptive.”
If you happen to be in our nation’s capital looking for a good evening’s entertainment that rings with truth and humour, check out King of the Yees.