Opening Night of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ by Leviathan Lab

(Photo by Kristopher Wuollett)

By Alice Chin and Linn Yen

Hong Kong. 1960’s. The set, which looks like a dilapidated Chinese courtyard/mansion with peeling red paint and glowing lanterns, creates a dream-like landscape a la famed Hong Kong film-maker Wong Kar Wai. We’re at the Arclight Theater in the Upper West Side for a preview of Leviathan Lab‘s inaugural production of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’.

(Opening Night of 12th Night. Photo by Kristopher Wuollett)

Leviathan Lab is an Asian American professional creative studio invested in advancing the careers of Asian American artists. The re-imagination of Shakepeare’s classic play features an all Asian American cast, starring Tina Chilip (Flipzoids, Joy Luck Club) as Viola , and OBIE-award winning actor/musician Jojo Gonzalez (The Romance of Magno Rubio”. “The Smurfs” and “PanAm”) as Feste the Clown.

We had the great opportunity to talk to Jojo Gonzalez, who plays Feste and his thoughts regarding his role as the clown/fool as well as his experience as an Asian American actor. We also spoke with Eileen Rivera, about her career and challenges she faced in playing her role, Olivia.

During the interviews, both actors spoke warmly about their experiences with Leviathan Lab. Eileen noted long-standing friendships with multiple members of the cast and crew. And when questioned about his experience, Jojo explained, “I’m working with friends, so it’s a lot of fun. It’s just like hanging out.” This sense of comfort and community undoubtedly aided in the task of reworking Shakespearean content for a 1960’s Hong Kong backdrop.

From our perspective, this transition was accomplished seamlessly and the chemistry between the actors was readily apparent during the preview. Their easy banter and speedy transitions were organic and entertaining.

Jojo and Eileen were candid regarding the standing of Asian American actors in theater and entertainment. While both acknowledged continued challenges as far as visibility and opportunity, they also expressed a sense of complete confidence in the talent and capabilities that exist within community. With wonderful productions like Leviathan Lab’s “Twelfth Night” and delightful actors like Jojo and Eileen, there is every reason to feel pride and optimism in what can be accomplished.

Twelfth Night opens on November 4 and runs through November 19. We highly recommend it!  Leviathan Lab also offers AsianInNY friends special discount to see this amazing production. Use the code “whatyouwill” now, and the ticket will be just $15.

Directed by Nelson T. Eusebio III
Music by Jason Ma*
Choreography by Dax Valdes
Sets & Costumes by Maiko Chii
Technical Direction by Giovanni Villari
Lights by Melissa Mizell
Sound by Sam Kusnetz

Starring Ka-Ling Cheung*, Tina Chilip*, Chris Doi, Andrew Eisenman*, Jojo Gonzalez*, Marcus Ho*, Karen Tsen Lee*, Eugene Oh, Eileen Rivera*, John Roque*, Kurt Uy*, and Roger Yeh.

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Photo by Alice Chin

Photo by Alice Chin

Photo by Alice Chin

Photo by Alice Chin

(Artistic Director Nelson T Eusebio III, Executive Director Ariel Estrada and Development Director May Nazareno of Leviathan Lab 2011 Company. Photo by Alice Chin)


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