Founded on the campus of the University of Washington by a group of Asian Pacific Islander students in 1974, Northwest Asian American Theater (NWAAT) began as the Theatrical Ensemble of Asians and a year later was an affiliation of the Asian Multi-Media Center. They presented plays throughout venues in King County, showcasing noted APA playwrights like Frank Chin and Wakako Yamauchi. To better reflect their APA identity and their community in the Pacific Northwest, the theater group became the Northwest Asian American theater committed to producing original works on the many aspects of APA experience. They found their permanent home in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District at theater Off Jackson, attracting talent like David Henry Hwang and Elizabeth Wong. With a permanent stage, NWAAT was able to produce full seasons that included well established plays such as “The Wash” by Philip Kan Gotanda and children theater such as “Please Choose One” by Nancy Calos-Nakano and Maria Decaney about the conflicts multi-racial youth often battle with. NWAAT was at the center of the performing world for APAs with support and appearances from stage actors like Leslie Ishii, Larry Wong, and Maria Batayola; writers like Carlos Bulosan, Frank Chin, and Gary Iwamoto; and technicians and designers like Silas Morse, Gilbert Wong, and Jan Locke. Unfortunately, with dwindling resources the NWAAT was forced to shutter its doors in 2004. NWAAT was only one of five theater groups in the U.S. dedicated to the pan-APA story, offering opportunities for professional and non professionals alike to exhibit their talent and serving as a public forum for issues surrounding the APA community.
This material is part of the Northwest Asian American Theater Collection at the Wing Luke Museum. For more information, please visit https://www.wingluke.org/.
Digitization of this videotape material has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.
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