Photo of Ping by Adam Nadel in 2011
|Education||School of Visual Arts, and Pratt Institute|
|Occupation||Theater Director, Interdisciplinary Artist, Choreographer, Playwright, Filmmaker, and Visual Artist|
Ping Chong (Chinese :張家平; pinyin :Zhāng Jiāpíng; born Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1946) is an American contemporary theater director, choreographer, video and installation artist. He was born in Toronto and raised in the Chinatown section of New York City. Chong is internationally recognized as a director, and a creator of interdisciplinary theater work. He is an early pioneer of interdisciplinary theater and the integration of media into it. Chong is considered a seminal figure in Asian American theater and the Asian American arts movement.
Chinese is a group of related, but in many cases not mutually intelligible, language varieties, forming the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese is spoken by the ethnic Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in China. About 1.2 billion people speak some form of Chinese as their first language.
Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the most populous city in Canada, with a population of 2,731,571 in 2016. Current to 2016, the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA), of which the majority is within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), held a population of 5,928,040, making it Canada's most populous CMA. Toronto is the fastest growing city in North America, and is the anchor of an urban agglomeration, known as the Golden Horseshoe in Southern Ontario, located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. Toronto is an international centre of business, finance, arts, and culture, and is recognized as one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world.
Originally trained as a visual artist and filmmaker at the School of Visual Arts and Pratt Institute, Chong studied dance/performance with Meredith Monk and began his theatrical career as a member of Meredith Monk's company, The House in 1971. Chong was both a performer and collaborator in Monk's company. His co-created work include The Travelogue Series: Paris 1972, Chacon 1974, and Venice/Milan 1976. His final collaboration with Monk was The Games 1983 which premiered at the Schaubuhne in Berlin, West Germany. He created his first independent theatre work, Lazarus in 1972. In this very 1st work Chong's interest in an interdisciplinary approach to theater as a guiding principal is apparent. His roots are in the visual arts, in film, in dance and in the Chinese Opera (both his grandfather and father were director/librettists). Central to Ping Chong's work is the theme of Otherness. As a non-white, immigrant and an artist growing up in a highly segregated NYC and white art world it is no surprise that this theme proved central to his work. In the earliest works such as Lazarus (1972), Fear and Loathing in Gotham (1975), and Humboldt's Current (1977), the theme of Otherness reflected Chong's personal sense of estrangement from the society he grew up in as a first generation immigrant. Later the theme of Otherness became more universal, encompassing a broader range of material.Many of Chong's works concern colonialism and the collision of cultures and/or issues of cultural diversity, and frequently draw on documentary and interview-based materials (as in the Undesirable Elements series.)
The School of Visual Arts is a for-profit art and design college in Manhattan, New York. It was founded in 1947, and is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design.
Pratt Institute is a private university with its main campus in Brooklyn, New York. It has a satellite campus in Manhattan and an extension campus in Utica, New York. The school originated in 1887 with programs primarily in engineering, architecture, and fine arts. Comprising six schools, the Institute is primarily known for its highly ranked programs in architecture, interior design, and industrial design, and offers both undergraduate and Master's degree programs in a variety of fields, with a strong focus on research.
Meredith Jane Monk is an American composer, performer, director, vocalist, filmmaker, and choreographer. Since the 1960s, Monk has created multi-disciplinary works which combine music, theatre, and dance, recording extensively for ECM Records. In 1991, Monk composed an opera called Atlas with the Houston Opera.
Ping Chong + Company (originally called The Fiji Theatre Company) was founded in 1975. The company's mission is "to explore the meaning of contemporary theatre and art on a national and international level," and "to create and tour innovative multi-disciplinary works of theater and art, which explore the intersections of history, race, art and technology in the modern world." The company has created and toured more than 100 works by Chong and his collaborators, which have been presented at major theaters, performing arts centers, and arts festivals around the world.
Key works in Chong's evolution in chronological order include Humboldt's Current (1977) from his first decade. It is an early work anticipating Chong's interest in geopolitical,and historical subjects. It received an Obie award. In 1980 Ping Chong formed a small ensemble and it is with this group of performers which includes, Jeannie Hutchins, Louise Smith, John Fleming, and Brian Hallas that he evolved his performance style. A.M./A.M - The Articulated Man (1981) marked Chong's full bloom interest in evolving a choreographic, non-literary kind of theater. This, The 2nd decade of Ping Chong's works include 3 major works back to back. Nosferatu, A Symphony of Darkness (1985), a work straddling the allegorical with Chong's increasing interest in art as activism. This was followed by another dance/theater work Angels of Swedenborg (1985) and Kind Ness (1986), two very different works though nevertheless informed by a strong physicality. Both works speak to in very different ways, Chong's lifelong engagement with the profound issue of Otherness. Kind Ness was the recipient of an USA Playwright's Award in 1988. The 1990's, marked major changes and innovations in Ping Chong's work. It is at this time that he disbanded his decade old ensemble in order to explore new directions and collaborations. While the works of the early decades were devised, Chong would have a much more active role in writing new work often in collaboration with a partner. From 1990 with the East/West Quartet: Deshima (1990), Chinoiserie (1996), After Sorrow (1997), Pojagi (1999) and in 1992 with the launch of the Undesirable Elements series the work took a 180 degree turn toward poetic documentary and historical subjects. The exception to this are the puppet theater works beginning with Kwaidan (1998) which largely nods toward Chong's earlier allegorical works.
Ping Chong's early interest in puppetry starting with Lazarus in 1972 was given full expression in the creation of large scale productions of puppet theatre works including, Kwaidan (1998) which received Unima-USA's Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry, Obon: Tales of Rain and Moonlight (2002), the sequel to Kwaidan, and Cathay: Three Tales of China (2005), Kwaidan and Obon were both based on Kwaidan, Japanese ghost stories collected and adapted by Lafcadio Hearn. Cathay, commission by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was set in China and used three interconnected stories to explore three eras of Chinese history: the Tang Dynasty, the Second Sino-Japanese War|Japanese invasion during World War II, and contemporary China today. Cathay was named one of the Top 10 Shows of the 2005-2006 Season by NY Theatre Wire, and was awarded three Henry Hewes Awards for achievement in theatrical design.
Since 1992, Chong and his collaborators has created over 70 works in the Undesirable Elements project, an ongoing series of oral-history theater works exploring issues of race, culture, and identity in the lives of individuals in specific communities. The development process includes an extended residency and rehearsal period during which Ping Chong and collaborators conduct intensive interviews with potential participants who are not generally performers, from the local community. These interviews then form the basis of a script, performed by the interviewees, that covers the historical and personal narratives of individuals who are in some way living between two cultures. Chong has often described the series as, "Seated operas for the spoken word." One of the most recent entries in the series is Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity which started touring in 2016. Beyond Sacred is an interview-based theatre production exploring the diverse experiences of Muslim communities in the United States. The five cast members of Beyond Sacred vary in many ways, but share the common experience of coming of age in a post-9/11 New York City, at a time of increasing Islamophobia. They are young men and women that reflect a wide range of Muslim identities, including those who have converted to Islam, those who were raised Muslim, but have since left the faith, those who identify as “culturally” Muslim, and those who are observant on a daily basis. It stars Tiffany Yasmin Abdelghani, Ferdous Dehqan, Kadin Herring, Amir Khafagy and Maha Syed.
In 2014, Chong and dramaturg/director/playwright Talvin Wilks created Collidescope: Adventures in Pre- and Post-Racial America in collaboration with undergraduate and graduate designers and actors in the University of Maryland School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies. Of the work, Chong says, "In response to the recent killings of Trayvon Martin, shooting of Jordan Davis|Jordan Davis, shooting of Michael Brown and the seemingly endless killings of black men and boys for unarmed offenses, we have designed Collidescope to be a collision-course view of the legacy and psyche behind this history of racial violence, racism and social injustice in America."Subsequent adaptations have performed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Wake Forest University.
There are aspects of Chong's prolific career that have remained under the radar. Primarily an artist of the theater he also, when the opportunity arose created works of video art, pure dance works, and installations. The two dance works are, I Will Not be Sad In This World (1991), Baldwin/NOW (2016). Video works include the video adaptation of I Will Not Be Sad In This World (1992) and Plage Concrete (1988). His installation work includes Kind Ness not to be confused with his play Kind Ness, a commission by MIT's List Visual Arts Center in its inaugural season in 1985. Another highlight of Chong's installation work was Testimonial commissioned for the Venice Bienalle.
Chong is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including, but not limited to the National Medal of Arts, Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, United States Artists Foundation's Prudential Fellowship, Yomiuri Theatrical Award, six NEA Fellowships, two Bessie Awards and two Obie awards.
Gawain Garth Fagan, CD is a Jamaican modern dance choreographer. He is the founder and artistic director of Garth Fagan Dance, a modern dance company based in Rochester, New York.
Lee Breuer is an American playwright, theater director, academic, educator, film maker, poet and lyricist.
Rosalind Newman is an internationally acclaimed choreographer who has created a body of over 70 works.
Dixon Place is a theater organization located in New York City dedicated to the development of works-in-progress from a broad range of performers and artists. It exists to serve the creative needs of artists—emerging, mid-career and established—who are creating new work in theater, dance, music, literature, puppetry, performance, variety and visual arts.
HERE Arts Center is a New York City-based off-off-Broadway presenting house, founded in 1993. Their location includes two stages specializing in hybrid performance, dance, theater, multi-media and puppetry in addition to art exhibition space and a cafe. Since 1993, HERE reports having supported over 14,000 artists and hosting approximately 1,000,000 audience members. HERE supports the work of artists at all stages in their careers through fully produced works, commissions and subsidized performance and rehearsal space.
The Talking Band is an American Off-Off-Broadway theatre company specializing in experimental theatre, based in New York City, New York.
Dan Kwong is an American performance artist, writer, teacher and visual artist. He has been presenting his solo performances since 1989, often drawing upon his own life experiences to explore personal, historical and social issues. He is of Chinese American and Japanese American descent. His works intertwine storytelling, multimedia, dynamic physical movement, poetry, martial arts and music. Kwong is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has been an Artist with the multicultural performing arts organization Great Leap since 1990 and assumed the position of Associate Artistic Director in 2011, and a Resident Artist at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, California since 1992.
David Greenspan is an American actor and playwright. He is the recipient of five Obies, including an award in 2010 for Sustained Achievement.
Laura Dean is an American dancer, choreographer and composer. She is known for her collaborations with Steve Reich, a number of commissioned works for the Joffrey Ballet, and works for her own dance companies. Dean's earliest works were marked by a minimalist approach and an affinity for spinning; her later work saw more use of traditional dance methods.
Ann Carlson is an American dancer, choreographer and performance artist whose work explores contemporary social issues. She has performed throughout the United States and internationally and has won a number of awards.
Albert Chong is an artist of African and Chinese descent. Chong works across medias and has produced series of photographs as well as installations and sculptures. He states that the purpose of much of his art is to "represent and reanimate his family history." He has said that he uses his family heritage as "an alternative way of putting more out there that's about people of color, letting other stories be heard, other viewpoints".
Jonah Bokaer is an American choreographer and media artist. He works on live performances in the United States and elsewhere, including choreography, digital media, cross-disciplinary collaborations, and social enterprise.
Ain Gordon is an American playwright, theatrical director and actor based in New York City. His work frequently deals with the interstices of history, focusing on people and events which are often overlooked or marginalized in "official" histories. His style combines elements of traditional playwrighting with aspects of performance art.
Esther Chae is an award-winning Korean-American actor, published playwright, speaker and consultant for Korean entertainment and Hollywood. Chae has appeared in numerous television shows such as NCIS, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, The West Wing, The Shield, and ER. She has also performed on theater stages including Yale Repertory Theater, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, Mark Taper Forum/ Kirk Douglas Theater, East West Players, P.S. 122, and Harvard/American Repertory Theater. Chae was among the inaugural class of TED fellows in 2009. She wrote and performed in So The Arrow Flies, an 80-minute one-woman performance about a North Korean spy and the FBI agent that hunts her down. It touches on post-9/11 themes of terrorism, political ideology, national identity and mother-daughter relationships.
Rennie Harris is a dancer, choreographer, artistic director and professor of hip-hop dance. Harris formed the first and longest running hip-hop dance touring company, Rennie Harris Puremovement in 1992. In 2007, he conceived another touring company, RHAW or Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works.
Dan Froot is an American performance artist, writer, dancer, composer and saxophonist.
Nejla Y. Yatkin is a German-American choreographer.
Susan Rethorst is an internationally known choreographer, writer, and teacher.
Muna Tseng is a Chinese-American dancer, choreographer, author and lecturer. She has lived in New York since 1978 and in 1984 founded Muna Tseng Dance Projects in New York City. She created over 40 dance productions and performed in over 30 cities and festivals in 15 countries. Since 1990 she been the director and executrix of her late brother Tseng Kwong Chi's photography archive. She has served for several years on the 'Current Practice' subcommittee for the annual Bessie Awards, also known as the New York Dance and Performance Awards.
John Kelly is an American performance artist, visual artist and writer. His work first gained notoriety in the 1980s East Village art scene, and in the last 40 years Kelly has received two Bessie Awards, two Obie Awards, two NEA American Masterpiece Awards, an American Choreographer Award, a Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (CalArts), a Visual AIDS Vanguard Award, and an Ethyl Eichelberger Award. His work has been presented at Lincoln Center and Brooklyn Academy of Music.