The Kinjaz have had a very busy 2015, but they found time to perform a very special routine at last year’s Kollaboration Star to close out the first half of the show. Check out the intricate choreography and badass swagger that took the dance world by storm!
Minji chats with Tae Song, one of the actors in the film “Spa Night” in this edition of “Coffee Break.” Tae recounts his journey as an actor, from performing in improv groups in high school and college, to musical theater, and finally to his big screen debut.
Welcome to Coffee Break! Kollaboration’s new interview series where our host Minji Chang, Executive Director of Kollaboration, sits down with the awesome people that we work with in the Asian American and entertainment communities!
For our first interview we welcome Andrew Ahn, director of the Sundance award winning feature film “Spa Night.” Andrew shares his thoughts on making the film, Asian American films, and what kind of television he’s been watching.
I grew up reading Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick, and learned to suspend my disbelief when I came across time travel, aliens, and things that generally defied the natural laws of the universe. But I could never suspend my disbelief at the lack of people like me in mainstream science fiction creating these stories and populating the universes within them.
It’s odd that a genre dedicated to challenging the realm of possibility seems to have little space for Asian representation. But many Asian American authors have started claiming their rightful places in the world (or dare we say, worlds) of science fiction. Here are just a few to help expand your multiverse, one story at a time.
Ken Liu is nothing short of being a sci-fi rock star. His short story “The Paper Menagerie” is the first work to have won the holy trinity of sci-fi awards: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award. “The Paper Menagerie” also appears in his most recent publication, a collection of his best science fiction and fantasy works.
He wears many hats as a lawyer, programmer, and translator of literary works from Chinese to English. His English translation of The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu became the first translated work to win the Hugo award for best novel.
A master storyteller, he plays around with the idea of memory, and this theme particularly resonates in his short story “Mono no Aware.”
The same year E. Lily Yu graduated from Princeton University, she also won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer for her short story, “The Cartographer Wasps and Anarchist Bees.” Her work has been published in Terraform, Uncanny, and Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is also set to appear in a cyberpunk anthology called Cyber World, forthcoming in November 2016.
Alice Sola Kim loves “throwaway ideas in science fiction”. It’s little details such as extinct bananas and tongue-in-cheek remarks like “Don’t worry—there is still racism!” that make her work so human and captivating. Kim’s vision of the future is very much like the present, except with the occasional time-traveling guy obsessed with his daughters; no big deal. This is why her future is scary – but so familiar, and even comforting.
Her fiction has appeared in Tin House, The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, Lightspeed Magazine, and elsewhere. She has also received grants and fellowships such as a MacDowell Colony residency.
Read her personal essay on her relationship with Philip K. Dick for an honest look into the person behind the author.
A legend (pun intended) in the YA world, Marie Lu is the author of the Legend series; a trilogy of novels set on a dystopian California coast about two prodigies on the run. Legend received praise from The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Guardian for a clear trajectory and emotional depth; the latter being an aspect often lacking in many other tried-and-tested teen dystopian works. The series is slated to become a film directed by Jonathan Levine.
Lu is currently in the process of crafting a new series about games and giant robots – “a love letter to all [her] favorite things.” The first novel, Warcross, will be out in Fall 2017.
Yoon Ha Lee writes short stories that often explore the creation and re-creation of history, and has many of them included in his first book, Conservation of Shadows. Two stories from his collection were nominated for both the Locus Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. His work has been featured in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed Magazine and other publications, and has been reprinted in The Year’s Best Science Fiction.
Last November, the audience of Kollaboration Star 2015 was treated to a very special performance by ARCHIS, Dia Frampton’s new project with composer/producer Joseph Trapanese. Accompanied by a live orchestra, Dia’s hauntingly beautiful voice enchanted the crowd and left everyone wanting more.
“Let me Love”
Songs written and performed by: Dia Frampton
Music composed by: Josepg Trapanese
Orchestral Accompaniment: Waraynon Initiative Network
Percussionists: Akemi Imai (Taiko) & Perry Sekigawa (Snare)
Conductor: George Shaw
Videographers: Derek Lee, Eva Hsia, Lance Heruela, Brandon Kim
Edited by: Derek Lee
Making waves on Broadway after its July 2015 debut, the American musical Hamilton broke expectations for the old school musical. The story of Alexander Hamilton, “the ten dollar founding father,“ is told through hip-hop inspired sounds and a ground breakingly diverse cast filled with people of color. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the music, lyrics, and book, said that Hamilton is a story of America’s past, told by America now.
The popular musicalrecently made even more news after their 2016 Grammy performance, live from the Richard Rogers Theater in New York City. One of two musicals to perform at the music award show, the POC cast, energy, and talent of the opening song “Alexander Hamilton” grabbed America’s attention. Once again making headlines for its originality, the Hamilton performance and cast stood out that night, including the leading lady Philippa Soo.
Hamilton is Philippa Soo’s Broadway debut as Alexander’s wife Eliza. Soo, a Juliard alum, spoke to the Hollywood Reporter last November with fellow actress Lea Salonga about being Asian American on Broadway. Soo said that her father, a son of Chinese immigrants, and her mother were very supportive of her pursuing a career in musical theater.
“So I’m half-Chinese and half white, and it wasn’t until being part of this show — even though I’ve been in other mixed race casts — that I have been considered an actor of color,” she told the Hollywood Reporter. “Also, it hasn’t been until now that I received this beautiful letter from this young woman who thanked me for representing Chinese-American people in the theater. That’s never happened to me before! But it’s beautiful because I feel like as amazing as it is to acknowledge, it’s also amazing on the other side that people don’t even think twice about it [in Hamilton].”
Given the importance of Eliza’s character, the New Yorker wrote in an article featuring the women of the story, “And, by implicitly equating Eliza’s acts of narration with (Miranda’s) own, he’s acknowledging the women who built the country alongside the men. You’re left wondering whether the Hamilton of the title isn’t just Alexander, but Eliza, too.”
I haven’t seen Hamilton live— because getting a ticket now is impossible— but after listening to the soundtrack repeatedly, and while I love them all, here are my top five moments in the musical when Soo stole the show and made Hamilton about Eliza.
(Warning, this next section will contain spoilers, but then again, it’s also American history)
5) That Would Be Enough
Nearly a solo for Eliza, begging Alexander to stay home from the war to be with her and their unborn son, this number tells the story of the young Hamiltons’ marriage. They love each other so much, however Eliza wishes Alexander wasn’t so obsessed with his legacy. Soo’s voice, solid and pure, is beautiful throughout “That Would Be Enough” and successfully kept Alexander home from the war— for a little while.
4) Stay Alive (Reprise)
I can’t listen to this short number without crying. The Hamiltons hold their dying son after he participates in a duel. Not on good terms, Alexander and Eliza are distraught and emotional, which adds and edge to this tense and depressing reprise. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anthony Ramos (Philip Hamilton), and Soo sing this heartbreaking song together as listeners, I assume, sit quietly and cry to themselves. (Or is that just me?)
Eliza’s first solo in Act I is an upbeat song about when she first sets eyes on Alexander Hamilton. Cute and bouncy, the “how the Hamiltons met” story is the perfect song to sing at the top of your lungs in the shower (or is that just me again). But more importantly, “Helpless” Soo shows off her full, highly impressive, singing ability. Arranged like a pop song, “Helpless” could easily be dismissed as fluff when compared to the heavier styles elsewhere in Act I, but Soo’s range and training as singer make it just as important.
Poor Eliza, but also— wow Philippa Soo. For context, Alexander Hamilton was involved in America’s first public political sex affair after he admitted to cheating on his wife (damn!) in the now infamous Reynolds Pamphlet (damn!). “Burn” is Eliza’s reaction, a sad ballad full of emotion that listeners can hear and see. As she sets Alexander’s letters on fire, Soo again shows off her full range and skills in this beautiful song, a heartbreaking ode to his poor wife.
1) Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
In Hamilton’s final song, major characters of Act II come out and speak about Hamilton’s legacy in establishing America’s financial system and bringing the new country out of debt. A majority of the song however goes to Eliza who “put’s [herself] back in the narrative,” in another great solo. She tells what she’s done in her life after the loss of her son and husband, collecting Alexander’s writing and making sure his legacy lives on. As the final performer of Hamilton, Soo practically steals the show.
Eliza Hamilton was by no means just a side character in the life of Alexander Hamilton, and Philippa Soo does an amazing job portraying that love, fear, betrayal, and forgiveness in her Broadway debut. Hamilton is a groundbreaking music for this generation and I highly suggest everyone gives it a listen.
Bonus duet: Take A Break
A bit of happiness for the Hamilton’s, “Take a Break” shows the young family at home on their son’s birthday. This song tells how focused he is to his career and legacy during the turmoil in Alexander’s political life, and that Eliza won’t have it. I love Eliza scolding Alexander for working through dinner, but then Soo goes on to sing a beautiful duet with Renée Elise Goldsberry that completely steals the song.
Kollaboration Honolulu alum and Los Angeles transplant Jasmine Lee shares a couple of her original songs with us for this edition of the Kollaboration Green Room. We hope you enjoy her soulful voice and R&B stylings as much as we did while recording this session. Check out more from Jasmine on her YouTube channel.
“Make it Better”
Special thanks to Zenith Division for their assistance in making this video.
Actor Jenna Ushkowitz may be best known for her role as Tina Cohen-Chang on the TV show, Glee. However, as of January, she has ventured out into the world of internet audio with her self-help podcast, “Infinite Positivities.”
Distributed via podcast network @Will Radio, “Infinite Positivities” is an extension of Ushkowitz’s 2013 book, Choosing Glee, a self-help book for teens on how to cope with life’s stresses and anxieties and the principles to live as a happier, more positive person. Episodes are divided into chapters, and each one falls under a theme covered in her book. She speaks with authors, experts, actors and others who she believes live life with a positive outlook.
“My perspective on positivity is that it’s a choice and I don’t know if everybody looks at it that way,” she explained in a phone interview. “The goal is to have people think differently than [how they did when they started listening].”
This is a new venture for Ushkowitz; one that she’s been wanting to act on for quite some time.
“I like to dabble in lots and lots of things,” she said. “I was thinking about [doing] a podcast for a while now.”
After appearing as a guest on Aisha Tyler’s “Girl on Guy” podcast, Ushkowitz developed an interest for the medium, especially with the opportunity to interact with people on what they have to say, as well as their stories and perspectives. With the help of business partner, @Will Radio CEO Will Malnati, “Infinite Positivities” became a reality.
Asked if she had any difficulties transitioning to a medium where it was voice-only after years of performing on both stage and screen, she didn’t find it to be that big of a stretch at all.
“I kind of love it because I can wear whatever I want,” she joked.
Really, the only difficulty she had was going from being an interviewee to being an interviewer. To arrange a conversation and bring out the best in each of her guests was a challenge she earnestly tackled.
“I want everybody to see what I see in the guest and why I brought them on my podcast,” she explained. “So it’s an interesting strategy to change it up and have to lead a conversation.”
So far, the guests she’s invited onto her podcast include professional skydiving instructor Eddie Carroll, author Mike Robbins, actor Matthew Morrison, actor Nina Dobrev, and more. When it comes to choosing the guests, Ushkowitz emphasizes quality over quantity, as she aims to find and reach out to people who will shine and who truly live life with a positive outlook.
Within the past year, there have been more podcasts emerging with Asian Americans as the hosts. When the subject was brought up to Ushkowitz, she finds the emerging diversity in the podcast world to be amazing.
“I think it’s wonderful that through the entertainment industry and through podcasts that there has just been so much more additions to it and I think it’s great,” she commented. “I love the fact that we can represent and that we can be like pioneers almost.”
Since its debut, “Infinite Positivities” has been doing really well, with a five-star rating on iTunes. Ushkowitz was able to intrigue interest for her new endeavor via social media, and she now has a really steady listenership as a result.
In the long run, she hopes to keep learning and providing new perspectives via the podcast. As long as she’s doing that, then she feels she’s doing her job. She also hopes that her podcast can provide insight on how celebrities are not all glitz and glam, and that they are humans with problems of their own to face. Social media can only reveal so much on one’s personal life, but Ushkowitz aims to show the intimacy of one’s life, as best exposed through a one-on-one conversation.
“When do people really listen to podcasts? It’s usually when they’re by themselves, with headphones on, on a plane or a train or at the gym or whatever,” she elaborated. “[Listening to a podcast] is a very intimate experience, I think; maybe even more than social media.”
We’re proud to share our epic medley from Kollaboration Star 2015, featuring some of our favorite Asian American artists from past and present! Arranged by AJ Rafael and backed up by the WIN Orchestra w/ conductor George Shaw, this was a performance of a lifetime!
The Kollaboration Epic Medley
“Say You’ll Stay” – AC Lorenzo from Kai
“It Might be You” – AC Lorenzo from Kai ft. Perry & Danielle
“Always on my Mind” – Anne Marie Ceralvo from One Vo1ce ft. Rosy Donovan & Perry Sekigawa
“Take me On” – Travis Atreo ft. WIN Orchestra & Jun Sung Ahn
“Wedding Dress Mashup” – Jun Sung Ahn
“Glow” – MC Jin ft. Tim Be Told & TrackIX
Arrangement and Accompaniment: AJ Rafael
Orchestral Accompaniment: Waraynon Initiative Network
Conductor: George Shaw
Videographers: Derek Lee, Eva Hsia, Lance Heruela, Brandon Kim
Edited by: Marvin Yueh
Hiro and Baymax are back! Last week, Disney XD announced a new Big Hero 6 television show based on the Academy Award-winning animated movie. Set to premiere in 2017, the show is going to pick up where the movie left off and focus on Hiro’s adventures at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.
While it’s agreed that we can probably expect more witty banter, fist bumps and life lessons, we also have some other expectations for the direction of the show. Let’s take a look at what we want to see going into it.
1. No Culture-Washing
Big Hero 6 is so obviously multicultural that it may seem like we shouldn’t have a problem with it. However, the Big Hero 6 comic originally took place in Japan and had an all-Japanese cast of characters. The movie not only played on stereotypical Asian architecture to create the city of San Fransokyo instead of just setting it in Tokyo, it also changed the ethnicities of three of the six main characters in order to create non-Asian characters Honey Lemon, Wasabi and Fred. Nobody is saying that we don’t like these characters BUT erasing the Asian-ness of the original BH6 is not cool. While some of these things probably won’t be changed for the TV show, maybe Disney can introduce some of the original Asian heroes and villains from the comic book.
Big Hero 6 is based around science and the movie was chalk-full of the coolest science and technology. While science in fictional stories is always kind of questionable, it’d be super exciting if the show brought current theoretical and practical sciences to life in bigger and better cartoon form (for educational purposes of course). And, of course, it’d add more cool inventions to the BH6 arsenal.
3. Backstory on Hiro’s Family (i.e. bring Tadashi back)
Obviously, Tadashi (Daniel Henney) probably won’t make an appearance in the current timeline of television show, but we can still dream a little about seeing him in flashbacks. In the movie, Hiro and Tadashi live with their Aunt Kass (Maya Rudolph) and there’s no real explanation as to what their lives were like before the death of their parents, so the one way to bring him back would be to develop Hiro’s backstory, which could also inform how he handles certain situations at school.
4. Integration with the Marvel Universe
People forget that Big Hero 6 is technically a Marvel movie (complete with an after-credits scene with a Stan Lee cameo). We probably won’t be seeing Baymax and Hiro in the Infinity Wars movies, but it would be cool to see BH6 team up with Marvel characters like Spider-man or Iron Man (who many have proposed made a cameo in the Nerd Lab in the film) or to integrate the Infinity Wars plot in there some how.
5. More Glorious Baymax Humor (Accompanied By Equally Glorious Hiro Sarcasm)
More visual and verbal gags such as running out of batteries, not being fast, and constantly diagnosing Hiro with puberty and other teen afflictions.