The Four Immigrants An American Musical Manga
by Min Kahng
directed by Leslie Martinson
Originally produced at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, CA
July 15 to August 6, 2017
About the Premiere Production:
Synopsis: From a tumultuous earthquake to an exhilarating world’s fair, this broadly comic new musical chronicles the adventures of four endearing Japanese immigrants in a world of possibility and prejudice: turn-of the- twentieth-century San Francisco. Driven by an infectious vaudeville and ragtime score, the quartet pursues their American Dream despite limited options in the land of opportunity.
Artistic Statement: At the conclusion of our New Works Festival in August of 2016, I met with key staff to determine if any shows should be considered for upcoming seasons. All were in agreement: The Four Immigrants not only belonged on our mainstage season, it epitomized every core value that had guided the company for 47 years: diversity, innovation, advocating new work, exploring the confluence of music and drama, and celebrating the human spirit. The musical was both humorous and profound, structurally unique yet entirely engaging for the audience. Set primarily in San Francisco, it explored the potential and the prejudice that faced immigrants in our own community a century ago; perhaps more importantly, it asked us to consider all that has and hasn’t changed for immigrants since then. We immediately decided to launch our 2017-18 season with the world premiere of The Four Immigrants. The show is also a strong validation of our vertical integration structure for new play development. Playwright and composer Min Kahng brought it to our Associate Artistic Director Leslie Martinson as little more than an idea, based on a unique 1920s graphic novel chronicling the American experience of four Japanese immigrants at the turn of the last century. It had preliminary development in our New Works Retreat, a partial reading at a local Showcase, a rehearsed reading of the full script in our rehearsal hall, a staged reading in our New Works Festival, and a final reading at San Francisco’s Playwrights Foundation prior to the start of rehearsals. We are grateful to the Edgerton Foundation for including this unique musical among the many plays it has supported in 2017.
Grant Statement: An additional week of rehearsal time for The Four Immigrants will make a vital difference in the development of this complex musical. Tight budgets had allotted two weeks of rehearsals, a week of tech, and a week of previews for the show, an enormous challenge that included learning text, music, and musical staging, and inventing multiple characters for all members of the cast. A greater challenge is the fact that author Min Kahng is writing both script and music. The Edgerton Grant will greatly enhance all aspects of the production, especially the author’s ability to change and polish both script and music throughout the rehearsal process.
Cast: Rinabeth Apostol, Kerry Keiko Carnahan, Sean Fenton, Catherine Gloria, Lindsay Hirata, James Seol, Hansel Tan, Phil Wong
Set Designer: Andrew Boyce
Lighting Designer: Steven B. Mannshardt
Costume Designer: Noah Marin
Sound Designer:Jeff Mockus
Musical Director: William Liberatore
Assistant Director: Jeffrey Lo
Additional Funders: The National Endowment for the Arts and The National Alliance for Musical Theatre