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Philip Gotanda

Berkeley, CA      

Over the last three decades, playwright Philip Kan Gotanda has been a major influence in the broadening of our definition of theater in America. Through his plays and advocacy, Mr. Gotanda has been instrumental in bringing stories of Asians in the United States to mainstream American theater as well as to Europe and Asia. The author of one of the largest bodies of Asian American-themed work, Mr. Gotanda is a key figure in defining the field of Asian American Drama. Mr. Gotanda’s plays are studied and performed extensively at universities, colleges and learning institutions in the United States and abroad.
Along with his canon of Asian American works, Mr. Gotanda is known for working with a range of aesthetic styles and varied subject matter. From jazz to spoken word, dance to symphonic, opera to indie film. From controversial social issues such as male violence against women (A Fist of Roses) to the Joseph Campbell-like exploration of dreams and myths (The Dream of Kitamura), Mr. Gotanda has shown a continual willingness to challenge his artistic world view.
Mr. Gotanda has also made it a point to collaborate with the most diverse spectrum of American theaters. From large mainstream venues to experimental black boxes to Asian American-African American-Middle Eastern American ethnically specific theaters, Mr. Gotanda has consciously worked to bring his works’ themes to the widest range of audiences. Theaters Mr. Gotanda has worked with include: Asian American Theater Co., American Conservatory Theater, Berkeley Rep, Campo Santo+Intersection for the Arts, Manhattan Theatre Club, Mark Taper Forum, New York Shakespeare Festival, Playwrights Horizons, Silk Road Risings among others.
Mr. Gotanda’s large scale work, AFTER THE WAR, premiered at American Conservatory Theater where it was directed by Carey Perloff. AFTER THE WAR chronicles San Francisco’s Japan-Town in the late 40’s when Japanese Americans returning from the Federal Internment Camps encountered a flourishing African American jazz scene in what was once their Japanese American neighborhood. Mr. Gotanda wrote the text and directed the production of Maestro Kent Nagano’s MANZANAR: AN AMERICAN STORY, an original symphonic work with narration about the impact of the World War II Internment of Japanese Americans on the question of Democracy in America. It premiered at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall and UCLA’s Royce Hall.
A Japanese translation of his play, SISTERS MATSUMOTO, opened in Tokyo with the Mingei Geikidan Company, directed by Seisuke Takahashi. His play, THE BALLAD OF YACHIYO, was presented at the Gate Theatre in London in co-production with the National Theatre.
Mr. Gotanda is developing a large piece, I DREAM OF CHANG AND ENG, a reimagining of the lives of the conjoined American twins, Chang and Eng Bunker. In a unique collaborative project, Mr. Gotanda is working with the Lorraine Hansberry Theater in adapting his Japanese American family play, The Wash, to a Jamaican American family work, THE WEST INDIAN WASH.    He is discussions with Campo Santo and Golden Thread theaters to adapt the play to Mexican American and Armenian American families.    Mr. Gotanda is under commission by American Conservatory Theater to do an adaptation of a short story, Save the I-Hotel, by author Lysley Tenorio.
Mr. Gotanda is a respected independent filmmaker; his works having been seen at film festivals around the world. His last film, LIFE TASTES GOOD, was invited to be screened at the Sundance Film Festival, later shown on the Independent Film Channel and is available on Netflix and through Cinema Epoch Films. His other films include the shorts: THE KISS, which won the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and selected for the Sundance Festival, was shown on PBS nationally and screened domestically and internationally at Film Festivals; DRINKING TEA which was also invited to Sundance, was shown on PBS and played film festivals around the world. Mr. Gotanda is one of only a few individuals selected to participate in both the Sundance Theater Lab (Fish Head Soup, After The War), as well as, the Sundance Filmmakers Lab for Directors and Screenwriters (Otto).
His adaptation of his original play, THE WASH, was made into a feature film and released theatrically by Skouras Films. It was produced by American Playhouse and Lumiere Films/Cal Skaggs and directed by Michael Toshiyuki Uno.
Mr. Gotanda’s awards and grants include: the Guggenheim, National Arts Club, Pew Charitable Trust, Rockefeller, The Lila Wallace Award, National Endowment for the Arts, TCG-NEA, Sundance Theater Fellow, Sundance UCROSS Fellow, Map Fund, Creative Work Fund, Gerbode Foundation and others. Mr. Gotanda was selected a delegate of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation to Japan as part of a Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsored cultural exchange for prominent Japanese Americans.    He was the 2008 Granada Artist in Residence at the UC Davis Department of Theater and Dance and a 2010 Artist in Residence at the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies.    In 2011 Mr. Gotanda received the Edgerton Foundation Grant and this past year, the 2012 New York Dramatists Guild Flora Roberts Award For Recognition of Distinguished Work In Theater.
Mr. Gotanda’s collections of plays, NO MORE CHERRY BLOSSOMS and FISH HEAD SOUP AND OTHER PLAYS, are published by the University of Washington Press. Other published plays include: THE WASH, YANKEE DAWG YOU DIE, THE DREAM OF KITAMURA, DAY STANDING ON ITS
Mr. Gotanda holds a law degree from Hastings College of Law and studied pottery in Japan with the late Hiroshi Seto.    Mr. Gotanda has played with music groups: Bamboo with David Henry Hwang, Sam Takemoto and Robert Kikuchi- Yngojo and joe ozu and the new orientals, his retro jazz spoken word performance ensemble with Dan Kuramoto, Danny Yamamoto and Taiji Tamaki.    Mr. Gotanda and Mr. Michael Sasaki performed a Chinese version of ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ with Joan Chen singing the lead for Wayne Wang’s film, DIM SUM.    It reached high on the charts before it was banned from the airways for questionable language.
Mr. Gotanda presently teaches at the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies and the Department of English at UC Berkeley. He resides in the Berkeley Hills with his novelist-producer wife, Diane Takei, her mother Lilly Katsuko Takei, and their notoriously ill-behaved dog, Toulouse.
www.philipkangotanda.com www.lifetastesgoodmovie.com