Two short-running shows tackle tough ethnic issues

Ting Sun as Lily Chin and Kenny Su as Vincent Chin in Carry the Tiger to the Mountain<i>.</i>

Ting Sun as Lily Chin and Kenny Su as Vincent Chin in Carry the Tiger to the Mountain.

Two of Sacramento’s ethnic theater groups— Interactive Asian Contemporary Theatre (InterACT) and Young Voices (featuring black and Latino performers)—have shows on local stages. But you’ll need to move quickly, because both of them have short runs.

InterACT presents Carry the Tiger to the Mountain, about the 1982 killing of Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American mistaken for Japanese by two unemployed Detroit autoworkers, who killed him.

It’s not an easy story. The two workers were visiting a strip club where Chin was holding his bachelor party. After a confrontation, the killing took place in a parking lot nearby—with one man holding Chin while the other smashed his head with a baseball bat. The assailants got three years’ probation and a $3,000 fine for manslaughter. After fruitless appeals, Chin’s mother returned to China, disgusted with American justice. The case is largely forgotten here but is still discussed in Japan.

The play concentrates on the clash of American and Asian cultures and includes (often profane) dialogue from court transcripts. “But it’s not a documentary,” advised artistic director Dennis Yep. “The playwright changed the names of locations and people to ‘protect both the innocent and the guilty,’ as she put it.”

InterACT is entering its 11th season. After several years of staging plays about Asian-American issues, Yep plans to offer some “standard” plays with Asian actors, who don’t often have opportunities to play leading roles typically accorded to whites.

William A. Parker’s Young Voices stages AIDS … Killing Me Softly, a play about a popular teen diagnosed with HIV—something that’s difficult to discuss under any circumstances, but particularly so in the black community. The play lasts about an hour and will be followed by a discussion.

Parker and his teenage actors have appeared several times on Capital Public Radio’s Insight talk show. Parker’s earlier play, Waitin’ 2 End Hell, enjoyed an extended run at an off-Broadway venue in New York last year.