Playwright Alice Tuan to take a leading role at CalArts


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More changes to report from the CalArts theater school. Alice Tuan, the award-winning L.A.-based playwright, has been appointed as the head of the Writing for Performance Program. She will begin some of her duties this summer before fully starting the job in the fall semester.

A playwright who has focused largely on the Asian American experience, Tuan has worked closely with L.A. theater companies such as East West Players and the Los Angeles Theatre Center since emerging on the scene in the late ‘90s. In 2000, she won the Mark Taper Forum’s Richard E. Sherwood Award for emerging playwrights and has since been produced by companies around the country.


Among her best-known dramas are ‘Ajax (por nobody),’ ‘Last of the Suns’ and ‘Coastline.’

As head of the program, Tuan’s duties include guiding playwriting MFA candidates through workshops. She’ll also coordinate lab work among writers, actors and directors.

Speaking on the phone from Shanghai, where she is concluding a 10-month residency teaching English, Tuan said: ‘I don’t really think you can teach writing. My job is to be a mentor. It’s about telling trench stories and to help the students troubleshoot. A playwright’s job is contradictory -- you spend half the time in solitude and the other half is collaboration.’

Tuan said that during her time in China, in addition to teaching, she has worked on beefing up the ‘Asian’ side of her interest in Asian American culture. She’s in the process of completing a play that addresses the ‘U.S.’ superpower dance with China’ in the realm of international business.

‘I think American theater contracted after 9/11,’ she said. ‘Audiences didn’t want experimentation. With the recent election, you can feel like we’ve re-entered the world. The culture of the 21st century can become itself, rather than still living by 20th century rules. So I feel hugely optimistic about coming back to L.A.’

Earlier this month, CalArts announced that Erik Ehn, the head of the theater school, would be leaving his post to join the faculty at Brown University. The school will be launching a search for his replacement in the fall.

-- David Ng

Photo: playwright Alice Tuan. Credit: CalArts