Contributor Anastasia Kim reviews East West Player’s reading of Udaya Kanthi Salgadu’s Letters From My Mother.
As the first month of the new year comes to a close, I applaud the efforts of those who were, and still are, involved in the campaign to raise or heighten awareness of human trafficking and modern day slavery.
Last Thursday, January 20, 2011, my friends over at East West Players (EWP) invited me to a staged reading called Letters From My Mother written by Udaya Kanthi Salgadu and directed by Shaheen Vaaz. In collaboration with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) and the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), the East West Players managed to throw a wonderful exhibition spotlighting a heart wrenching yet inspiring story of courage, tenacity and hope brought forth by a mother’s love.
Letters From My Mother is story about a young, Sri Lankan high school graduate named Sripa who had to endure 26 months of forced labor in the United States. With the promise of a consistent salary that she’d be able to send back to her family underscoring her decision to leave everything behind, Sripa soon realizes that her life in the United States isn’t exactly what she’d envisioned. Without a way to contact her family, and not a single cent to her name, Sripa finds herself enslaved to the iniquity that is human trafficking. However, despite the bleakness of her situation, Sripa endures with great fortitude owing to her mother’s letters to her, and the care of an inquisitive neighbor, who later helps rescue her. As a storm gathers in her confidence, Sripa relinquishes fear, and in its stead, she embraces her mettle. Sripa takes her life back.
Thanks to the wonderful cast of talented actors such as Anjali Bhimani, Tamlyn Tomita, James Kyson Lee, Camille Mana, and many more, I saw quite a few teary-eyed members of the audience that night. The cast painted a realistic portrayal of what it must have been like to be in our playwright’s shoes, and we were definitely drawn into the story.
After the reading, a post show discussion panel followed suit where we were made intimately familiar with our real-life Sripa. The playwright, Udaya Kanthi Salgadu, who wrote Letters From My Mother based on her own experiences, was perhaps introduced much later to put the focus on the consequences of human trafficking rather than singling out the victims of it. She was remarkably cheery that night given the topic of her play, and stuck around to meet and greet the viewers. It was wonderful to see that she’d melded her experiences, courage, and resolve to showcase a powerful message not only relatable to victims of human trafficking but people across the board. It was amazing to see her speak from a position of resilience and accomplishment rather than from a position of victimization and weakness. This was her first play, and I hope that while she is on the path to becoming a valued nurse in our community, she will continue to share her words of wisdom with all of us.
There is an estimated 12.3 million people who are enslaved around the world today, according to CASTLA.org. It is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the 21st century. Although organizations and volunteers alike are putting forth great effort to impede its growth, human trafficking will not go away without a fight. Please help join this cause in stamping out human trafficking. Go to CASTLA.org and find out how you can help. Freedom and equality isn’t just black or white anymore. Let us fight to give everyone an equal hand at what they rightfully deserve.
– Anastasia Kim
Got the mid-winter doldrums? Nourish yourself! There are so many ways to feed the soul this January, from fine art to fine food.
Los Angeles Art Show
When: January 19-23, 2011
Where: Los Angeles Convention Center
The 16th Annual Los Angeles Art Show returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center starting today. Beyond the usual fine art from around the world and from private collections, check out a special Asian Contemporary exhibition presented by 53 Art Museum from Guangzhou, China, curated and sponsored by the prominent Asian art magazines Art Gallery Magazine and Gallery Sights. The Art Show will also include a significant grouping of Chinese galleries who have never shown works outside of China.
Beyond fine art, there’s also book signings, street art, lectures and film screenings including The Rising Tide, a documentary shot in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen in the summer of 2006, exploring China’s march toward the future through the works of some their most talented photographers and video artists. There will even be guided tours in Korean and Chinese.
The Opening Night Premiere Party, which will be hosted by Kat von D (LA Ink), will help The Art of Elysium to expand its program to bring arts to critically ill hospitalized children, and increase substantially the number of school children who visit the Getty through the Getty Museum’s Education Department program for Title-One School visits.
Letters From My Mother
When: Thursday, January 20, 7:30pm
Where: Tateuchi Democracy Forum in the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, 111 N. Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
How: Admission is free, but please RSVP by calling 213-625-7000 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
East West Players (EWP), in collaboration with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) and Japanese American National Museum (JANM), presents a staged reading of Letters From My Mother by Udaya Kanthi Salgadu and directed by Shaheen Vaaz. The reading will be performed by Asian American notables including Tamlyn Tomita, James Kyson Lee, Camille Mana, and more.
Letters addresses the horror of slavery and human trafficking still occurring in this day and age. It follows Sripa, a young Sri Lankan high school graduate who endured 26 months of forced labor in a household in the United States. Sripa draws strength only from her mother’s letters, until inquiries from a neighbor eventually lead to her rescue. Sripa must then find the courage within her to become an advocate for the abolition of human trafficking.
Developed in the East West Players David Henry Hwang Writers Institute with the support of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, Letters From My Mother is based on the playwright’s true life experience. This reading is presented as part of a month-long campaign to raise the awareness of human trafficking and modern day slavery. To learn more on human trafficking, visit www.castla.org.
A panel discussion and a wine and cheese reception follows the reading.
When: Opens January 21, 2011
Where: In theaters
Shai (played by Indian American Monica Dogra) is a modern Indian American woman, on sabbatical from her prestigious job in finance, to indulge her photography hobby in Mumbai. She has a brief dalliance with Mumbai native Arun (Aamir Khan), a gifted but solitary painter, and strikes up an unusual friendship with Munna (Prateik), a handsome laundry boy (dhobi) with ambitions of being a Bollywood actor. As Shai takes an interest in Munna’s life and work in the dhobi ghat (the area in Mumbai where laundry is done), their friendship deepens despite significant class differences, and Arun becomes obsessed with recordings left by a beautiful former tenant of his apartment.
Kiran Rao’s directorial debut, set in the wild and chaotic metropolis of Mumbai, follows four people, separated by class and language, drawn together in compelling relationships. The films stars and was produced by Aamir Khan, one of India’s most popular actors.
Korean Community Day at Fowler Museum
When: Saturday, January 22, 2011, 1-4 pm
Where: Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, CA
How: Admission is free
UCLA’s Fowler Museum is opening up its doors to celebrate Korean arts and culture. Bring appa and unni to this family-oriented day with art workshops and tours of their “Life in Ceramics: Five Contemporary Korean Artists ” exhibit. After the afternoon’s festivities are over, take a stroll around UCLA’s beautiful campus. Fun for the whole family!
dineLA Restaurant Week
When: January 23-28, January 30-February 4, 2011
Where: Restaurants throughout Los Angeles
Now’s your chance to try some of the best restaurants L.A. has to offer, all at special prix-fixe prices. From Hollywood’s recently opened W Hollywood complete with a dinner at Delphine, to a coastal getaway at Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows and dinner at Fig Santa Monica, dineLA Restaurant Week offers visitors the perfect excuse to visit Los Angeles and dine at a great value.
Check out participating restaurants here.
ALOUD: A conversation with Andrew Lam and Maxine Hong Kingston
When: Tuesday, January 25, 2011, 7 pm
Where: Mark Taper Auditorium, Central Library, Los Angeles, CA
Don’t miss the meeting of two brilliant minds in modern Asian American literature in casual conversation. Andrew Lam, the editor and co-founder of New America Media, and author of the award-winning Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora, and his latest work, East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres, talks Asian American literature with Chinese American author Maxine Hong Kingston, the award-winning author of The Woman Warrior.
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Kingston grew up active in antiwar activities in Berkeley, but left the mainland for Hawaii in the late ’60’s, where she wrote The Woman Warrior, and China Men, which earned the National Book Award. Her most recent books include a collection of essays, Hawai‘i One Summer, and her latest novel, The Fifth Book of Peace. Kingston was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 1997 by President Clinton. She is currently Senior Lecturer Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley.