Sunday, May 09, 2004

the lead and how to swing it

As threatened, Malice went to see the stars. Both nights. An impressive line-up of Asian American luminaries (read: people who are *not* Malice) brought together by the remarkable Nancy Bulalacao, who is the most popular girl in the world.

I must preface this story by saying that I always get anxious at the prospect of attending one of these "Asian American Artistic Community" events because, having participated in this community for the past number of years (here and there), these events usually turn into dysfunctional family reunions. (Or, as my family calls them, "family reunions".)

Having said that, I brought my human shield on night 1. I had utterly failed in securing a protective posse of any sort (Leo and Tobey were out of town), so I resorted to the old magician's trick: the magician brings his lovely assistant up onstage so that the audience's attention is diverted to HER instead of the magician and his sleight of hand. Of course, I couldn't find a lovely assistant, so I had to bring Korean American actress Monica Hong, instead. Blao!

Night 1 was fairly painless -- actually quite enjoyable. It wasn't too crowded and the show was engaging. [The premise being that each of the night's 17 guests were allotted 5 minutes of stage time to relate personal stories of being Asian American/artists/entertainers in New York.] 5 minutes was just enough time for the guests to shine without trying to "fill" and many of the people on Night 1 managed to say their peace in under 5.

People I particularly enjoyed: poet Tina Chang, who I'd never heard of before but was terribly eloquent; Deborah Craig, who always knows how to work a crowd (even though she only ever remembers me as C's husband); N.Rain Noe, who I've seen perform several times before at the Asian American Writer's Workshop and who I've always thought was one of the funniest/sharpest guys around; and Mike Kang, not just because I'm on a mission to kiss his ass but because his was very funny and strangely poignant, but not in a treacly manner. (And I just found out, through the grapevine, that he used to date someone from the first season of the IT Factor.)

Night 2 was packed. I hadn't secured any human shields -- wasn't even sure I'd go again, but I happened to find some other people to tag along with (read: hide behind). Night 2 was a bit more of the dysfunctional family reunion I had been anxious about, but I managed to weather it relatively unscathed. (I will purposefully be oblique here.)

Many more people ran over their allotted 5 minutes on Night 2, but it was a lot of big guns up there...

Standouts, for me: Ralph Peña, the artistic director for the Ma-Yi Theater Company; Ron Domingo, who also knows how to work a crowd (and happens to be a nice guy); David Henry Hwang, who told a nicely succinct story that didn't go over time; Regie Cabico, who definitely knows how to work a crowd and who's sort of a friend of mine (though he only remembers it when I'm right in front of him); playwright Sung Rno, who definitely never remembers me (though I directed a piece of his once, and my wife happens to be in his writer's group); the amazing Shii Ann Huang from Survivor, who is the whole reason I decided to pay admission for the second night (and, frankly, I was ashamed that only a minority of the audience seemed to know who she was); and Orlando Pabotoy, who closed and stole the show.

After the shows, I got Kang is Kang to sign my program. I tried to highlight his face, but it ended up looking as if I scribbled out his face with a green marker. Putting Xanga alliances aside, he generously introduced me to Shii Ann!

Now, I'm not sure why I was so star-struck with Shii Ann from Survivor. Maybe it's because this was the first season I ever actually watched the show, and I've gotten completely addicted. And the week she won that crucial immunity challenge -- when EVERYBODY I knew who watched the show was totally convinced she'd be gone -- was awe-inspiring. It didn't matter that she got voted off the following week. (Stupid as it was that the other players had TWO CHANCES IN A ROW to wake up and vote off either Boston Rob or Amber.) She had bought herself another week of pop culture immunity. This person that everybody else on the show (and in the audience) had written off had managed to rise up and stay fiercely in the game for another round. I know it was just television, and it was just a game -- but it was genuinely inspiring. *I* would have crowed.

I got to talk to her for a bit and she was super nice. She was the only person there I managed to give my card to because I had to run off abruptly. (If she's actually reading this, welcome to misanthropy.) She graciously signed my program and my night was complete!


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