March 21, 2022 Coverage and Posts, CSA

Broadway World: Bailey Lee Celebrates Grandfather and Asian American Heritage

Left to right: Bailey Lee as herself, Arnold Y. Kim as “Papa,” and Frances Dell Bendert as “Mom”

Bailey Lee Celebrates Grandfather and Asian American Heritage in New Play PAPA At New Hazlett Theater

Papa premieres on Thursday, April 7 at 8 PM and Friday, April 8 at 11 AM & 8 PM.

The New Hazlett Theater is thrilled to present Bailey Lee’s new work, Papa, as the conclusion to the 9th Season of Community Supported Art (CSA). Premiering live onstage April 7-8, Papa is an original play created and performed by Bailey Lee that celebrates Asian American heritage. The CSA Series provides emerging artists in Pittsburgh with the opportunity to develop new work for the New Hazlett stage.

“What a joy to watch an artist like Lee create a brand new piece of theater over this year,” says Director of Programming Kristin Helfrich. “The first draft felt like it had been waiting in the wings for this moment. Excited to bring this well-crafted Pittsburgh story about ancestry and heritage to our stage.”

Actress, writer, and theatre-maker Bailey Lee spent most of her life knowing very little about her “Papa’s” life story other than that he immigrated from China and was now a McKeesport fixture. As an adult, she began to understand that her grandfather had repressed much of his Chinese heritage in an effort to assimilate into American culture as a “good citizen.”

“My papa immigrated from China at a very young age,” said Lee. “He experienced trauma and loss, and lovingly held back language, stories, and family history in an effort to protect his family and assimilate. My Papa is a person with a servant’s heart and has worked his whole life to give life to the next generation. I’m writing this play to honor him and celebrate his life.”

Through drama, music, and puppetry Lee recounts her grandfather’s journey from the farmlands of rural China to the hills of McKeesport. Papa unpacks the Lee family’s memories, fantasies, and heartaches, tracing the complicated relationship between three generations of Asian Americans.

“When I was 15, my father passed away unexpectedly,” Lee continued. “Since then, every conversation that I’ve had with my Papa is in relation to the loss of my dad. This is a play about generational grief and love and the dreams that we sow into the next generation.”

The cast includes stage and screen veteran Arnold Y. Kim as “Papa,” Frances Dell Bendert as “Mom,” and Lee as herself. All actors double as “others” through this ensemble production.

Papa premieres on Thursday, April 7 at 8 PM and Friday, April 8 at 11 AM & 8 PM. Tickets are available for purchase on the New Hazlett website and range from $15-$25. Allegheny County library card holders can claim $5 tickets to the Friday matinee through RadPass.org.

Each year the CSA Performance Series supports five emerging Pittsburgh artists as they develop a new work for the New Hazlett stage. The artists featured in the 2021/22 season range from up-and-coming playwrights to inventive musicians to a sassy Queen with a heart of gold. Past CSA contributors include recording artist Brittany Chantele, choreographer Kaylin Horgan, and director/playwright Tlaloc Rivas. Through the CSA program, the New Hazlett Theater provides opportunities for diverse voices to shape the future of theater and connect audiences with fresh productions that challenge their perceptions about the performing arts.

“It’s really rare in this industry to find artistic organizations that open up their resources unconditionally to emerging artists,” said CSA artist Bailey Lee in an interview with Recital Magazine’s David Bernabo. “That’s what the CSA does. It has instilled confidence not only in this piece but in me as an artist.”

Papa is premiering live onstage at the New Hazlett Theater. In order to ensure a safe experience for all audience members, masks, photo ID, and proof of vaccination are required. Prior to attending, please see the most updated health and safety guidelines. Accessible seating and assistive listening devices are available for all productions. Please email New Hazlett Theater with any questions.

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