Showing posts with label Press. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Press. Show all posts

Collaboration Interview

American Conservatory Theatre · Photo Credit: Julius Ahn
Nathan Christensen conducted a nice interview of New Haven-based writer Aaron Jafferis and me in an article called Beyond Broadway: Long Distance Relationships. Here’s an excerpt:
What happens if you find a great collaborator—someone who shares your vision, where the creative chemistry starts to spark—and it turns out that you don’t live anywhere close to each other?
“Byron lives in Seattle and I live in New Haven.”
“Jafferis and I were both raised as only children, so we treasure being away from each other.”
That’s writer Aaron Jafferis and composer Byron Au Yong. And at first glance, you might expect it’s more than just geography that keeps them apart.
As a composer, Byron is inspired by the juxtaposition of nature, ancient ritual and cutting-edge technology that he finds in his Pacific Northwest home. His work draws on folk and classical elements in ways that feel surprising and avant-garde. One of his current projects is TURBINE, a composition for moving voices, commissioned by Leah Stein Dance Company and the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, to premiere as part of the 200th Anniversary of the Fairmount Water Works in June 2015.
On the other hand (and the other coast), Aaron describes himself as a hip-hop poet and playwright. He draws upon the urban rhythms of his hometown in Connecticut. As an undergraduate, he majored in Arts and Social Change, and much of his work has taken the form of outreach, education and collaboration with schools, hospitals, detention centers and community organizations. Of course, that hasn’t stopped his work from being praised and performed across the country and internationally.
How did creators from such different worlds come together? 
Read the complete interview in New Musical Theatre

BD Wong on NBC

Thanks BD for giving a shout-out to the music.

“BD Wong stars in The Orphan of Zhao at La Jolla Playhouse” Interview at NBC News San Diego.

Desert Local News Review

Thanks Jack Lyons for The Orphan of Zhao review called “2400 Year Old Chinese Drama Is Reimagined For The Stage At The La Jolla Playhouse”:
“The production is sensitively and deftly directed by Carey Perloff, and boasts onstage musical accompaniment in the form of a sensuously played cello by Jessica Ivry, and a series of violin interludes, performed by cast member Philip Estrera…. The costumes designed by Lind Cho are spot-on, and sound by Jake Rodriguez, with original music by Musical Director Byron Au Yong are first rate.”
Read the entire review in the Desert Local News

LA Times Review

Thanks David C. Nichols for your review called “’The Orphan of Zhao’ a skillful, specialized epic”:
“... nonstop instrumental effects, ‘Zhao’ calls for and receives heightened stylistic attack from its players.”
Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

Read the review in the LA Times

San Diego Reader Review

Thanks Jeff Smith for your review called “Sacrificial Stands: La Jolla Playhouse stages The Orphan of Zhao”:
“Au Yong’s original music goes in surprising directions and tonalities.”
Photo Credit: Kevin Berne
Read the entire review in the San Diego Reader

San Diego Gay & Lesbian News Review

Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

Thanks Jean Lowerison for your review of The Orphan of Zhao:
“Sound is not shortchanged. Jake Rodriguez’s sound design and especially music director Byron Au Yong’s original music – beautifully played by cellist Jessica Ivry – are integral...”

Read the entire review in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News

San Diego Union-Tribune Review

Thanks James Hebert for your article called “Review: A rich and rewarding Zhao”:
“While there’s a sense of pensive reserve to Wong’s performance, there’s also a musical quality to his voice, a kind of quaver. That seems to dovetail with the actual music in the production, composed and directed by Byron Au Yong; it’s a haunting mix of strings, gongs, percussion and even tones summoned from bowls of water.
There are vocals, too: Wong sings in a wistful falsetto over strains of violin in one musical sequence near the end.”

Photo Credit: Kevin Berne
Read the review in The San Diego Union-Tribune

La Jolla Light Interview

Thanks Diana Saenger for this preview interview of director Carey Perloff called “Exciting world of ancient China awaits in ‘The Orphan of Zhao’ at La Jolla Playhouse”:
“I’ve really come to admire composer Byron Au Yong’s original music that has an infusion of both Chinese and western elements that include water bowls, bamboo, stones, cello, violin, drumming, and gongs.”
Photo Credit: Kevin Berne
Read the entire interview at La Jolla Light News

Huffington Post Review

Thanks Leo Stutzin for your review of The Orphan of Zhao at A.C.T. called “Revenge, Honor, Sacrifice in Ancient China”:
“Byron Au Yong composed the exotic and mesmerizing score, using a bowed and plucked cello, a violin and improvised or traditional instruments.”
Photo Credit: Kevin Berne
Read the review in the Huffington Post

San Jose Mercury News Review

Thanks Pat Craig for your review called “Orphan of Zhao an epic and engrossing tale at American Conservatory Theater”:
“… engaging songs performed live that enhance the high-stakes tension and emotion that fills the piece.”

Read the review in the San Jose Mercury News

Broadway World Review

Thanks Harmony Wheeler for your review called “Orphan of Zhao at ACT-SF is Intense Powerful Drama”:
“Byron Au Yong’s score alternates between a distinct Chinese sound and a more modern sound, using the cello, violin, drums and more.”

Read the review in Broadway World

San Francisco Chronicle Review

Thanks Chad Jones for your article called “’The Orphan of Zhao’ review: It’s pageantry over passion”:
“Certain elements of that pageant are quite enjoyable, most notably the original score by Byron Au Yong and played by an onstage cellist and violinist augmented by cast members on percussion and unusual instruments (like water bowls).”
Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

Read the San Francisco Chronicle review at SF Gate

Welladay! Press

Nonsequitur presents Welladay! Welladay! Wayward Love Songs on Saturday, October 19, 2013, at the Chapel Performance Space in the Good Shepherd Center, Seattle. Here are some press quotes:

A&P: Seattle Art & Performance Quarterly (Fall 2013)
Seattle Weekly (September 2013)
New songs from the exquisite and off-kilter mind of composer Byron Au Yong.
International Examiner (October 2013)
Au Yong also takes inspiration from the fact that the performance space was once an orphanage and home for unwed mothers and “at risk” girls.
The Stranger (October 2013)
In the music, you might hear echoes of the old laundry—blankets being folded, stones being rubbed on water. And love letters being crumpled. Au Yong is personally “in a difficult place with love,” he says. And on the flip side, “As an artist, he has a lot of love to share,” says Tiffany Lin, the pianist, who has worked with Au Yong before. He tends to inspire loyalty for his thoughtful approach integrating classicism with improvisation, spiritual and emotional exploration with preparedness and rigor.

Broadway World reviews Stuck Elevator

The American Dream, Immigration Woes, Super Heroes Converge in a STUCK ELEVATOR
By Lauren Yarger

How many people can you fit comfortably in one elevator? If you have great musical and storytelling ability, like composer Byron Au Yong and librettist Aaron Jafferis, creators of STUCK ELEVATOR, playing at Long Wharf Theatre as part of the New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas, the answer is quite a few.

They tell the story (based on a true one) of Guang (Julius Ahn), an illegal immigrant who gets stuck in a Bronx elevator for 81 hours while making deliveries for the Happy Dragon Chinese Restaurant.

Something goes wrong after Guang pushes the button in the elevator (designed by Daniel Ostling in open-frame fashion) on Friday at 6:55 pm. A series of noises and flashing lights leave the elevator disabled and Guang, too afraid to use the emergency call button which will summon police who might question his documentation, waits patiently for a repairman to come and let him go (sound and design by Mikhail Fiksel; Ted Boyce-Smith is credited as associate lighting designer). No one realizes he's in the elevator, however, and he remains trapped until early Tuesday morning.

As minutes turn to hours, Guang finds ways to occupy the time and divert his thoughts from the fact that he only has a few packets of soy, duck and sweet-and-sour sauce and a fortune cookie to eat and that there is nowhere to relieve himself. The fortune's cookie's message comes true: "You will soon be aware of your growing awareness."

He thinks about his wife, Ming (Marie-France Arcilla), and son (Raymond Lee) back home in China. It has been two years since he left them in search of a better life in America with his nephew (also Lee), hidden in a container aboard a ship. He still owes $80,000 to the criminal who smuggled them in, and every hour away from his takeout deliveries means money lost in tips. It also means lost revenue for the restaurant, and the Boss's wife (played by male Francis Jue) can be less than sympathetic. She once required him to pay back $200 taken when he was mugged at knifepoint.

As hours turn to days, Guang keeps telling himself things could be worse. He remembers his loved ones and incidents from his life. He is "visited" by these folks, along with co-worker and fellow illegal immigrant Marco (Joel Perez), to whom Guang now regrets selling the cell phone which might have allowed him to call for help. His thoughts sustain him, but also reveal how he is consumed by the need for money to pay off his debts and an overwhelming sense that he is letting everyone down and losing face.

The story is compelling and richly directed by Chay Yew. Yong's hybrid score is entertaining and melodic, sung by exceptional voices. Korean-American tenor Ahn reprises this role from Stuck Elevator's world premiere at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco (a workshop version was performed at Festival 2010 as part of the Yale Institute for Music Theatre). Music described as "comic-rap-scrap metal" might cause doubt, but opera and rap seem as natural here as soy sauce with fried rice.

New Haven native Jafferis' book is seasoned with humor. At one point, as Guang begins to hallucinate, he imagines a contest between super-hero "Takeout Man" and "Otis, the Elevator," a robotic, elevator monster (creatively costumed by designer Myung Hew Cho). There are some moments of confusion, however - why did Guang get into the elevator to make a takeout delivery without any food, for example, and at one point, from the action, I thought he already had been freed from the elevator only to discover that he was still in there.

The show also could use some trimming (it seemed a little long even at just 80 minutes with no intermission), but when we realize that for every minute on stage, the real takeout delivery man spent an hour trapped in that elevator, this is a minor complaint. This unique and absorbing presentation stays with you after you leave the theater. It will remind you to be grateful for the freedoms we have in this country the next time you call for Chinese takeout.

Published in Broadway World.

Stark Insider visits Stuck Elevator

San Francisco’s Stark Insider visited the American Conservatory Theatre studios during rehearsals of Stuck Elevator. Check out the fun video they made with clips of rehearsal footage + interviews with director Chay Yew and actor Joel Perez:

Here are excerpts from Trapped in an Elevator for 81 Hours by Clinton Stark:
When we headed this week to the A.C.T. rehearsal space in San Francisco, I expected a straightforward account — okay, here’s a guy stock in an elevator, who hallucinates in fantastical, hyper, stereo-vision, before being remarkably rescued days later. Case closed. Substitute the elevator with an isolated slot canon, Guang with James Franco, and you might even have the Bronx version of 127 hours. Isolation, hallucination, hunger. We’ve seen that before. But there’s a few things that takes this production in otherwise unexpected directions.

For one, we soon see the elevator as a metaphor for the American Dream; symbolizing what we can and cannot achieve. Specifically, immigration becomes a major theme.

“Instead of an awful Andy Warhol experience of trapping you in a little elevator for eighty-one hours for you to be with this one person,” says Yew. “The elevator is beautiful in that wonderful metaphorical way. Most people are stuck. We forget that a lot of illegal immigrants basically service this country in so many ways.”

“If you see a Mexican gardener, he’s one of the few lucky ones that has crossed the desert to be here. You don’t realize he’s working for $30 per day. And he’s seen, smelled and maybe even experienced a bit of death along the way.”

In the words of artistic director Carey Perloff, “Who would have thought you could turn the true story of a frightened Chinese deliveryman stuck in an elevator into a hilarious and heartbreaking musical about hunger, immigration, family, dreams, and duck sauce?”

The other facet of Stuck Elevator that caught my attention as I watched the six member ensemble during the spirited rehearsal session was the hybrid nature of its presentation. Yes, it’s a play. But it’s one that employs a stylish mix of opera, musical theater, and solo performance to tell a story rich in quasi-reality.
Stuck Elevator plays at the American Conservatory Theatre, April 4-28, 2013.

Stuck Elevator premieres at A.C.T. in 2013

Media Contact
Randy Taradash
Associate Director of Marketing and Press
(415) 439-2351 or

American Conservatory Theatre Announces 2012-13 Season
Below are excerpts from A.C.T.'s press release...
World Premiere Musical Event
Music by Byron Au Yong
Libretto by Aaron Jafferis
Directed by Chay Yew 
April 4–28, 2013
Press Night: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 
"[Yew has] visionary direction" —Entertainment Today 
"Moving and funny" —Seattlest 
In the spirit of the beloved hit The Black Rider, A.C.T. continues the tradition of introducing eclectic, unforgettable musical projects to the stage. Stuck Elevator is based on the true story of a Chinese restaurant deliveryman who was trapped in a Bronx elevator for 81 hours. Sounding the alarm will open the doors to freedom, but calling for help also means calling for attention—with dire consequences for this illegal undocumented immigrant. Inventively staged by internationally acclaimed artist Chay Yew, Stuck Elevator unleashes an evocative collision of stories, sounds, instruments, and ideas.

SAN FRANCISCO (April 18, 2012)—American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Artistic Director Carey Perloff announced the lineup for the company's 46th subscription season, which includes an eclectic and unforgettable world premiere musical event, a masterwork from acclaimed playwright Tom Stoppard, a world premiere comedy from one of Canada's most prolific playwrights, a sultry Tennessee Williams drama, a revitalized classic starring Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis, and the return of Lorenzo Pisoni's sold-out stage memoir. An exciting theatrical event—to be announced at a later date—will fill the ninth show slot.

The 2012–13 season marks the 20th anniversary of Carey Perloff as A.C.T.'s artistic director. Says Perloff: "Twenty years marks a time to celebrate the past and, even more importantly, to make a bold commitment to the future: to new artists, new work, and new ways of imagining the theater. There are so many threads that I wanted to include in this anniversary season, and I chose the kind of work that has truly distinguished A.C.T. over the past 20 years: gorgeous writing, international work, new explorations of Greek tragedy, the work of Tom Stoppard, unusual music-theater and dance-theater collaborations, Bay Area–themed work, and a Canadian surprise. I'm delighted to share this adventurous and groundbreaking season with the San Francisco Bay Area."

* * *

In the spirit of the beloved hit The Black Rider, A.C.T. is thrilled to continue the tradition of introducing eclectic, unforgettable musical projects to the stage with the world premiere of Stuck Elevator (April 4–28). A powerful and poignant hip-hop opera music-theatre work, Stuck Elevator is based on the true story of a Chinese restaurant deliveryman who was trapped in a Bronx elevator for 81 hours. Sounding the alarm will open the doors to freedom, but calling for help also means calling for attention—with dire consequences for this illegal undocumented immigrant. Stuck in limbo, he launches into poignant and hilarious hallucinations about his past, present, and future. Inventively staged by OBIE Award winner and internationally acclaimed artist Chay Yew, Stuck Elevator unleashes an evocative collision of stories, sounds, instruments, and ideas, from immigration and labor to familial obligation and fortune cookies.

* * *

415 Geary Street
San Francisco CA 94108
(415) 749-2228

Magma Festival in CityArts

photo by Nate Watters

Nate Watters wrote a blurb and posted a dozen fabulous photographs in CityArts about Hollow Earth Radio's Magma Festival.

Here's an excerpt:
"Byron Au Yong (erhu), Paul Rucker (cello) and Tari Nelson-Zagar (violin) stepped outside the string-tied box to make some unique sounds with their instruments, at times bordering on percussion."
Curated by Steve Peters, co-founder of  Nonsequitur, the event included four sets of improvising trios: trumpets, clarinets, strings and percussion. He called it 4 x 3.

I was lucky to be part of the string trio. It was my first-time playing music with cellist Paul Rucker and a lovely opportunity to continue working with violinist Tari Nelson-Zagar.

Here's a photo of our set...
Byron Au Yong (erhu), Paul Rucker (cello), Tari Nelson-Zagar (violin)
photo by Nate Watters
See full article at CityArts.


“An orrery of memory, an attempt to chart the composer's recollections and speculations about his musician grandfather who emigrated from China in the 1930s. What kind of music might they have made together?” —Christopher DeLaurenti, The Stranger

Audio Excerpts

available at Amazon | CD Baby | iTunes

Songs of Dislocation
A vast number of Chinese – more than 40 million – live outside of their ancestral homeland. In North America, the influx of this diaspora is mixing and adapting its cultural heritage in New York (665,714), San Francisco (562,355), Toronto (486,300) and Vancouver (402,000).

With “Yiju,” Mandarin for “to migrate,” Present Sounds Recordings and composer Byron Au Yong offer an album of music both intimate and cinematic, humorous and contemplative, combining Au Yong’s broken musical lineage with a nod to the avant garde. “As the only composer in a family of overseas Chinese, it is with regret that I never studied music with my grandfather," he says.

“On this album, I devoted myself to assembling songs of dislocation – of memory and imagination. I hope listeners find moments to laugh, as well as reflect about migration, travel and their relationship to China.”

Selected track insights
  • Daughter 女儿: “My grandparents fled China in 1938, leaving my first aunt. I wonder what lullaby my grandmother would have sung to the daughter they left behind.”
  • Two Knives 两把刀: “In the 1940s, my grandfather was captured by Japanese soldiers. He pretended to be a farmer and joked with the soldiers until he was able to escape. They would have killed him if they knew he started the first Chinese school in the Mindanao Mountains of the Philippines.”
  • A Man Is Falling 摔倒的人: “I used to think that migration was horizontal. After 9/11, I began to think of migration as vertical – of ancestors falling through the sky and landing on unsuspecting progeny. The news rarely covers family stories turned on their heads.”

Praise for ‘Yiju’
“Yiju is at times haunting and at times a rich cacophony of textures and emotion. It’s music for quiet, contemplative time. Each time I listen I hear something new.”
– Mary Coss, artist

“I don't know of any other contemporary work that both embraces and subverts its sentimentality to such compelling effect. I loved the way it unfolded, song by song, with each new piece catching me off guard, even as it evolved its themes and motifs.”
– Aaron Landsman, playwright
Creative team
“Yiju 移居,” Byron Au Yong’s fourth album, features performances by musicians Karen Akada, Au Yong, Marc Collins, Marc delaCruz, Jessika Kenney, Gina Sala, Aiko Shimada and James Whetzel singing and playing er-hu (Chinese fiddle), string bass, drums, paper, chopsticks, cymbals and water gongs. “Yiju” was recorded by audio engineer Steve Ditore as part of a Jack Straw New Media Gallery residency in Seattle. Album design by Wing Fong.

Other albums by Byron Au Yong
YIJU 移居 One Sheet (PDF)
Released by Present Sounds Recordings, 2012

Flashes of Brilliance review

Kristen Legg wrote an in-depth review of the Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation (SFDI) benefit Flashes of Brilliance presented by Velocity Dance Center to a sold-out crowd on February 11, 2012. Musician Tiffany Lin and I performed with dancers Linda Austin and Karen Nelson. Our set, called "the opposite person," was lit by Ilvs Strauss.

Here's an excerpt from Legg's review:
"... the musicians’ performance was outstanding, with both playing toy pianos, shifting about the stage, banging on the sides of their instruments, and finally picking up a kazoo and slide whistle at the end of the work. A violin player also joined in from the audience..."
Linda Austin, Karen Nelson, Byron Au Yong, Tiffany Lin
photo by Tim Summers
Violinist Tari Nelson-Zagar appeared at intermission after finishing a set at the Seattle Improvised Music Festival. It was great that Tari was able to join our performance. Next year, perhaps both festivals will collaborate to bring together musicians, dancers and lighting designers.

Tari, Tiffany and I agreed that being part of the spontaneous creativity of nearly two dozen dancers, musicians and lighting designers at SFDI was inspiring and worth further investigation. Luckily, Velocity Dance Center hosts the 19th annual SFDI from July 29-August 5, 2012. The festival includes classes, discussions, intensives, jams and performances.

3Seasons reSet

Last night, a loud, gutter-gurgling rain kept me awake. Is it too much to ask for sun in late June? Farmer Brendan planted only six tomato plants leaving the other six in pots saying that it's not worth having stunted plants with green tomatos later this season. I smell the damp earth and think of 3Seasons reSet playing tonight and tomorrow at Intiman Theatre in Seattle.
photo by Kim & Adam Bamberg (
3Seasons premiered at On the Boards in January 2010. Since then, choreographer Olivier Wevers and his company Whim W'Him have refined their repertoire with works such as Monster. Returning to 3Seasons (an adaptation of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons), I notice that Olivier has a greater attentiveness to details. Props are more carefully placed, movements are more precise and transitions are more deliberate. For the music, I have refined the instrumentation to violin + soundtrack. Crowding the performance with extraneous instruments is like planting too many tomatos.

Victoria Brown wrote a perceptive:
... the music has undergone the greatest change. In the present iteration of 3Seasons, only Autumn employs the new music of Byron, which has been both drawn in and expanded. Instead of violin, percussion, toy piano and electronic sounds, the composition is now pared down to a single violin heard against a city soundscape of cars and an electronic hum.

In performance the violin will be played by much the praised and prized Michael Jinsoo Lim (Pacific Northwest Ballet concertmaster and co-founder of the Corigliano Quartet). The first movement of Byron’s new Autumn has a jumbled sound. Vivaldi comes in only in snatches, as real music and… as a cell phone ring tone. It’s a 21st century landscape, of timid trust in an unimaginable future warring against barely suppressed chaos and despair. There is, as Byron says, a clear sense of something missing.

Yet for me at least, this apprehension of loss changes as the season unrolls. Last week, after re-observing his bleak take on the Vivaldi Winter (that ends his ballet), I said to Olivier, “This sure doesn’t finish on any note of redemption, does it?" to which he assented. But yesterday, watching the season that preceeds it, I felt an unexpectedly different note in Autumn’s final movement.

By this time, the clutter and static of the earlier sections of Byron’s soundscape are burned away. The violin plays on alone, its sound harsh, seer, but purified, clean. As if, out of the dross that we’ve made from our world, one clear, authentic, silver voice has been refined— or might be. Perhaps this line of music represents another chance for the human race, a sounder basis for a better, more sustainable and earth-centric future. Whether we can save ourselves and our world, or if the centuries to come hold only the peace of cessation, is still, of course, obscure and will remain so well beyond our time. I might be talking through my hat, but ever optimistic, I asked Byron after rehearsal, “Is Autumn maybe where hope creeps into 3Seasons?”

His answer was a broad, if enigmatic, grin.
Read more of Victoria's insightful thoughts about the revised 3Seasons with photos from La Vie Photography at Whim W'Him's blog.

Dedicated to intercultural collaboration, Byron Au Yong composes songs of dislocation, music for a changing world. He teaches in Performing Arts & Social Justice at the University of San Francisco.

Byron Au Yong & Christopher Yohmei Blasdel: BreathPlay

Byron Au Yong: Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas
Kidnapping Water:
Bottled Operas
Byron Au Yong: Yiju