The Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists (CAATA), among other things, puts on a National Asian American Theater Conference and Festival every other year.

At the very first Conference held in Los Angeles in 2006, participants put together a very informal timeline of important events (at least to them!) in Asian American theatre history. Additional dates added since then (Note: dates are not verified).

This year’s Con/Fest will be in Chicago this August. (And CAATA is looking for proposals for panels and performances…deadline is Janaury 15!)


Broadway production  of Onoto Watanna’s (Winnifred Eaton) A Japanese Nightingale, at Daly’s Theater in 1903. First Asian American author produced on Broadway.


Sadakicu plays


Asian American student playwrights begin writing at the University of Hawaii


Winnifred Eaton [1875-1954], the first Asian American novelist and screenwriter, wrote hundreds of screenplays and treatments from 1924 to 1931″:

She is also known as Onoto Watanna. Her IMDB listing is under a married name, “Winifred Reeve. Note: her sister Edith Maud Eaton [1865-1914], writing as “Sui Sin Far,” is held to be “the first person of Chinese ancestry to write in defense of the Chinese in America, countered beliefs widely held at the time that the Chinese were unassimilable [sic], morally corrupt, and corrupting. Sui Sin Far demonstrated that the Chinese were human, like everyone else, but victimized by the laws of the land.” Another sister, Grace (1867-1957), was the first Chinese-American female attorney in Chicago; she went to her law practice every day until her death at age 89″:


Ling-Ai Li & Wai Chee Chun Yee begin writing and become pioneering Asian American women playwrights in Hawaii


The Filipino Manongs came to California (Stockton, etc.) — My dad immigrated to NYC (Nicky P)


Willand Wilson begins collecting student plays at the University of Hawaii Manoa (including Asian American plays)

Early 20th Century

The Forbidden City, San Francisco

The Forbidden City thrives–Asian American Cabaret


Chop Suey Circuit


Japanese American Internment

Going by when the first main camp, Manzanar, opened [March ’42] and the last one, Tule Lake, closed [March ’46].


Dutch & Indonesians in concentration camps under Japanese occupation


The Crimson Kimono debuts starring James Shigeta — one of the first studio marketed films in which an Asian Pacific American gets the girl! ”

Creation of the San Francisco Mime Troupe


Flower Drum Song starring Nancy Kwan was the first TV. performance of Asian American actors and positively influenced Asian identity. We saw ourselves in the media.


Breakfast at Tiffany’s shows a buck tooth stereotype of Japanese man


Immigration Act of 1965 – Relaxation of anti-Asian immigration laws, large wave of Chinese, Filipino and Korean immigration to the US as pent up demand lasts for at least two decades.


Yoko Ono’s appearance on “The Tube” & in the media

Vietnam War

Tanzaman Socialist dance performances


East West Players’ inaugural production of RASHOMON

East West Players is founded – Mako is the founding Artistic Director


Bruce Lee as Kato

Late 1960’s

Collaboration between East West Players and Inner City Cultural Center


Demonstration at Los Angeles Music Center (re) Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen

Late 60’s Early 70’s

Great Asian American actors audition but no roles for Asians


Most consistently multicultural ensemble in SF Bay area and the oldest” political theatre in the nation ”

Kumu Kahua Theatre Honolulu — as a response to the absence of local voices and material in Hawaiian theatre. Local” is an identity shaped by/for largely

Asian American Studies begins

First courses in Asian American Theatre taught at UCLA

Second City establishes improv + sketch comedy as an art form

BITAW — Basic Integrated Theatre Arts Workshop was an educational program created in the Philippines and used in the Philippines and the United States to teach and empower

American Conservatory Theater develops Asian American actors

Indian Sheer Theatre meets Asian American solo performance


Anti-Asian Violence


Country Dinner playhouse toured Teahouse of the August Moon

International Manila Voice Fest



Ping Chong’s Lazarus at La Mama ETC

Production of Chicken Coop Chinaman by Frank Chin, 1st Asian American play produced in New York

Creation of Theatrical Ensember of Asians (which became Asian Exclusion Act, then Northwest Asian American Theatre ) in Seattle

Creation of Asian American Theatre Workshop (later Company) in San Francisco

Coda written by Tri-Am, Alberto Isaac, produced by East West Players

Kearny Street Workshop founded — San Francisco


Chinese Theatre Group Act La Mama Return of the Phoenix

mid 1970’s

Asian Americans protest Broadway parts being given to non-Asian Americans


Nicky Paraiso was the first Asian-Filipino-American to be admitted to NYU’s graduate acting program. Harsh Nayya, a South Asian actor, was in the class a year ahead and Marion Yue was a Japanese American classmate.



Pacific Overtures on Broadway


Pan Asian Rep founded by Tisa Chang

Wakako Yamauchi’s And the Soul Shall Dance at East West Players


Nobuko Miyamoto founds Great Leap – Asian American performing arts organization in Los Angeles ”


New World Theatre founded — Asian American female artistic director — Asian American theatre presented, produced, developed since its founding

David Henry Hwang writes F.O.B. at Stanford

Pacific Asian Actors Ensemble in San Diego founded by Thom Sesma, Gingerlily Lowe, David Tamayo, Kent Brisby, Ed You, & Janine Lowe


East West Players’ productions hit me in my theatrical heart, and I knew someday I wanted to be involved with East West. I got my opportunity in 1991.

AIDS epidemic devastates the theatre world

Paper Angels at Chinese Cultural Center in San Francisco

Reading Fanon & Rustom Barucha

Participating in Street Theater in India — watching Badal Sircar’s extraordinary production Procession

Seattle Group Theatre — multicultural playwrights, festivals, national gatherings


Song for a Nisei Fisherman at Asian American Theatre Company (and Stanford Asian American Theatre Project)


Cold Tofu founded by four women: Marilyn Tokuda, Denice Kumagai, Judy Momii, & Irma Escamilla


Japan America Theater opens its doors


Yellow Fever at Asian American Theater Company and Pan Asian Rep


Chicago’s first Asian American theatre formed: Mina Sama-No

Co-founded by Marc Rita


Yellow Fever by Rick Shiomi in Vancouver Canada


Who Killed Vincent Chin?

Karate Kid with Pat Morita – 1st Asian American born Oscar nominee

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (as a bad thing)


1st Production of David Henry Hwang’s F.O.B. in our Capitol City Sacramento

Creation of Cahoots Theatre Projects in Toronto

The end of Asian Writers Basement Workshops led by Fay Chiong in NYC

Late 1980’s

Velina Hasu Houston’s Tea at San Diego’s old Globe Theatre

Mid 1980’s

Films like Sixteen Candles & Gung Ho portrayed Asian stereotypes and sparked a movement for Asian Americans to fight these stereotypes.



David Henry Hwang wins Tony for M Butterfly


Joy Luck Club written by Amy Tan

Ma-Yi Theatre Company founded in NYC

Chinese Story Theatre (later renamed Asian Story Theatre) founded by Kent Brisby & Gingerlily Lowe

Highways Performance Space founded by Tim Miller & Linda Frye Burnham in Santa Monica, California

Dan Kwong premieres first solo performance, Secrets of The Samurai Centerfielder

Tianamen Square student protests


Exit the Dragon in Berkeley

Development and rise of Asian American stand-up comedy (Margaret Cho)

Production of Yankee Dog You Die at Washington Project F/T Arts



Petition in protest to Colleen Dewhurst & Actor’s Equity regarding non-Asian American casting of Miss Saigon

Miss Saigon Opens, starring Jonathan Pryce & Lea Salonga

The first Gulf War

David Mura’s reading of After We Lost Our Way

Bindlestiff studio in San Francisco founded


Tokyo Bound Amy Hill’s solo show


Chay Yew teaches the Asian Theatre playwriting workshops at the Mark Taper Forum

Early 1990’s

David Henry Hwang Writer’s Institute


Treasure in the House Asian Pacific American performance series born at Highways

note: founded by Dan Kwong


Theater Mu founded

Rich Shiomi writes and Theater Mu produces the first play about Korean Adoption

LA Riots and the subsequent founding of Society of Heritage Performance

NWAAT’s 20th Anniversary

Asian American Renaissance — conference & organization forming in Minneapolis, MN 55407

The Public Theater forms an Asian American Playwrights Lab headed by Chiori Miyagawa with members Sung Rno, Lesli Jo Morizono, Diana Son, Eugenie Chan, Dawn Akemi Saito and Cary Wong.

It is shut down a year later after Artistic Director JoAnne Atkalitis is replaced by George C. Wolfe.


Joy Luck Club the film

Red Earth & Pouring Rain won the Booker (Indo-American novel).

Unbroken Thread published — edited by Roberta Uno and Velina Hasu Houston — the first anthology of plays by Asian American women playwrights.

Canadian premiere of David Henry Hwang’s The Dance and the Railroad

Club O’Noodle – Vietnamese American Theatre Company started

Mid 1990’s

2nd Spoken Word Summit APIA Chicago

Youth Speaks in NYC at the teachers & writer’s collaborative


Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra established — introducing Asian American theatre to the whitest county in California (Nevada County)

All American Girl with Margaret Cho

Asian Boys — Nicky Paraiso’s first full-length performance piece

Dan Kwong’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Asian Men – but Didn’t Give Enough of a Shit to Ask at Japanese American National Museum Los Angeles

Cleveland Raining by Sung Rno

Berkeley Rep’s Woman Warrior

Roger Tang develops Asian American Theatre Review website which links API artists nationally through the world wide web.


Stir-Friday Night! Discovered a fun yet powerful method to show a truthful perspective on the Asian American experience– that method was sketch comedy.

Asian American Repertory Theatre founded in San Diego: Andy Lowe, Vince Sobbrano, Jenn Wong, Donna Maglalang, Jyl Kaneshiro

Peeling the Banana Writing and performing workshop at Asian American Writers Workshop – NYC

note: founded by Gary San Angel

Lapu (UCLA’s Asian American Theatre group) founded

Ann Bogart’s Still Co. – Suzuki Summer Program


Asian Arts Institute – First nonprofit community arts center targeted to Asian American forms.

RAW – Real Asian Woman Talk (performance art/dance) at the Walker Art Center. Shared stage with Denise Uyehara & Canyon Sam


Produce APIA Arts Initiative @ Pomona College hosting readings of John Song/ Judy Soo Hoo, & Michael Premsirat’s plays.

Late 1990’s

New World Theater’s Third World American Theatre Conference

Introducing & directing South Asian play at regional theatre

San Francisco Chronicle article on interracial dating: Asian women and Caucasian Men

Spoken word turned theatre

Journey to the West at Berkeley Rep


Asian American Women Playwrights archive founded at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It becomes a national repository of plays, interviews, photos, etc.

Josephine Lee’s publication of Performing Asian America

API 101 at Asian American Theater Company

Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center founded

Ching Valdes Aran-Obie — best performance, Flipzoids @ Ma-Yi Theatre

Scholarly work by Josephine Lee’s Performing Asian America

Asian American Theatre Listserv aa-drama established

Import of Hong Kong Box Office stars like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat.


Making Tracks NY Musical Workshop


First the Forrest worked with Dipankar Mukherjee in one-woman show

Dan Kwong & Gary San Angel introduced an all Asian American performance workshop in Philadelphia

Pork Filled Players (later Pork Filled Productions) is formed in Seattle.

East West Players moves into new 240-seat Equity theater in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo

Something to Say performance group at Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia

East is East Premieres in NYC

World Premiere of Dogeaters at La Jolla Playhouse

Hapa Performance Weekend @ Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica

East West Players produces first Thai-American play Big Hunk O’ Burnin’ Love by Prince Gomolvilas

In Vancouver, the Asian Canadian population constituted 40% of the general population, but we were not represented at all on stage in Vancouver. Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (VACT) was born to right this injustice.

Resurrection of Stanford Asian American Theater Project (a group started by David Henry Hwang). Sean Lim of AATC involved as student.


Lodestone’s inaugural production of TEXAS

Conference at Seattle’s Northwest Asian American Theatre

Singapore Festival of the Arts hosts Los Angeles based playwright of Dutch, Indonesian, & Spanish Apache descent. If I Only Had a Heart Made Out of Levi’s written by Annette Jilts Jacobs

Mighty Mountain Warriors & Latina Theater Lab & Culture Clash collaborate and create a piece.

Lodestone Theatre Ensemble founded in Los Angeles

Manhattan Theatre Club and The New Group collaborate to produce UK play East is East in NYC with mostly South Asian cast

Jooks Songs Performance Group at Yale University

(founded by Dave Lin, original member of Peeling the Banana, NY)

Generasian — Next teen theater troupe starts its first season at the Asian Arts Initiative.

I Was Born with Two Tongues founded using the idea of “Asian American Identity” through powerful and proficiently worded spoken word poetry.

Sirenz — women’s multi-ethnic spoken word group founded in response to white supremicist hate crimes in Illinois


A Jive Bombers Christmas 2nd Generation continues the tradition at the Japanese American National Museum

TeAda Productions — JACCC — Hawaii artists in Los Angeles

SIS Productions (Seattle) is formed

Roberta Uno’s reading of her anthology Unbroken Thread

Disha Theatre — The first South Asian theatre company in New York City launches at Dialectica Art Gallery.


Teada Productions presents Native Immigrant at JAT in Little Tokyo

1st APIA Spoken Word & Poetry Summit in Seattle

Karen Shimakawa’s National Abjection

Mango Tribe, a collective of 30 APIA women from Chicago, NYC, Minneapolis, LA — produces Sisters in the Smoke in Chicago at the Vittum Theater in response to violence within APIA communities.

Mellow Yellow’s 1st show opens two weeks after the events of September 11, 2001

American Desi released — 1st major Indo-American independent film nationally released


Better Luck Tomorrow opens (grassroots community, globalization)

YAWP begins in Chicago!

1st TeAda workshop featuring Kristina Wong, Ova Saopeng, & Robert Karimi

Leadership shift and new direction at Asian American Theater Co. of San Francisco. Sean Lim starts as Artistic Director.

Great Leap’s Sacred Moon Songs at East West Players with Asian. Chicano

Flower Drum Song by David Henry Hwang opens — Asian American patronage extend the run

Sex in Seattle: Episode II — other women influence Vancouver Asian Canadian theatre productions

Sex in Seattle is the country’s longst running serial drama for stage.

YAWP Young Asians with Power workshop

Chop! Chop! Asian American Artists collective show


2nd Asian American Spoken Word &Poetry Summit in Chicago

World Premiere of Precious Stones by Jamil Khoury — Chicago

Mango Tribe produces Sisters in the Smoke in New York at HERE Arts Center — sold-out run!

Bombay Dreams produced on Broadway with mostly South Asian cast by Andrew Lloyd Weber

Ushering in the new generation of Asian Canadian plays and artists (Little Dragon, China Doll, Banana Boys) consistent, continuous, constant

Beau Sia, Stacey Ann Chinn, & Suheir Hamad receive Tony Award for Def Poetry Jam


Taiko Project (re)generation — 1st major taiko theatrical production tours in the US


Harold & Kumar opens with two Asian American leads

Dogeaters — LA production

Theater Mu collaborates with Park Square Theater on the first all Asian American cast musical in MN with Pacific Overtures

Co-playwright in With love from Ramallah First Arab-American production in the upper Midwest.

National Performance Network Conference in Los Angeles

Opening night of Remains at Mo’olelo Performing Arts Co. San Diego

Pipe Dreams and Paper Trails at Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco

Mango Tribe performs 2nd production The Creation Mythology Project

Henry Street Settlement in NYC.

M Butterfly production by East West Players

Tea by Velina Hasu Houston in Chicago

The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow at The Old Globe


Premiere of F.O.P. Fresh off the Plane at AATC by Sean Lim

3rd APIA Spoken Word & Poetry Summit in Boston

A Korean couple on Lost the television show

Haruki Murakami’s After the Quake premieres at Chicago’s Steppenwoolf Theater

Lodestone Theatre Ensemble production of Aziatik Nation

YAWP Young Asians with Power benefit in Chicago Untranslatable

As Vishnu Dreams at East West Players in collaboration with Cornerstone Theatre

Guantanamo at Culture Project

World premiere of Amazing Leap of Faith

Asian American Arts Initiative writing and performance workshop

Self (the remix) opens in Alaska

AATC and Bindlestiff Studio production of Sleeper (a chronicle of the return of the remarkable)


Touring work of Youth Speaks through Living Project Rep.


Making Tracks in San Jose — Asians can sing and have incredible talent!

Kristina Wong is awarded creative capital award in theatre to create new work on mental illness among Asian woman

TeAda Lab development & open rehearsal at Angels Gate Cultural Center

Scholarly work by Esther Kim Lee History of Asian American Theatres

Mango Tribe develops 3rd production Un/knowing Desire and Empire at New World Theater summer play lab

1st collaboration between CATS and a professional theatre group, the Word for Word Theatre Co. in SF, bringing Amy Tan’s Immortal Heart to Nevada

Grace Lee Project

Mango Tribe & Asian Arts Initiative collaborate on a residency exploring gentrification as an intensive workshop for artists across the country

Another Heaven depiction of Asian dilemma as indentured labor in Hawaii – produced by Kuma Kahua Theatre

Asian American Theatre Conference hosted by East West Players in Los Angeles

Mako passes away, July 21.

SIS Productions (Seattle) launches Insatiable, the Seattle Asian American Playwrights’ Festival


I Land solo performance by Keo Woolford & Roberta Uno

Launching of Canada’s 1st Asian-Canadian Drama Anthology (acknowledging/recognizing the body of work we love).


First National Asian American Theatre Festival held in New York City.


Second National Asian American Theatre Conference, Minneapolis, MN


Second National Asian American Theatre Festival, held in New York City.

Azeotrope debuts in Seattle.

Silk Road Theatre debuts South Asian Playwrights website


Qui Ngyen’s Vampire Cowboys Theatre wins special Obie

Shunya Theatre founded in Houston (?)


Third National Asian American Theatre Conference/Festival in Los Angeles, CA

Chay Yew named Artistic Director for Victory Garden Theatre, Chicago, IL

Artists at Play founded in Los Angeles, CA

National APIA Spoken Word Poetry Summit, 2011: Twin Cities!



Here Lies Love opens at the Public.

TEA opens in Colorado


Fourth National Asian American Theatre Conference/Festival in Philadelphia, PA

The Kilroys list debuts (Carla Ching is one of the organizers)


National New Play Exchange debuts

The McKnight Foundation has named Minnesota playwright, director, producer, theater artist, and musician Rick Shiomi as the 2015 McKnight Distinguished Artist, in recognition of artistic excellence spanning four decades.

Ruthie Ann Miles wins Tony for The King and I.

Eric Ting named Artistic Director at California Shakespeare

Fresh off the Boat debuts on ABC

Asian American Set Designer, Mimi Lien, a MacArthur Genius Award Fellow



Vietgone, by Qui Nguyen, opens at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (with first all Asian American cast at OSF); win slew of awards

Fifth National Asian American Theatre Conference in Ashland, OR, with Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Beyond Orientalism co-hort launched by Theatre Communications Group

Tradewinds opens shop in Kansas City

Ma-Yi establishes residencies in Seattle and San Francisco


Kim’s Convenience debuts on Canadian TV

Christopher Chen’s Caught wins Obie


PAPA (Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists) debuts in Philadelphia, PA

Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men opens on Broadway (first Asian American female playwright to do so)