WOMEN SHAPING HISTORY 2012
Tisa Chang: Founder,
Pan Asian Repertory Theater
What inspired you to pursue your current career?
After many years as a dancer and aspiring actress I became a creator and director at LaMama ETC in the early 70’s when I asked Ellen Stewart to direct an adaptation of a famous Chinese Peking opera, Return of the Phoenix, into a 5 character, intimate comedy with music using both English and Chinese. This work was a tribute to my mother, whose untimely death so traumatized me and this was my way of saying thank you and goodbye to her.
What are some of the challenges you have faced and how did you resolve them?
Founding a non-profit ethnic company, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, on a shoestring budget in the early years without a financial base was really scary and I had to make sacrifices in order to keep the work going; challenges help to define values, e.g. what is of real worth vs. what is temporary celebrity.
What are some of the accomplishments you’re proudest of?
Pan Asian’s international tours as cultural bridge building representing the United States in Cairo and Johannesburg Theatre Festivals in 1995 and to Havana in 2003.
Who have been the most influential mentors in your life?
James Lipton as personal friend in my early years and Ellen Stewart who was my mother on earth and whose La Mama ETC gave my AA artists and me a home.
What would you describe as a turning point in your life?
Seeing Martha Graham dance as CLYTEMNESTRA in 1959 - that was the perfect fusion of theatre, music and dance and shaped my directing work and my choice of projects for Pan Asian Rep.
What are your future goals?
We are celebrating our 35th anniversary this year with a Gala on March 19 and my goal is to ensure Pan Asian Rep’s future with a permanent home in New York and with ongoing partnerships to Hawaii and Asian countries that have been the source material of so many of our original plays and musicals.