The Liangshan Project is a groundbreaking international theater collaboration between Chinese artists belonging to the Yi ethnic minority and a diverse group of American theater artists. This project offers a unique opportunity for artists of from both countries to share the heritage of marginalized communities and bear witness to prevailing divisions.
With the support of a China Cultural Grant and Arts Envoy Grant from the U.S. State Department, Gung Ho Projects is partnering with the Liangshan Media Group to support a joint collaboration between New York-based American artists and Chinese theater artists from the Liangshan autonomous prefecture of Sichuan province. Situated in the mountains of Western China, Liangshan is the home of over two million people belonging to the Nuosu minority group. For over fifty years, the Liangshan Media Group has shared the dance and musical tradition of the Nuosu with audiences throughout China and abroad.
Working from a shared narrative source, the artists will draw on a variety of languages and performance traditions to create a multilingual play incorporating folk music from both Liangshan and Appalachia. Together the group will explore the legacies and reverberations of slavery and racial and familial discord in both China and the United States as well as what happens when an encounter between disparate groups results in a clash between individual desires and shared tradition.
Partners and Process
In 2015, Gung Ho Projects was awarded a Cultural Award from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as well as an Arts Envoy Grant from the State Department to initiate a collaboration with theater artists in Sichuan Province. Liangshan Media Group joined as a co-producing partner for the project in summer 2016.
In May 2017, the Lark Play Development Center hosted the Chinese and American artists for a creative retreat. During this time, the artist shared community and family histories, past artistic work, and initial structural and thematic ideas for the piece. The Chinese artists also attended multiple performances in New York and met with theater industry professionals.
In June 2018, the Drama League hosted the American create team and cast for a two day retreat to workshop initial scenes and songs for the English-language narrative of the piece.
In August 2018, the full creative team and ensemble of ten performers from both countries will spend a month in Sichuan province to develop and rehearse an early version of the piece. The group will present preview performances for government representatives and industry professionals in Chengdu at Jinsha Theater on August 31st and September 1st and in Beijing at Tianqiao Theater on September 4th and 5th, 2018.
Our Creative Team
Michael Leibenluft (Director)
Michael is an Obie Award winning director originally from Chevy Chase, Maryland. Michael's directing credits include I’ll Never Love Again (a chamber piece) by Clare Barron at the Bushwick Starr (Obie Award for Direction, 2016; NYT and Time Out Critics’ Picks), How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel with Drum Tower West Theater in Beijing, Lost Tribe by Alex Borinsky as part of Target Margin’s Yiddish Theater Lab, The Subtle Body by Megan Campisi at 59E59 Theaters and the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center, and other projects with LMCC, The Civilians, EST, and NYU/Tisch.
Michael has assistant directed at Signature Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Atlantic Theatre, P73, and American Theater Company. He is an alum of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, as well as a former Fulbright Fellow, SDCF Kurt Weill Fellow, and Drama League Fall Directing Fellow.
Michael graduated from Yale as a double major in Theater Studies and East Asian Studies and completed his Masters in Performance Studies at the Shanghai Theatre Academy. Michael is the founder of Gung Ho Projects, an educational and cultural exchange platform dedicated to increasing understanding between the U.S. and China.
Li Ting is a first level national playwright, and director of the Chinese Dramatist’s Association. She is a recipient of a specially awarded state allowance for accomplished artists and academics. Her international collaborations include We Once Let It Go with the West Yorkshire Playhouse in England and The Bridge Over the Three Gorges at the U.K.’s Briton Theater Festival. In 2014 she collaborated with a British choreographer to bring the original piece I Breathe to Avignon Theater Festival. Her major works in China include Future Unity, which earned the country’s highest prize for dramatic writing, The 29th Tree (winner of a national cultural prize), the opera Red Yi (winner of the Chinese National Opera Festival), Don’t Forget Abuluoha, Journey in the Autumn Leaves, The Farmer, Soul of Streams, and the musicals Burning Snow and Grass House.
Liu Dangqing (Composer)
Dangqing is a composer and music producer. He is the Executive Director of Yousheng Music Production company. He has produced albums for notable musicians including Jiang Yang Zhuo Ma, Sun Lu, Tan Weiwei, Liao Chang Yong, among many others. He composed music for Yi Red, a large-scale Chinese folk musical in 2015. He served as Music Director for The 2016 13th Annual Sports Competition Opening Ceremony, Chengdu. In 2017 Liu received China Art Fund to produce music for the musical Silk Road Love Song. Liu sang in China Have Courage, Sichuan Get Stronger!, which commemorates the courage of those lost in the Wenchuan Earthquake. The song has been listened to by 10 million people. He is the CEO of Taoge China, a platform that promotes musicians through song production, copyright trading, artist brokage, and event planning. Liu also serves as Vice President and Secretary of Sichuan Province Folk Music Association.
Korde Arrington Tuttle (Playwright)
Korde is a playwright from Charlotte, NC. His work has been developed and seen at the Ojai Playwrights Conference, Roundabout Underground, 59E59, New York Stage and Film, the Obie Award-winning The Fire This Time Festival, The 24-Hour Plays: Nationals, the Obie Award-winning Harlem 9’s 48 Hours… in Harlem at The National Black Theatre, HomeBase Theatre Collective, and The Movement Theater Company. Korde is a recipient of the Steinberg Playwriting Fellowship, NYSAF’s 2018 Founders’ Award, 2018 Falco/Steinman Commission Award at Playwrights Horizons, 2018 Playwrights Initiative Fellowship at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and was selected as a finalist for both the 2017 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Contest and City Theatre National Award for Short Playwriting Contest. Korde is a current playwright-in-residence at Lincoln Center Theater, a Resident Artist at Ars Nova, and is a Middle Voice Theatre Company member at Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater. His debut collection of haiku and photography, falling is the one thing i, was published by Candor Arts, in May 2018. Korde received his MFA in Playwriting at The New School.
Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby (Composers)
Martha and Aaron perform with a “band of NYC’s finest blues and jazz musicians” (Larry Blumenthal-Wall Street Journal). From humble beginnings in downtown NYC, to concerts across Native American communities for their Billboard Magazine acclaimed CD “Home of the Brave” the team has built a passionate and loyal fan base. Their album “Skintalk” is included in the Library Collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. Commissioned by Joe’s Pub and the Public Theater in NY, the team’s newest work is Daughter of the Hills, a musical theater piece inspired by the lives of Redbone’s family in the coalmining hills of Appalachia. In 2017 the team have also completed commissions “Bone Hill: The Concert” for NY Voices/Joe’s Pub/Public Theater, "Plurality of Privacy" project for the New York Theater Workshop, and are contributing composers for "Primer for a Failed Superpower" directed by Rachel Chavkin. Redbone/Whitby are award recipients of the prestigious New England Foundation for the Arts Grant, National Performers Network Fund, Lincoln Center for the Arts and MAP Fund. Redbone is a 2015/16 Fellow of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.
Our American Ensemble Members
Karma is an actor, vocalist, composer Karma Mayet has performed across the U.S. and internationally. In the New York theater, she’s appeared extensively Off Broadway, on stages including The Public Theater, New Dramatists, and The Joyce. Karma is composer/librettist of Indigo, a Blues opera. She’s taught improvisation as a transformative tool in community advocacy for 20 years, and has worked with artists including Meshell Ndegeocello, Bill T. Jones, and The Roots.
Erin Margaret Pettigrew
Erin is a first generation Belizean-American artist, actor, and mover from Los Angeles, California. She holds a BFA and MFA in Acting from UC Santa-Barbara and The New School for Drama. Based in NYC, she has had the pleasure of developing her artist’s journey alongside creators and collaborators at: Manhattan Theater Club, New York Theater Workshop, Joe’s Pub at The Public and others. Together with her communities, collaborators, and tribe, she dedicates her art and craft to the hope, healing, and heralding of love and light.
Stephen is an actor based in New York City. Most recently Stephen played Feliks in the Obie-winning play Descibe The Night at Atlantic Theatre Co. Other theatre credits: Archduke (world premiere, Mark Taper Forum); Great Expectations (Portland Center Stage); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare Theatre Co., DC and Macau); Aspen Ideas Festival (dir. Lonny Price); Every Good Girl Deserves Fun (by Heidi Armbruster). TV credits: The Good Fight (CBS) and Z: The Beginning of Everything (Amazon). MFA: NYU Grad Acting. www.stephenstocking.com
Reggie D. White
Off-Broadway: Hundred Days (NYTW, Public Theater - UTR), I & You (59E59 Theaters), For The Last Time (Clurman Theatre). Other Theatrical Credits include: The Bluest Eye (Arden Theatre), And She Would Stand Like This (The Movement Theatre Company), The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (People's Light), Frontieres Sans Frontieres (Bushwick Starr), The Last Tiger in Haiti (La Jolla Playhouse/Berkeley Rep), Party People (Berkeley Rep). Film & TV: Gotham, Blindspot, The Parent ‘Hood, “Buzzer”, “Medias Res”, “Stranger In Blood”. Training: Atlantic Theater School, Cal State Hayward. Reggie is also a Barrymore & NAACP Award Nominee and a recipient of the TCG Fox Fellowship.