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Community acts: Locating Pilipino -American theater and performance

Lucy Mae San Pablo Burns, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Community Acts: Locating Pilipino American Theater and Performance explores Pilipino American subject and community formation through the creative work of Pilipino American theater artists from the 1970s to the present. I contend that performance functions as the paradigmatic site of resistance and contestation in Pilipino American community formation. Community Acts locates the emergence of Pilipino American theater in multiple geopolitical and critical contexts, and is thus informed by studies of theater in U.S. diasporic communities of color and by studies of theater in the Philippines. This study accounts for a transnational formation of Pilipino American culture, from the historical legacy of multiple colonialisms to the current movements of global capitalism. Chapter One focuses on Sining Bayan, a theater group that existed as a cultural arm to the progressive political organization Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP). In its eight-year existence, Sining Bayan was the only theater group that consistently critiqued U.S. imperial practices from the perspective of working-class Pilipino America. Chapter Two examines the early works of two performance artists and writers, Jessica Hagedorn and Paul Stephen Lim, to foreground their construction of Pilipino American subjectivity as always mediated through multiple and often competing racial formations. In Chapter Three, I read the works of contemporary theater productions of Pilipino American artists vis a vis the long-running Broadway show Miss Saigon. I argue that there is a mutually generative relationship between what is often produced as oppositional sites of mainstream productions such as Miss Saigon and feminist performances. Chapter Four discusses the formation of professional and community-based theater companies in the 1990s. I argue that the establishment of organizations such as the Ma-yi Theater Ensemble and QBd Ink both provides and problematizes the project and ideology of community structures. By focusing on different contemporary artistic mobilizations around performance and Pilipino racial identity, this project foregrounds a new archive in the study of Pilipino diasporas, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. Community Acts thus extends and contributes to the growing body of scholarly writings on race and performativity, as well as the role of community-based cultural projects in social change.

Subject Area

Theater|American studies|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Burns, Lucy Mae San Pablo, "Community acts: Locating Pilipino -American theater and performance" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3118287.