fu-GEN (“Future Generation”) strives to empower Asian-Canadian theatre artists to create and work with material that examines contemporary issues. The demographic of Asian-Canadians with whom fu-GEN usually works are Canadians who exist not between cultures, but as part of Canada’s culture as a whole. This means that the plays created by the artists do not have to be focused solely on “traditional” Asian stories of ancestry and immigration, but rather they explore contemporary issues that Asians face in Canada today.
Company History | 2002 to 2008
Founded in January 2002, fu-GEN is determined to carve out a space in the Canadian cultural landscape for vibrant Asian-Canadian voices. In five years, fu-GEN has launched six highly successful major projects. This includes two full-scale productions in association with Factory Theatre, one of Toronto’s first and still existing alternative theatre companies that continues to produce exclusively Canadian content on its mainstage and secondary stage.
fu-GEN launched with Love and RelASIANships, a series of excerpts from work by Asian-North American playwrights. Development work with theatre professionals of Tale of a Mask by veteran writer Terry Watada followed in 2003, marking the first professional workshop of a play by fu-GEN.
Beginning with a workshop of Leon Aureus’ adaptation of Terry Woo’s novel of the same name, fu-GEN began developing Banana Boys the following year. Next, the company produced David Yee’s filial at the SummerWorks festival in 2003. The following year marked the first Potluck Festival, following a year-long playwright’s lab, dubbed The Kitchen. The Potluck Festival became an annual event, held during Factory Theatre’s CrossCurrents Festival, the Theatre’s new play development festival dedicated to playwrights of colour.
Also in 2004, fu-GEN produced the world premiere of Banana Boys, which garnered critical acclaim and played to sold-out houses. Banana Boys went on to the Magnetic North Festival in Ottawa in 2005 and was remounted in Toronto in the fall as a co-production with Factory Theatre. Banana Boys garnered two Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations. The Dora Mavor Moore Award is a Canadian award presented annually by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, which honours Canadian theatre, opera and dance productions.
In 2006, fu-GEN was nominated for their outstanding work in the Asian community by the Association of Chinese Canadian Entrepreneurs. In October of that year, the company held its first Fire Gala, the highly successful and popular fundraising event at Toronto’s Bright Pearl Restaurant. In January 2007, the company returned to Factory Theatre with the world premiere of Catherine Hernandez’s Singkil. This production garnered much critical praise and was nominated for seven Dora Mavor Moore awards that year.
In August 2007, fu-GEN produced a third full-length show, the world premiere of David Yee’s paper series, as part of Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival. This production was a great critical success, and was remounted at the City of Toronto’s inaugural DARK Festival.
In June 2008, fu-GEN expanded The Potluck Festival to six nights. This showcased seven plays in various stages of creation, culminating in public readings at the Factory Theatre over the six days and nights as well as an off-site reading presented with Cahoots Theatre Projects. The week-long festival also showcased 15-minute excerpts of plays written by fu-GEN’s playwriting unit, The Kitchen. The Fifth Annual Potluck Festival featured new works by some of Canada’s emerging Asian-Canadian playwrights including David Yee, Insurp Choi, Terry Watada, Byron Abalos, Marie-Leofeli R. Barlizo and Norman Lup-Man Yeung.
In November 2008, in association with Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, fu-GEN’s remounted a production of Banana Boys at Hart House Theatre featuring an all-new cast.
In the company’s six years of existence, fu-GEN has moved from doing workshops to producing full-scaled productions co-produced by some of Toronto’s leading theatre companies. They have moved from an out-of-home office (run by Nina Lee Aquino and Richard Lee) to an office with its own rehearsal space and a staff of six, plus a five-member Board of Directors. Their rehearsal space is also rented out (for a highly subsidized fee) to other Asian theatre companies and artists. The space has become commonly known in the Toronto theatre community as a space in which Asian-Canadian artists can do their work with strong support.
- Leon Aureus | Dora Award-nominated actor; published and produced playwright; founding member of fu-GEN
- Marjorie Chan | Dora Award-winning actor; Governor General-nominated playwright (produced and published)
- Marty Chan | Playwright (produced and published)
- Insurp Choi | Noted actor
- Richard Lee | Dora Award-nominated actor for Little Dragon and Banana Boys. Also noted fight director and sound designer
- Dale Yim | Noted actor and stage manager
- Derek Kwan | Noted actor
- David Yee | Playwright (produced and published)
(Five listed above are the original Banana Boys – Dora Award-nominated ensemble)
- Catherine Hernandez | Dora Award-nominated playwright
- Simon Johnston | Artistic Director, Gateway Theatre, Richmond, B.C.; Playwright (produced)
- Camellia Koo | Dora Award-winning set/costume designer
- Rose Cortez | Dora Award-nominated actor
- Paul Sun-Hyung Lee | Noted film/television/theatre actor
- Keira Loughran | Theatre actor and playwright (produced); Artistic Director of K’Now Theatre Company
- Jane Luk | Noted film/television/ theatre actor
- John Ng | Noted theatre actor and playwright (published)
- David Oiye | Artistic Director, Buddies and Bad Times Theatre, Toronto
- Mieko Ouchi | Actor; Playwright (produced and published)
- Betty Quan | Playwright (produced and published)
- Nadine Villasin | Artistic Director, Carlos Bulosan Theatre, Toronto; Playwright (produced and published) and actor
- Romeo Candido | Dora Award-nominated sound designer; Award-winning filmmaker
- Jovanni Sy | Artistic Director, Cahoots Theatre Projects, Toronto; film/television/theatre actor
- Diana Tso | Part of Dora Award-winning ensemble
- Jean Yoon | Noted film/television/theatre actor; Playwright (produced and published); Television and radio writer; Founder of Loud Mouthed Asian Babes Theatre Company, Toronto.
- Nicco Lorenzo Garcia | Dora Award-winning actor
- Waylen Miki | Dora Award-winning sound designer
- Sherry Yoon | Artistic Director of Boca del Lupo Theatre Company, Vancouver; playwright (produced) and actor
- Adrienne Wong | Actor and playwright
- Sandra Oh | Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor; Graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada
- Ginger Ruriko Busch | Film and theatre actor; Graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada
- Ella Chan | Dora Award-nominated actor
- Ma-Anne Dionsio | Noted actor; Appeared in the Canadian premiere of Miss Saigon.
- Grace Lynn Kung | Film/television/theatre actor
- Bobby Del Rio | Playwright (produced and published)
- Russell Yuen | Noted actor
- Kyra Harper | Theatre director and actor
- Terry Watada | Playwright (published and produced); poet and novelist
- Siu Ta | Noted actor; Award-winning filmmaker
- Nina Lee Aquino | Playwright (published and produced); Dora Award-nominated Director and Artistic Director of fu-GEN Theatre Company
- Brenda Kamino | Founding Artistic Director of Emerald City, Chicago
- Sean Baek | Noted actor
- Denis Akiyama | Noted actor
- Joy Kogawa | Novelist and poet; Internment camp survivor
- Rick Shiomi | Playwright (produced and published) and director
- Donna Yamamoto | Noted film/television/theatre Actor
- Maiko Bae Yamamoto | Noted actor; Playwright (produced and published); Founding member of Boca del Lupo Theatre Company, Vancouver
- Derrick Chua | Noted theatre producer
- Jocelyn Hublau | Noted film producer
- Voltaire de Leon | Artistic Director, Diwata Works, Toronto; Playwright
- Martha Ocampo | Founding member of Carlos Bulosan Theatre Company, Toronto
- Fely Villasin | Founding member of Carlos Bulosan Theatre Company, Toronto
- Jason Maghanoy | Playwright (published and produced); Graduate of the National Theatre School playwriting program
- Sally Han | Noted theatre director
- Shelly Hong | Noted actor
- M.J. Kang | Dora Award-nominated Playwright (produced and published)
- Ken Pak | Noted film and theatre actor
- William Lau | Chinese Opera performer and chorographer
- Marie Barlizo | First artist of colour graduate of the National Theatre School Playwriting program (2002)
New Play Development at fu-GEN Asian-Canadian Theatre Company
fu-GEN is dedicated to the development of professional Asian-Canadian theatre artists through the production of new and established works. The company’s mission is:
- To produce works of Asian-North American playwrights, and foster new works by emerging playwrights;
- To explore and address issues of Asian-North American’s societal roles; responsibilities and identity in the past, present and future through our artistic endeavours;
- To build a stronger, truly multicultural Canadian community by breaking down stereotypes through education and development of a strong cultural artistic base.
fu-GEN’s vision is to “create a home for Asian-Canadian theatre artists and their work. We want to be the ones to see the dreams of talented Asian-Canadian theatre artists through to realization. We want to be the stepping-stone to their emerging and establishing careers, the place to practice and hone their craft. We want to be an integral part of their artistic journey and growth. We exist to make our artists and our stories visible in the theatre community, the Toronto community, and the Canadian community at large.”
The Kitchen is fu-GEN’s annual playwriting unit, which entered its fifth year in 2008. A small group of playwrights, selected by artistic director Nina Lee Aquino, met over a period of twelve months to create a new work or further develop an existing piece.
The Kitchen is a supportive environment where playwrights are given the dramaturgical support to complete a draft of a play. At the end of twelve months the development workshops culminate in The Potluck Festival, an annual showcase event that features staged readings of the new plays. Each of the playwrights is partnered with a professional Canadian director/dramaturg who stages the reading for a general public audience.
In addition to The Kitchen and The Potluck Festival, fu-GEN also has two artist residencies: one for a playwright and the other for a designer. This past year, the positions were held, respectively, by playwright David Yee and designer Camellia Koo. The 2008 playwright in residence is Marie Beath Badian.
fu-GEN also holds the responsibility in the theatre community as one of the third party recommenders for the Ontario Arts Council’s Theatre Creators’ Reserve (TCR), a program designed to give artists the financial means to complete the first draft of a work. In 2007-2008, fu-GEN was able to recommend support for five artists in the Toronto Asian-Canadian Community.