Thursday, June 2, 2016

Spotlight On...Jason Tseng

Name: Jason Tseng

Hometown: Potomac, MD

Education: University of Richmond

Favorite Credits: This is my first produced play, so I guess... this one?

Why theater?: Theater asks us to be present and engaged in a way that many other art forms do not. I also love how much power our collective imagination can create. Especially since I write a lot in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, I am constantly amazed how an actor's gesture, or a subtle sound cue can achieve the same effect on stage that would cost $10,000 of a Hollywood film special effects budget.

Tell us about Rizing: Rizing is an AIDS-allegory-cum-zombie thriller, set after the zombiepocalypse, the last city in the world, new drugs allow management of the zombie disease, but the surviving society is deeply splintered across both sides of the disease. The Z-negative government places strict draconian controls on the Z-positive former zombies, who struggle to make a life of their own with few resources. The play's characters find themselves at opposing sides of this divide and are forced to struggle to find a way to live with or destroy each other.

What inspired you to write Rizing?: I was inspired to write the play after a close friend described how the 1980s AIDS Crisis was still impacting his love life. His partner survived the crisis (they are a mixed-status couple) and the way in which the disease impacts their intimacy was profound, tragic, and deeply moving. The play actually started out as a play about HIV/AIDS, but I wanted to tell a Queer story with the themes of the AIDS crisis without constantly trapping queer characters within our current society's limitations of homophobia and racism. So, when I shifted the narrative to work in a zombie genre, it really allowed me to talk about a lot of other oppressed communities and how they brush up against hegemonic power.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I tend to dislike naturalistic, slice-of-life plays. I'm a huge fan of magical realism and theatre that is allowed to lean on the audience's imagination. I'm also a huge fan of physical or movement based theatre. Matthew Bourne is actually a big inspiration for me (despite his commercial appeal). Funnily enough, I actually don't see a lot of theatre, given that I am a playwright.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Oh gosh, I've been such a big fan of Third Rail Projects and their productions (Then She Fell and The Grand Paradise). I'm deeply interested in exploring immersive and interactive performance and I think they do it in such a smart and interesting way. That, and I'm friends with one of the originators of their Alice in Then She Fell, Tara O'Con, so it doesn't feel entirely impossible or out of reach... :)

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Most of the theatre I watch doesn't run long enough for me to recommend to many people, but I am such a huge and utterly big fan of Mac Roger's Honeycomb Trilogy. All the folks at Gideon Productions are swell and I love everything they put out. I'm also a huge and rabid fan of Montserrat Mendez's work, particularly Thoroughly Stupid Things, his unofficial sequel to The Importance of Being Earnest. I grew up on BBC dress up dramas and seeing Wilde's flair for satire brought to the next level was everything. I also can't say enough nice things about Taylor Mac. I find him magnetic as a performer, but I was mesmerized by his production The Lily's Revenge. It was 5 hours of pure surreal bliss.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: It'd be called "Fem, Fat, and Asian" and if I cast it myself, I'd probably be played by Alec Mapa. But if Hollywood was casting, they'd probably cast Tilda Swinton.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Our American Cousin at the Ford Theatre in 1865. I'd go back in time with a tazer and prevent Lincoln's assassination, and thereby altering the timestream... because my life goal is to become either the Doctor or Kang the Conqueror... basically, I want as confusing a character continuity as possible.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Drop Dead Diva. I watch it all the time when I'm working on comics. You don't even have to look at the screen to follow what's going on! Plus Margaret Cho's on it.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Making comics... which I do already, but probably more successfully.

What’s up next?: I'm working on a queer Asian rom com inspired by my partner's coming out to his family. It's called AirBnB and it's about a Gay Asian couple who stage an AirBnB apartment as one of their own when a parent makes an impromptu visit. It's melodramatic and unrealistic, just like me! I'm also in the beginning stages of a period drama set in turn of the 20th century colonial Hong Kong. It'd basically Downton Abbey in Hong Kong and with a biracial lead. Hoorah!

For more on Rizing, visit For more on Jason, visit and