Exclusive Q&A: Mia Katigbak from NAATCO & The Public’s OUT OF TIME
NAATCO (The National Asian American Theatre Company) and The Public Theater present OUT OF TIME, five monologues written by five award-winning Asian American playwrights, all performed by Asian American actors over the age of 60. We got to chat with playwright, actor, and co-founder of NAATCO, Mia Katigbak.
Stage Right Secrets | How did you come up with the concept of OUT OF TIME?
Mia Katigbak | It was really Les Waters’ idea. He’d come to see a show I was doing a couple of weeks before lock-down, and told me about a dance concert he’d just seen which featured long solos for older dancers. The choreography did not make any concessions to age and it was clearly and gloriously demanding. Les started to riff on a monologue marathon, all featuring characters over 60. We started to fantasize about the playwrights we’d engage to write these monologues and Les figured 7:00 pm to 7:00 am the following day would be the span of the performance. Then George Floyd’s killing happened, I was totally dejected and trying to pull myself out of despair. I asked Les if he would consider just five monologues all written by Asian Americans for Asian American characters. The prompt would be to write about the moment. He agreed, and he came up with the title, Out of Time.
You are making history as the first show in New York Theatre to be made specifically for older Asian Americans. Dare we ask, what took so long?
To clarify, the show’s intent is specifically to center older Asian American actors. Older Asian American audiences are vibrant, regular NAATCO attendees. Perhaps my advancing years made me more aware of the lack of roles for us. NAATCO was founded primarily to serve Asian American actors of all ages, and we’ve been doing that for more than 30 years. History shows us that cultural change and transformation takes a very long time, but it is certainly not for lack of trying and we continue to be determined. Yes, you’re right to ask, what’s taking so long? I don’t think you should be asking us, though. The question is probably better put to non-Asian Americans.
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Do you have a dream role to play?
You know, not really. Maybe Shakespeare’s Juliet? I sometimes think she’s a 40-year old in a 14-year-old’s body. But I’ve gotten to the point in my life when I won’t accept a role unless I really love it and then that’s the dream role of the moment. There was a time, though, that I wanted to do Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain. She was such a hoot, and I was always getting tagged to play these serious roles.
What advice would you give to young minority actors or playwrights?
Hone your craft, know your history, imagine, be ravenous for artistic and experiential nourishment, don’t be afraid to ask.
What can people like myself who are not Asian, do to support the community? Are there any misconceptions you wish to break?
Come to our shows. Experience and begin to understand the depth and breadth of our expressive and interpretative talents and abilities. This will challenge misconceptions of “Asian” as a monolithic entity; banish enduring stereotypes and misconceptions that we are not able to embody what is commonly considered the “universal.” Seeing, hearing, experiencing our work will hopefully bring the realization that we are vital, multifaceted, complicated human beings, and that we are a vibrant part of the fabric of American life.
What has been your experience like working with The Public?
We have felt excellently supported by the Public from the word “Go.” NAATCO is just Peter and me, operationally, and having the expertise and attentiveness of all the departments of the Public helping us realize this world premiere is pretty fantastic. Our appreciation is boundless.
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In light of the pandemic, what do you think the future of live theatre will be?
I am pretty excited by the experiences I’ve had during this time and would like to explore hybrid possibilities. For example, I’d like to think on developing new work with Jared Mezzocchi of ViDCo, whose expertise I got to know about while working on projects with him with NAATCO as well as other theatres. I’m curious about the creation of live/remote, live/virtual methodologies to deliver in-person theatre experiences. I don’t understand a lot of it yet, but my interest is very piqued. It aligns with a new NAATCO initiative, the development and production of work that incorporates other performative arts and media.
Do you have any pre-show rituals and or dressing room necessities?
I’m pretty low-maintenance and adaptable. A clean dressing room, warm in the winter and cool in the summer, with good elbow room is good. I have this sort of placemat that I’ve used for the past decade, and I’ve recently added a dish to collect odds and ends that was an opening present. At 5 minutes, I usually go off and find an alone-place. Ever since I went up during the opening section of a play 40 years ago after not having gone through my lines before the show, I’ve done just that for every performance. Even if I only have one line, I go someplace quiet, and go over my first scene in my head a couple of times.
Performances begin on February 15 at Martinson Hall until March 13. Tickets can be purchased HERE.