Playwright Rick Shiomi in New York in 2011. Photo by Lia Chang
|Born||Rickey Allan Shiomi
May 25, 1947
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Pen name||R. A. Shiomi|
|Occupation||Playwright, Artistic Director, Theater Director|
|Education||University of Toronto,
Simon Fraser University
|Period||1982 - Present|
|Subject||Asian American Experience|
|Notable works||Yellow Fever|
Rick Shiomi (born 1947) is a Japanese Canadian playwright, stage director and taiko artist. He is a founder and currently the Artistic Director of the Minneapolis, Minnesota based Asian American theater company, Mu Performing Arts.
Mr. Shiomi's parents were among the many Canadians of Japanese descent who were forced into internment camps during World War II. They had previously lived in Vancouver, British Columbia; however, they moved to Toronto after their release and soon thereafter gave birth to their son, Rickey Allan Shiomi, in 1947. Shiomi was raised there and graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in history in 1970.
After graduation he continued his education in British Columbia, receiving a teaching diploma from Simon Fraser University. He then went on to travel the world, teaching in Japan and Hong Kong for one year before returning home to Canada where he became a prominent member of the Japanese Canadian community. One of the projects he was involved with was organizing the Powell Street Festival, and he edited a film titled The First 100 Years which was based upon a slide show, and designed to teach children about Japanese Canadian history. An active member of the Japanese Canadian Citizen's Association, Shiomi helped edit Inalienable Rice: A Chinese & Japanese Canadian Anthology.
During his time in Vancouver, Shiomi met up with playwrights David Henry Hwang and Philip Kan Gotanda. Gotanda read one of Shiomi's short stories about a Japanese Canadian detective and suggested he submit the story for adaptation to the stage to the Asian American Theater Workshop in San Francisco. Shiomi followed Gotanda's advice and wrote Yellow Fever.
Shiomi began his theater career in San Francisco, California at the Asian American Theater Company where his first play Yellow Fever was produced in 1982, for which he received the 1982 Bay Area Theater Circle Critics Award and a “Bernie” for new play from the San Francisco Chronicle.
He later moved to New York where the play was produced by the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and then had a successful off-Broadway run. Pan Asian Repertory Theatre produced several of his plays, including a prequel to Yellow Fever titled Rosie's Cafe and a sequel, Once is Never Enough, co-authored with Marc Hayashi and Lane Kiyomi Nishikawa.
Mu Performing Arts
While in Minnesota as a visiting lecturer, Shiomi found an emerging Asian American community and a well-developed general theater scene. He also met his future wife Martha Johnson who, along with others, helped him co-found Theater Mu. As the Artistic Director of Mu Performing Arts, Shiomi has worked with many other Minnesota based organizations to make Asian American cultures more accessible to the public, and has been recognized with a 2002 Asian-Pacific Leadership Award for Excellence & Innovation in the Arts from the State of Minnesota Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans, The 2007 Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Vision and The 2012 Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement.
As a playwright, Shiomi has written a number of plays for Mu Performing Arts. The first play Mask Dance, was based upon the stories of young Korean adoptees who were early participants in the company. The play involved both a traditional performance form, in this case Korean mask dance, and a contemporary American story. Other plays written in this style were Song of the Pipa and The Tale of the Dancing Crane. Shiomi works almost entirely behind the scenes, or behind a taiko drum, but with the play The Tale of the Dancing Crane, he took center stage as an actor. He shared a traditional Japanese story of losing one precious thing to find something better and combined it with his own story of discovering taiko.
Shiomi co-wrote the play The Walleye Kid with Sundraya Kase, which he adapted from a traditional Japanese fable titled Peach Boy, and the play was produced in 1999. The original story tells of a Japanese child who is found inside a peach and adopted by the old couple that discovered him. In The Walleye Kid, Shiomi has moved the setting from the warmer climate of Japan to the icy winters of Minnesota where the baby emerges from a giant Walleye. In this play, he explores what Asian, specifically Korean adoptees have experienced as they adapt to life in America. Walleye Kid, The Musical, which Shiomi adapted from the play, was most recently produced in 2008 by Mu Performing Arts at the McKnight Theatre of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. In 2002, he co-authored Hmong Tiger Tales with Cha Yang, which was co-produced at the Weyerhaueser Auditorium by Mu Performing Arts and St.Paul's Steppingstone Theatre For Youth.
As a stage director, Shiomi has directed at the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco, InterAct Theatre in Philadelphia, The Bloomington Civic Theatre in Minnesota, St. Paul's SteppingStone Theatre for Youth, and has helmed numerous productions for Mu Performing Arts, including two by David Henry Hwang, the play Yellow Face and Hwang's revisal of Flower Drum Song by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Taiko artist and Mu Daiko
Shiomi is also an award-winning taiko artist, who began playing in 1979 as a member of Katari Taiko in Vancouver, British Columbia. In the 1980s, he studied with Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, performing with several groups, including Soh Daiko of New York (as a guest artist) and Wasabi Taiko in Toronto. In 1997, at the behest of actors at Mu Performing Arts, he began teaching taiko, forming Mu Daiko, a taiko drumming ensemble, that same year. Under his leadership, Mu Daiko evolved into a regular troupe, performing one mainstage production a season, and over the years developed an extensive outreach and educational program with over a hundred engagements annually. In 2005, Mu Daiko performed at the mainstage performance, Taiko Jam, at the National Taiko Conference in Los Angeles. As lead player and composer for Mu Daiko for more than ten years, Shiomi garnered numerous awards including a 1998 MN State Arts Board Cultural Collaborations Award for taiko, a drumming collaboration with Ragamala Music and Dance Theater; a 2002 Paddle and Drum Composition Award for "Chrysanthemum Dawn"; and a 2004 Paddle and Drum Composition Award for "Kiyomizu Cascade". In 2010, he retired from regular participation in the Mu Daiko, which is now led by Iris Shiraishi.
Recently published work
As artistic director of Mu Performing Arts, Shiomi has overseen the development of new plays including Ching Chong Chinaman by Lauren Yee, Cowboy Versus Samurai by Michael Golamco, Happy Valley by Aurorae Khoo, Bahala Na by Clarence Coo, Asiamesia by Sun Mee Chomet, and WTF by Katie Ka Vang. He is a co-editor of "Asian American Plays for a New Generation," published by Temple University Press in June 2011. In this anthology of new plays by Asian American playwrights, Mu Performing Arts developed and produced the world premiere of six of the seven featured.
Awards and honors
- 1982: Bay Area Theater Circle Critics Award for Yellow Fever
- 1982: “Bernie” for new play from the San Francisco Chronicle for Yellow Fever
- 1984: Ontario Multicultural Theater Award
- 1990: Ruby Schaar Yoshino Playwriting Award for Uncle Tadao
- 1998: Minnesota State Arts Board Cultural Collaborations Award for taiko, a drumming collaboration with Ragamala Music and Dance Theater
- 2000: Minnesota State Arts Board Cultural Collaborations Award with Cha Yang and St. Paul's SteppingStone Theatre for Tiger Tales: Hmong Folktales
- 2002: Asian-Pacific Leadership Award for Excellence & Innovation in the Arts from the State of Minnesota Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans
- 2002: Paddle and Drum Composition Award for "Chrysanthemum Dawn"
- 2004: Paddle and Drum Composition Award for "Kiyomizu Cascade"
- 2006: Award from the Powell Street Festival on the 30th anniversary of the Festival
- 2007: The Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Vision
- 2012: The Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement
Story editor and staff writer for Canadian television series E.N.G., produced by Alliance on CTV
- Images of the First Hundred Years, Powell Street Revue, 1980 (documentary, 11 min.)
- Dance to Remember (as writer), CBC, Inside Stories, 1991 (30 min.)
- Garrick Chu, Sean Gunn, Paul Yee, Ken Shikaze, Linda Uyehara Hoffman, Rick Shiomi, eds.; Inalienable Rice: A Chinese & Japanese Canadian Anthology Powell Street Revue & The Chinese Canadian Writers Workshop. 83 pp.
- Srikanth, Rajini and Esther Yae Iwanaga; Bold words: a century of Asian American writing, Rutgers University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8135-2966-2
- Josephine Lee, Don Eitel and R.A. Shiomi, eds.; Asian American Plays for a New Generation, Temple University Press, 2011, ISBN 1-4399-0515-0
- Biography and Genealogy Master Index. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, Cengage Learning. 1980- 2009.
- Lemanczyk, Sarah. (2009, January). Rick Shiomi: Carving a Space. American Theatre, 26(1), 68-71.
- An inventory of his papers in The Library of the University of British Columbia Special Collections Division.
- Royce, Graydon. "Theater Mu fishes for bigger things; 'The Walleye Kid' represents a watershed moment for an Asian-American troupe that is growing in size and influence.(ENTERTAINMENT)." Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) (Jan 13, 2008): 01F. General Reference Center Gold. Gale.
- Lin, Lynda. “Rick Shiomi helms the fourth largest APA theater company in the U.S. in a state where ice fishing is a favorite pastime. Pacific Citizen. February 1, 2008.
- Preston, Rohan. "Ovation; MU CRANE." Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) (Oct 22, 1999): 21. General Reference Center Gold. Gale. Hennepin County Library. 27 May 2009
- Boyd, Melissa D. "DIVERSIONS; TIGER TALES: OH MY!." Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) (April 7, 2002): 11F. General Reference Center Gold. Gale.
- Mu Performing Arts official site
- Backstage Pass with Lia Chang
- "Mu Performing Arts’ Rick Shiomi takes home 2012 Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement", September 24, 2012
- “Yellow Fever Playwright Rick Shiomi Explores New Territory with An All-Female Cast”, December 7, 2011
- “Up Close and Personal with Rick Shiomi, Award-winning Playwright & Artistic Director of Mu Performing Arts”, September 6, 2011.
- ”On the Town with Rick Shiomi, Co-Editor of “Asian American Plays for a New Generation”, in Washington D.C. and New York”, August 2, 2011
- ”Rick Shiomi Checks out Performing Arts Playwrights Series in the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection of Library of Congress, July 29, 2011