|Born||November 26, 1954|
|Occupation||Performance artist, director, writer, teacher|
Dan Kwong is an American performance artist, writer, teacher and visual artist. He has been presenting his solo performances since 1989, often drawing upon his own life experiences to explore personal, historical and social issues. He is of Chinese American and Japanese American descent. His works intertwine storytelling, multimedia, dynamic physical movement, poetry, martial arts and music. Kwong is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has been an Artist with the multicultural performing arts organization Great Leap since 1990 and assumed the position of Associate Artistic Director in 2011, and a Resident Artist at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, California since 1992.
Major Solo Performances
- Secrets of the Samurai Centerfielder 1989
- Tales From the Fractured Tao 1991
- Monkhood in 3 Easy Lessons 1993
- Correspondence of a Dangerous Enemy Alien 1995
- The Dodo Vaccine 1996
- The Night the Moon Landed on 39th Street 1999
- It's Great 2B American 2008
- What? No Ping-Pong Balls? (with musician Kenny Endo) 2013
These works explore subjects such as cultural confusion and discovery in a mixed heritage family; allergic reactions to “Model Minority Syndrome"; dysfunctional family "Asian American-style"; Asian male identity; Japanese American internment during WWII; the impact of HIV/AIDS on Asian Americans; the American space program; and Asian American single motherhood. Kwong has performed in venues across the United States and in England, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Mexico, Canada, China and Korea.
Major Collaborative Performances
- Samurai Centerfielder Meets The Mad Kabuki Woman (with Denise Uyehara) 1997
- The Art of Rice (international ensemble) 2003
- Sleeping With Strangers (with Chinese opera artist Peng Jingquan. Beijing, China) 2006
- Once We Wanted (with dancer/choreographer Iu-Hui Chua) 2011
Kwong's first play, Be Like Water, was developed with Cedar Grove OnStage, and received its world premiere at East West Players in Los Angeles, in September 2008, as part of the EWP mainstage season. Directed by Chris Tashima. It is currently being developed into a feature-length screenplay.
Other Performance Projects
Tales of Little Tokyo - In summer of 2018, Kwong was one of four artists selected (with filmmaker Tina Takemoto, painter Susu Attar, calligrapher Kuni Yoshida) for the inaugural +LAB Artist Residency, sponsored by the Little Tokyo Service Center. For 3 months the artists lived in the historic old Daimaru Hotel on First Street and created community-based art projects on the theme of "Self-determination and Community Control" for Little Tokyo -- a 134-year-old community now threatened by gentrification. Each artist was partnered with a local organization for their project, Dan being paired with the Japanese American National Museum. For his project Dan interviewed over 50 people with various relationships to Little Tokyo past and present, ranging in age from 97 to 17. After transcribing and editing hundreds of their stories, he selected approx. 30 to create a portrait of the community through the decades, showing its significance to people over generations. It was presented as a reading with veteran Nisei actress Takayo Fischer at JANM's Democracy Forum at the end of July. Tales of Little Tokyo is currently being developed further to incorporate more stories and a multimedia component.
Confessions of a Radical Chicano Doo-Wop Singer - In the summer of 2016 Kwong directed Ruben "Funkahuatl" Guevara's critically acclaimed solo performance/reading of Confessions of a Radical Chicano Doo-Wop Singer produced at Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights. Based on excerpts from Guevara's memoir of the same title, Confessions was also staged at the Mark Taper Auditorium of L.A. Main Public Library downtown in 2017. Beginning September 2018, Kwong again collaborates with Guevara on the adaptation of his short story Masao and the Bronze Nightingale into a full stageplay, with four readings scheduled throughout 2019. The story is set in mid-1940s Little Tokyo, when African Americans have moved into the vacated neighborhood left behind by incarcerated Japanese Americans: a young JA musician returns to L.A. after the war, falls for an African American jazz singer, and his life changes.
FandangObon - Since its inception in 2013 Dan has directed this annual cross-cultural event of traditional Japanese, Mexican and West African music and dance. FandangObon brings together the traditions of Japanese Obon, son jarocho from Mexico, and West African drumming and dance. The free public event takes place every fall in Noguchi Plaza at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) in Little Tokyo.
Since 2010 Kwong has directed and edited an ongoing series of environmental music videos in collaboration with singer/songwriter Nobuko Miyamoto, produced by Great Leap: B.Y.O. CHOPSTIX (2010), MOTTAINAI (2011), and CYCLES OF CHANGE (2012), all featuring Miyamoto as the lead character. CYCLES OF CHANGE was created in collaboration with the Grammy Award-winning Chicano rock band QUETZAL and features their lead singer Martha Gonzalez. All videos can be seen on YouTube under the Great Leap channel, and can be found through greatleap.org.
In Fall of 2014 Kwong began work on a documentary/art video project, The House on Robinson Road. The video will explore the legacy of Kwong's great-grandfather through his house on Hong Kong island (built in 1933 for him, his wife, 5 concubines and 21 children), and its connection to Kwong's relationship with his own father within the context of owning-class colonial HK-Chinese society. In December 2017 Dan returned to HK for more shooting, this time assisted by independent filmmaker Max Good. The project remains in-progress.
Kwong's first book, FROM INNER WORLDS TO OUTER SPACE – The Multimedia Performances of Dan Kwong, a collection of performance texts from 1989 to 2000, was published in 2004 (University of Michigan Press). The significance of his body of work is acknowledged in the landmark book, A History of Asian American Theatre, by Esther Kim Lee (Cambridge University Press, 2006). His work is featured in Hideyuki Yamamoto's book, Asian American Drama: Dramatic Representations of Masculinity (Kobe University, 2008), the first book ever published in Japan on this topic. Also: Performing America (Univ. Michigan Press, 1999) in Robert Vorlicky's essay, "Marking Change, Marking America: Contemporary Performance and Men's Autobiographical Selves"; and In Other Los Angeleses (Univ. of California Press, 2002) by Meiling Cheng. His essays and performances have been published in The Journal of American Drama and Theatre (2002, Vol. 14, No. 2), Getting Your Solo Act Together (Heinemann Books), High Performance Magazine, and various anthologies including On A Bed of Rice – A Feast of Asian American Erotica; Yellow Light – The Flowering of Asian American Art, and Living in America – A Pop Culture Reader. His visual artwork is included in Let's Get It On – The Politics of Black Performance published by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.
Teaching / Curating
As a teacher Kwong has led numerous workshops in autobiographical writing and performing throughout the U.S. and in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Canada and Japan. In 1991 he founded “Treasure In The House,” L.A.’s first Asian Pacific American performance and visual art festival, presented at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, California, serving as its curator until 2003. Beginning in 1994, his ground-breaking performance workshops ("Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Asian Men...") ultimately led to the spawning of similar groups (led by "alumni" of the original group) in New York, New Haven, Boston, Portland, Philadelphia and beyond, playing a key role in the development of the national Asian American performance community. Since 2005 he has served as Project Director of "Collaboratory", Great Leap's mentorship program designed to develop the next generation of artist-leaders in Los Angeles.
Since 2017 he has been working with independent filmmakers in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, coaching actors for various film projects.
Fellowships / Awards / Residencies
City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Grantee (Samurai Centerfielder) - 1990
Brody Arts Fund Fellowship, Performance Art (Samurai Centerfielder) - 1990
Art Matters Inc. Fellowship, Performance Art (Samurai Centerfielder) - 1990
City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Grantee (Tales From The Fractured Tao) - 1991
National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship - 1992
City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Grantee - 1992
Franklin Furnace New York, Emerging Artist Fellowship - 1994
Japanese American Internment Commemoration Competition Grantee (Correspondence of a Dangerous Enemy Alien) - 1994
City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Grantee - 1994
National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (The Dodo Vaccine) - 1995
Art Matters Inc. Fellowship, Performance Art - 1995
L.A. Contemporary Exhibitions Project Grant - 1995
Alpert Award in the Arts, Nominee - 1995
Djerassi Resident Artist Program residency - 1995
Rockefeller Foundation Award (The Dodo Vaccine) - 1995/96
City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Grantee - 1997
Asia Pacific Performance Exchange (APPEX) International Residency - 1999
The Durfee Foundation - Project Completion Grant (Woman Warrior Tales residency, Indonesia) - 2000
Asian Cultural Council - Traveling Fellowship (From Inner Worlds, Thailand) - 2001
Alpert Award in the Arts, Nominee - 2001
City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Grantee – 2003
California Community Foundation, Outstanding Mid-Career Artist Fellowship – 2004
Japanese American Historical Society, Outstanding Contributions to Japanese American Culture – 2005
C.O.L.A. Award, Outstanding Mid-Career Artist - 2005
The Durfee Foundation - Project Completion Grant (Sleeping With Strangers, Kunming/Beijing/L.A.) - 2006
The Durfee Foundation - Project Completion Grant (Be Like Water) – 2007
Gyeonggi Creation Center Intl. Residency, South Korea - 2009
City of Los Angeles Culture Exchange International Grantee (From Inner Worlds residency, South Korea) – 2010
City of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Project Fellowship (The House on Robinson Road, Hong Kong) – 2014/15
City of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Artist Fellowship - 2017/18
Little Tokyo Service Center's +LAB Artist Residency - 2018