(Matt Stevens’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/16/22; via Pam Green; Photo: Cast members who will perform in “Out of Time” at the Public Theater (from left): Natsuko Ohama, Rita Wolf, Glenn Kubota, Page Leong and Mia Katigbak. Credit…Nina Westervelt for The New York Times.)
“Out of Time” at the Public Theater is intended to showcase the talents of older actors. “People want to dismiss your stories,” the show’s director says. Not here.
They might be asked to play a person lying in bed, dying of a stroke, or someone’s horrible mother, or a beloved grandparent struggling with dementia.
“Commercially speaking, ‘old Asian lady’ is a huge amount of my opportunity,” the actor Natsuko Ohama said recently. “I like being ‘old Asian lady.’ But it has its limitations.”
The director Les Waters became even more acutely interested in those kinds of limitations as he was watching a dance performance choreographed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker at the Skirball Center in 2020. The dancers in it, he recalled, were “older than usual.” He was struck by what he saw.
Waters, who most recently directed Lucas Hnath’s “Dana H.” on Broadway, and Mia Katigbak, the co-founder of the National Asian American Theater Company, had met a few years back at a festival and had agreed to work together at some point. Three years later, they were together at dinner, and Waters could not help but share what he called “an insane directorial megalomaniac’s vision.”
What if there was a show that started at night, ran until the morning, and featured a succession of talented older actors telling stories — demonstrating just how much they were capable of?
“Out of Time,” which began performances Feb. 15 at the Public Theater, is not quite as ambitious as that original vision. But it is intended to showcase the talents of older actors all the same. It will feature five performers delivering five new monologues — centered on themes like memory, parenthood, and identity — in a show that will run roughly 150 minutes. All the playwrights and all the actors are Asian American. And all the performers are over 60.
Ohama is performing a 40-minute monologue by the playwright Sam Chanse.Credit…Nina Westervelt for The New York Times
Kubota will perform Naomi Iizuka’s monologue, about a man much like the playwright’s father.Credit…Nina Westervelt for The New York Times
It is a first, officials at the Public maintain, even if the first is a tad specific: The first production in New York theater to be written by five Asian American playwrights for Asian American actors over the age of 60.
“This is to say: ‘Older people in the theater exist,’” Waters, 69, said of the production’s purpose. “We’re here, we’re underused and we have experience.”
“As an old person myself, I find people want to dismiss your stories — I did it to my parents all the time,” he added.
“Hyper-consciousness” in casting these days means you’ll often see one old person featured in an ensemble, making for “its own kind of tokenism,” said Katigbak, who is 67.