By Rick Shiomi, Mu Performing Arts
We just opened the world premiere of Four Destinies by Katie Hae Leo at Mixed Blood Theater on Saturday, October 15th. The terrific cast featured Katie Bradley, Sara Ochs, Nora Montanez, LaDawn James, Neil Schneider, Maria Kelly, Nicholas Freeman, Don Eitel, and Shanan Custer directed by Suzy Messerole. The play runs through Oct 30th.
To expand our reach we brought in several special guests from around the country to attend the show, including Reme Grefalda of the Library of Congress, Asian Division; Chil Kong, a prominent theater leader from Los Angeles; and Lia Chang, a multimedia journalist from New York who is the New York bureau chief for AsianConnections.com and has her own blog, Backstage Pass with Lia Chang. The show itself got off to a raucous start with the packed audience responding loudly to the more satirical aspects of the play.
Four Destinies itself embodies the classic tension between free will and destiny which underscores this potent satire of adoption in America. Destiny Jones is a Korean adoptee raised in Minnesota. But Destiny Jones is also an African American adoptee, a Guatemalan-born adoptee, and an adopted Caucasian boy. Four different actors portray the same titular character on the same day with the same family. To further complicate things, a playwright named Katie Leo keeps interrupting, and she really wants to make sure she represents every adoptee ever born, as well as give all of her characters exactly what they want. What happens when the four Destinies do get what they want? In this exploration of fate, DNA, arrival stories, and the families that love them, the answers are never simple.
Given the sensitive nature of the material and the overall satirical style of the play, we were very concerned about the response of adoptive families to the play. And indeed one of the reviewers wrote, “Moreover (and as an adoptive parent myself, this bothered me a lot), I found the parents shallow, vehicles for cheap comic effect. During the intermission, I was, I will admit, a restive play-goer.” But then he stayed for the second act and wrote:
“Ah, but then Act 2 happened, and it’s wonderful. Leo puts her characters through their paces – and narrator Katie Leo as well. They do unpredictable and surprising things. They make significant human connections. They become multi-dimensional. They grow, make meaningful discoveries. In the second act the characters really do get away from their author and result is sublime. When narrator Leo tells us ‘Truth is a painted toy,’ we know precisely what she’s talking about. When the play ended, I was seduced.”
I believe that was the emotional journey for many of the adoptive parents in the audience that night. It was a night that went from tight smiles at intermission to effusive embraces after the show. Click here to see photos of opening night and here for a look backstage.
Four Destinies covers difficult territory with a daring imagination, capturing the hearts of everyone involved in the adoption phenomenon. And we at Mu are proud to have helped Katie Leo develop her play and bring it to fruition on the stage. We can only hope that this play receives many more productions around the country because it brings a much needed and artful commentary on a growing issue in America.