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March 16 , 2007
DH 07 JH38
Contact: Joanie Harmon-Whetmore
(310) 243-2740/2001

CSUDH English Department Presents Reading of "Refugee Nation"

Carson, CAThe CSU Dominguez Hills Department of English will present a staged reading of “Refugee Nation,” by Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng, on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 at 7 p.m. in La Corte Hall A-103, on the CSUDH campus. The reading of this dramatic work-in-progress is being featured by the Department as this year’s annual Pat Eliet Lecture, part of a series in honor of former professor of English, Patricia Eliet (1969-1990), who was devoted to the discussion of multicultural and cross-cultural issues.

Helen Oesterheld and Molly Youngkin, assistant professors of English, organized the event, looking for artists whose work embraced multi-cultural and cross-cultural issues. Chan and Saopeng center their work on these topics, as founding members of The South East Asian Collective (SEAC), a project within TeAda Productions, a nonprofit organization that exists to enrich the repertoire of contemporary works created and performed by people of color.

“Refugee Nation” is based on the collected stories of Laotian refugees living in Southern California. These stories are woven into performances that incorporate poetry, song, dance, and martial arts into an intense, thought-provoking examination of the complexities faced by Laotians who have fled to the United States in the wake of the Vietnam War.

“We were impressed by the way these artists boldly explored their personal identities through performance and reflected upon identity formation as a central and complex feature of the human condition,” says Oesterheld. “Chan and Saopeng blend various art forms and cultural issues into their performance, using spoken and sung language in addition to the language of movement. This provides multiple dimensions from which audiences can contemplate the complex and difficult issues they bring into focus.”

Chan is a performance artist and the founding artistic director of TeAda Productions. In her individual performances, Chan combines the historical and the personal into a new mosaic of the ever-changing American landscape. Her award-winning work, "E Nana I ke Kumu" ("Look to the Source"), unflinchingly explores contemporary issues affecting her birthplace, post-colonial Hawai'i.

Saopeng is the creator and star of “Welcome to Lao as a Second Language,” an interactive solo performance. By assuming the identities of various Lao-Americans, including Ms. S., a language teacher, Saopeng's mother, and the artist himself, Saopeng explores American identity, cultural and generational conflicts, and the universal struggle to find oneself.

A question and answer period following the reading will give the audience an opportunity to learn more about “Refugee Nation,” the performers, and related topics.

“This is an event planned by the English department faculty specifically for the enrichment of students,” says Oesterheld. “Because the performance is likely to be interactive, students and all audience members may have a chance to become involved as performers in the event. Also, members of the English Graduate Student Association are assisting with the logistics of presenting this performance.”

The annual Pat Eliet Lecture is free and open to the public with a reception following the performance. This event is made possible by contributions from Associated Students Inc., The College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Office, The Honors Program, the Asian Pacific Studies Program, and the English Graduate Student Association. For more information, contact Helen Oesterheld at (310) 243-3944, hoesterheld@csudh.edu; or Molly Youngkin at (310)243-3941, myoungkin@csudh.edu.

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Media Contact:

Joanie Harmon-Whetmore
(310) 243-2740


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Last updated March 16, 1:25 p.m.
by Joanie Harmon-Whetmore