The Spoken Word: Say You Heard My Echo

Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Adeeba Afshan Rana, YaliniDream

I was fortunate enough to be back in NYC to catch the opening night of Say You Heard My Echo, an evening-length spoken-word poetry theater project written by Chinese Taiwanese spoken word artist Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai.

In lovely contrast to the vignettes and tantalizing glimpses found in traditional spoken word pieces, SYHME is a rich and immersive feature-length experience that navigates the diverse stories of three Asian American women living in New York City and grappling with faith and identity years later in post-9/11 America.

With the powerhouse cast of Tsai, YaliniDream and Adeeba Afshan Rana, SYHME weaves in and out of the three stories with lyricism and haunting imagery. As each character’s story takes center stage, the other performers play various supporting roles and apply subtle touches in creating the magic of a certain moment in time on the spare and intimate stage.

The material draws from real life people and history and represents a journey and work-in-progress of more than a year, as the Asian American Arts Alliance had asked Tsai to explore the impact of 9/11 on Asian American communities for last year’s 10th anniversary.

Enthusiastic supporters helped SYHME exceed its Kickstarter goal for this NYC production, and interviews from and Asia Pacific Forum give more in-depth details on the rewarding project.

It is important that these stories get told, especially as NYC closes on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 and as the One World Trade Center rises above the city skyline. Recovery is rarely a simple process, and the victims and survivors may not always be immediately apparent. SYHME gives voice to three women and communities who deserve recognition. Rebuild, renew and remember.

***4 SHOWS LEFT***

  • Fri, Sept. 14 @ 7 pm + Audience Talk-Back w/ Cast & Nico Daswani (Asian Am. Arts Alliance)
    Moderator: playwright & screenwriter Kia Corthron (The Wire, Light Raise the Roof)
  • Sat, Sept. 15 @ 2 pm
  • Sat, Sept. 15 @ 7 pm
  • Sun, Sept. 16 @ 2 pm + Audience Talk-Back w/ Cast
    Moderator: Kamilah Forbes (Hip Hop Theater Festival, HBO Def Poetry)

Location: HERE Arts Center
Address: 145 Sixth Ave., New York, NY
Cost: $18 General, $15 Students

What connects a Catholic burlesque dancer who survived the Twin Towers, a Buddhist Iraq war veteran and hip hop emcee who returns home, and a Muslim librarian whose family suffers detention and interrogation? An evening-length spoken-word poetry theater project written by Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai (500 performances worldwide including the White House & three seasons of the award-winning Russell Simmons Presents HBO Def Poetry), Say You Heard My Echo explores the lives of three fictional Asian American women in New York City a decade after 9/11. With choral poems, prayers, activist folk songs, and raps, the play weaves together the characters’ struggles with survivorship and faith and their intimate relationships with Mary Magdalene, Guan Yin, and Aisha.

Performed by Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, YaliniDream, and Adeeba Rana with stage direction by Jesse Jou.

Costumes: Valérie Thérèse Bart / Lighting: Alan Edwards / / Set: Chien-Yu Peng / Sound: Mike Skinner / Producers: Nancy Kim, Ying Le / Associate Producer: Rising Circle Theater Collective / Stage Management: John Nehlich / Associate Director: Devin Brain

The creation of “Say You Heard My Echo” was supported, in part, through a commission for Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai from Asian American Arts Alliance with major support from Asian Women’s Giving Circle and additional support from Flushing Council on the Arts and New York University’s A / P / A Institute. Presented by Moving Earth Productions.

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