Family Devotions depicts a clash of West and East among three generations of an Americanized Chinese family in a Los Angeles suburb. Ama and Popo, two elderly and devoutly Christian Chinese sisters, live with their Americanized children in Bel Air. Their grandchildren Jenny and Chester seek to escape superficial world of their parents. The whole family eagerly awaits a visit from Di-Gou, the brother whom the sisters have not seen in over thirty years. When he arrives, it is clear he is not the man his sisters remember.
Set against the backdrop of the Chinese American railroad workers’ strike of 1867, The Dance and the Railroad rejects the stereotype of submissive immigrant laborers, and depicts assertive men who demanded their rights despite great personal risk. The play compares the optimistic and idealistic Ma to the pragmatic and independent Lone, and juxtaposes the hard labor of working on the railroad with the dream to practice traditional Chinese Opera.
The Dance and the Railroad premiered at the New Federal Theatre in 1981, directed by John Lone, before moving to the Public Theater, and received a 1982 Drama Desk Nomination for Best New Play. It was revived at Signature Theatre in 2013, directed by May Adrales, in a production which received its Chinese premiere at the Wuzhen Festival later that year.
Photos from the 2013 revival at Signature Theatre. Photos by Joan Marcus.
Photos from the 1981 production at the Public Theatre. Photos by Martha Swope.