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The play's the thing, at last

Theater

Writing for film and TV brought John Ridley riches, but reviving one of his old stage projects brought deeper rewards.

February 27, 2005|Dinah Eng | Special to The Times

Ridley, whose wife is Asian American, says he is perhaps more sensitive to the problems facing Asian American actors because of his own experiences as an African American writer. The author of six novels, Ridley has written several movies, including "Undercover Brother," "Three Kings" and "U-Turn." He recently completed a rewrite of "The Night Watchman" for director Spike Lee and is executive producer of a new TV series, "Barber Shop," scheduled to air this fall on Showtime.

"I went through a phase where every script I was offered was a 'Boyz N the Hood,' " Ridley says. "The guys and girls involved in this play are incredibly talented. Without them, the play's just a 97-page paperweight."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday March 01, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk
"Ten Thousand Years" -- The photo caption accompanying an article about the play "Ten Thousand Years" in Sunday's Calendar section identified the actors as Don Tai, Reggie Lee and Thomas Isao Morinaka. The correct names are, from left, Greg Watanabe, Kipp Shiotani and Blake Kushi.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 06, 2005 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 0 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Actors' names -- A caption last Sunday incorrectly identified actors in the John Ridley play "Ten Thousand Years." The correct names were Greg Watanabe, Kipp Shiotani and Blake Kushi.

Matthew Yang King, who portrays the base commander Yoshida, has appeared in numerous plays, including Sir Peter Hall's "Romeo and Juliet" at the Ahmanson Theatre in 2002 and Broadway's "Titanic, the Musical."

"There are more opportunities for Asian Americans in theater than TV and film," King says. "It's tough for Asian American females, but the stereotypes are harder for actors. The Asian American male hasn't been made sexy yet. This play has given me a chance to dig my teeth into something new. It's historical drama that represents Asians as real human beings."

In a city with hundreds of small theater options, Ridley acknowledges that attracting an audience to this play hasn't been easy. "People in L.A. don't go out the way people in New York go out to theater," he says. "If you live in Culver City, you think twice about having to drive forever to get to the Valley. It's hard to get the word out past all the noise."

Ridley says there are no immediate plans for the play beyond its current run. "I think it'd be a mistake to try to do a movie or an off-Broadway production right now," Ridley says. "But I'm very committed to the material. Other than writing books, which is so insular, this play has been the most rewarding experience in art I've ever had in Hollywood. On opening night, we had people crying when they left the theater. Success is when you feel good about the work you've done, and that's what this play was about for me."

*

'Ten Thousand Years'

Where: El Portal Forum Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays

Ends: March 3

Price: $15

Contact: (866) 811-4111

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