HomeEntertainmentPlayhouse launches 83rd season with ‘American Jade’

Playhouse launches 83rd season with ‘American Jade’

The one-woman show is written by and stars Jodi Long, Emmy-winning actress from Netflix’s ‘Dash and Lily’

An exciting return: Bucks County Playhouse’s 83rd season, the first since the start of the pandemic, kicks off on May 20 with ‘American Jade,’ written by and starring Jodi Long. Source: Submitted

The forthcoming 83rd mainstage season of the Bucks County Playhouse is an important one. Not only does it mark the theater’s 10th anniversary since its multi-million dollar refurbishment and reorganization in 2012, it’s also the first complete season to hit the historic stage since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are proud to announce a 2022 season that celebrates the Playhouse’s resurgence and the 10th anniversary of reopening with the kind of shows that we do best,” said producing director Alexander Fraser. “We are particularly excited to do a full season of significant shows, each of which tells the story of individuals who may be labeled as outsiders, but ultimately demonstrate their powers to triumph and make a difference.”

Kickstarting this momentous season on May 20 is American Jade, written by and starring Jodi Long, the first actor of Asian descent to win a competitive acting Emmy in 2021 for her role in Netflix’s Dash and Lily. Long has appeared on Broadway numerous times over the years in shows such as the 2002 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song, and can also be seen in Marvel’s Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, among other projects.

In a recent interview with The Times, Long shared that American Jade is approximately 20 years in the making. With live musical accompaniment by Yukio Tsuji, Long tells the audience a collection of stories about her family, who before their passing had deep roots in show business.

Her Vaudevillian parents, who appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in the ‘50s, inspired her career in entertainment as they broke barriers as Asian American performers. In fact, Long’s father starred in the original Broadway production of Flower Drum Song 40 years prior to his daughter’s casting.

Staying true to her roots, American Jade encompasses humor, song and dance, while also touching on the hardships of the immigrant experience in the U.S. throughout the past century. Long shares how her ancestors from China, Japan and across the globe left vital imprints on her.

“I just felt that I needed to get down a bunch of stories from my family that I knew were unique to them. If I didn’t put them down, they would be lost forever. I started this before everybody passed away,” said Long. “I wanted to write something where maybe I could change the way people thought about Asian Americans. My great-grandmother was Scottish. I said, ‘Wouldn’t that be funny if a Scottish accent actually came out of my face?’ And my father’s from Australia, all his brothers and family speak with an Aussie accent. It was like meeting someone who’s Chinese and they speak with a southern accent.”

Breaking boundaries: Jodi Long, star of ‘American Jade,’ was the first actor of Asian descent to win a competitive acting Emmy in 2021 for her role in Netflix’s ‘Dash and Lily’. Source: Submitted

Now that American Jade is complete, Long is honored to bring the one-woman show to the Playhouse.

“When they decided to do this play, I was just so delighted. It was unexpected,” said Long, whose New York performance of the show in May 2021 was canceled. “Things happen for a reason.”

According to executive producer Robyn Goodman, the feeling is mutual.

“We are thrilled that our return to a full production season at the Playhouse begins with a new play. Jodi’s story is universal and anyone who has a family will identify with her search for understanding through ancestry,” said Goodman. “Developing new work and hearing new stories is essential to creating a vibrant theater. It is the perfect way to launch the next decade of performances at the Playhouse.”

Long’s goal with American Jade is for theater-goers of all backgrounds to see their own families’ highs and lows within her reflections.

“The play works best when people walk away thinking about their own family and what they’ve gone through. That’s what I love to hear and see, how people deal with it, move on from it and embrace it…the good stuff, anyway,” said Long. “Yes, when I walk out on stage, everyone’s going to see an Asian woman. But if I’m really doing my job, in the end, they will just see a woman who just happens to be going through this set of circumstances who is just like them.”

For Long, there’s something truly special about a collective experience. During the pandemic, she preferred to take live Zoom classes rather than watch a recording. She needed to know that “everybody’s sweating and struggling or having a wonderful moment at the same time.” Long can’t wait to bring this same feeling to Playhouse attendees.

“If people can be laughing at the same time and then crying two minutes later, wow, you did your job,” she said.

American Jade runs May 20-June 11. The official opening night performance is Saturday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $65 and are on sale now at buckscountyplayhouse.org, 215-862-2121 or the box office, 70 S. Main St. in New Hope. Season ticket packages are available. Special rates for groups of 10 or more.

Following American Jade, the season includes Kinky Boots, June 24-July 30; Dames at Sea, Aug. 12-Sept. 11; and Evita, Sept. 23-Oct. 30.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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