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Playwright/Storyteller Brenda Wong Aoki Selected as Recipient of Map Fund for New Works

Kai Kāne Aoki Izu (foreground) and Brenda Wong Aoki (Photo courtesy of First Voice)

SAN FRANCISCO – Award-winning storyteller, playwright, and Bay Area local Brenda Wong Aoki is pleased to announce that she has been selected as a recipient of the 2019 MAP Fund for New Works.

In celebration of its 30th anniversary of grantmaking, the MAP Fund will present grants to 42 original, live performance projects that will receive funding, totaling $1.3 million in direct support for development and production.

“J-town, Chinatown: Our Town” (working title) is currently being developed by Aoki along with her husband and collaborator, award-winning jazz musician Mark Izu, and is set to premiere at the 2021 CAAMFest.

Brenda Wong Aoki

“This work is about identity and homeland in an increasingly multiracial America, especially in cities where historic cultural districts like Chinatown and J-town are being dismantled, or no one from the culture lives there anymore,” said Aoki. “The play is about belonging…in a complex, interconnected, chaotic world. Ultimately this is an American story.”

“J-town, Chinatown: Our Town” is inspired by their son and family’s 122-year history in the nation’s first Japantown and Chinatown. It combines story, jazz with Chinese and Japanese instrumentation, nohgaku, contemporary dance, multimedia by Olivia Ting, costumes by Lydia Tanji, and Japanese and Chinese American home movies by Stephen Gong from the Center for Asian American media.

In the rain, a mixed-race young man born and raised in San Francisco waits for his Uber. Surrounded by destitute people scurrying for shelter, and rich people sauntering home, he thinks about moving away to a kinder, gentler place.

The spirits of his grandmothers snatch him, whisking him backwards and forwards through time. Reminding him that his ancestors built this city, its soul will always be with him and his great-grandchildren need him to remember.

Wong Aoki’s song/dance/dramas are drawn from her family’s history in San Francisco and the Bay Area, kabuki legends, ghost stories, and her personal experience. Known for her agility across disciplines, she creates monodramas rooted in traditional storytelling, dance movement, and music. For more information, visit

The MAP Fund invests in artistic production as the critical foundation of imagining — and ultimately co-creating — a more equitable and vibrant society. MAP supports original live performance projects that embody a spirit of deep inquiry, particularly works created by artists who question, disrupt, complicate, and challenge inherited notions of social and cultural hierarchy across the United States.

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