By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
Chalk Repertory Theatre is launching its new audio series “Chalk Lines” — five short plays that bring to life unsung landmarks in Los Angeles — on June 19.
One of the stories, “March of Time — Time Warp,” written by Luis Alfaro and directed by Jennifer Chang, features Emily Kuroda and Giovanni Adams. The plays will be accessible for the next six months. For streaming information, go to: https://chalkrep.com
“I am so excited about my latest piece,” said Kuroda, who has appeared in numerous stage productions locally and across the country. “It is my first experience performing in an immersive audio play. It is a welcome break from this world of constant visuals: Google, YouTube, streaming video and Zoom. Close your eyes and just listen.”
The piece, she said, “follows an unusually frank tour guide through 150-plus years of Los Angeles history and a morphing district from Union Station to Chinatown to the Coliseum and much more — fascinating history enhanced by actual soundscapes of the area. The sensation is as if you were standing in the middle of the community with one wacky tour guide and her earnest young tourist.
“It’s fun, it’s fast, It’s irreverent, it hits you in the gut. I love it.”
Kuroda, who also has extensive TV and film credits, has found the pandemic period to be a time of great opportunities as well as tough challenges.
On the plus side: “March of last year was an exciting time for Asian American theater. We had at least six amazing shows playing in New York — the Signature Theater (‘Cambodian Rock Band’), Lincoln Center (‘Greater Clements’ and ‘The Headlands’), Second Stage (‘We’re Gonna Die’), Ma-Yi Theater (‘Suicide Forest’) and I was at New York Theatre Workshop with ‘Endlings,’ a remarkably poignant play about immigration, written by Celine Song and directed by the incomparable Sammi Cannold. I thought, ‘Finally! Asian Americans – our time has come!’
“In ‘Endlings’ I portrayed one of three elderly sea farmers (haenyos) in Korea. We had a pool spanning the stage and I swam five times each show – that’s ten times on a two-show day! We had just opened the show and then the unimaginable happened. All shows in NYC closed because of COVID. To this day our poster is still outside the theater.”
For Asian Americans, Kuroda noted, there have been two pandemics, COVID and hate crimes. “Last month I worked with Citibank on a public service announcement addressing this issue and I have also been involved in many fundraisers, including ‘Writing Fragments Home’ by Jeffrey Lo for Compassion in Oakland, and currently I am working with Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company benefitting elders in our Asian American community.”
Describing the past year as both a curse and a blessing, she said, “Because all work was done out of my home, I have been able to work on new pieces with friends all over the country. Since the pandemic, I have worked on 16 New York productions (including ‘The Woman’s Party,’ which was a New York Times Critics’ Pick), 12 Boston shows, nine in the Bay Area, five in Minneapolis (including ‘Today Is My Birthday’ with Theater Mu, which we performed live via OBS), two in Portland and two in Texas, among many others — 83 projects total.
“I was shipped computers, microphones, lights, costumes and props. Low-budget projects had me scrounging around the house for my own things. It’s all been so much fun and such a challenge!”
In addition to “Chalk Lines,” audio plays have included “revisiting ‘No-No Boy’ for L.A. Theatre Works, ‘Today Is My Birthday’ for Artists Repertory Theater in Portland, and ‘Tiger Style’ for the Huntington Theater in Boston, which garnered a Drama League nomination for Best Audio Theatre Production.”
Meanwhile, things are starting to go back to normal in the TV/film world. “I have done an episode of ‘All Rise’ and the upcoming HBO Max movie ‘Kimi’ directed by Steven Soderberg, as well as a number of cartoons for Disney, podcasts for Audible and dubbing many Korean and Japanese dramas. I must say, it feels great being in a studio again.”
Her husband and fellow actor, Alberto Isaac, is also finding more opportunities. He just finished 10 weeks in the Dominican Republic shooting “Shotgun Wedding” with Jennifer Lopez, which is set in the Philippines. “Things are looking up for us,” Kuroda said.
If Kuroda is recognized in public, it is most likely for her recurring role as Mrs. Kim, mother of Lane Kim (Keiko Agena), on “Gilmore Girls,” a comedy-drama series that ran from 2000 to 2007 on The WB. She reprised the role in “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” (2016).
“Whether there will be another ‘Gilmore Girls’ reunion I am not sure, but wouldn’t that be fun?” she said. “I have my fingers crossed!”