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Collaborating with faculty at the University of California, Philip Kan Gotanda developed a new play,I Dream of Chang and Eng, based on the lives of the original Siamese twins. Gotanda created the work through a residency in the Department of  Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies.

His subjects, Chang and Eng Bunker, were ethnic Chinese, born in Siam in 1811 and taken to America to be exhibited as freaks. They successfully bought out their contracts and toured themselves throughout the Western world, ultimately meeting presidents, prime ministers, kings, and queens before settling down on their own plantation in North Carolina with their wives (sisters in their own right) and starting a family that included 21 children between them.

With a cast of 19 actors, Gotanda’s new work animated the lives of these pioneer figures while engaging a variety of contemporary issues–and participating in a public forum–about race, physical disability, and interracial marriage, among other subjects. The department brought together researchers, artists, educators, and students from across the campus to support Gotanda’s critical inquiry, while providing its audience a front row seat in the development of a new work.

Philip Kan Gotanda is an influential theater artist, independent filmmaker, and the recipient of multiple honors and awards. His plays have been instrumental in bringing stories of Asians in the United States to major and alternative theater stages. Under the direction of Chair Peter Glazer, the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies works to enrich the intellectual and educational lives of its students and to bring leading scholars, artists, and cultural critics to the campus.

Photo: Ryan Montgomery