Chong's residency and the performance are sponsored by the Kirkland Project for the study of Gender, Society and Culture at Hamilton College, with additional funding from the Victor S. Johnson Family Lecture Fund, the Kirkland Endowment and the Office of the President.
Undesirable Elements is a unique community-based work that explores culture, immigration and history and their effects on the lives of individuals within the community. The individuals are different in many ways but share the common trait of identifying with more than one culture. The eight Hamilton students come from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds; the piece is based on their stories, and interweaves personal narrative and historical fact to create a poetic exploration of human differences and similarities.
"It's a story-telling project, it's a real life piece about what is identity, what is an American, what is the meaning of our differences. I consider it an oral history project, a tapestry of the American story. It will give a sense of Hamilton as a microcosm," Chong says. None of the eight students are theatre majors; they were chosen for their diverse cultures. They include students of Caribbean, Chinese, Jewish Latina, Native American, South Asian and Lebanese descent.
Undesirable Elements has been performed to sold-out audiences in New York, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Seattle and Tokyo. The Tokyo production won a Yomiuri prize as one of the outstanding theatrical productions in Japan in 1995.
Ping Chong was raised in the Chinatown section of New York City. He studied film-making and graphic design at the School of Visual Arts and the Pratt Institute. He began his theatrical career as a member of Meredith Monk's The House Foundation. He collaborated with her on several major works including The Travelogue Series and The Games, for which they shared the Outstanding Achievement in Music Theater Award in 1986.
In 1972 Ping Chong created Lazarus, his first independent theatre work. Since then he has created more than 25 major works for the stage, including Humboldt's Current (Obie Award, 1977); A.M./A.M. - The Articulated Man (Villager Award, 1982); Nosferatu (Maharam Design Award, 1985); Angels of Swedenborg (1985); Kind Ness (USA Playwrights' Award, 1988); Brightness, which garnered two 1990 Bessie Awards, Deshima, Chinoiserie and After Sorrow, performed at Hamilton College in 1997.
His work has been performed at such major New York venues as The Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival, The Joyce Theatre, La MaMa E.T.C., St. Clement's Theatre and the Central Park Summerstage, as well as at major museums, theatres and festivals in North America, Europe and Asia. Today, Ping Chong is recognized as one of our country's most significant Asian-American artists.
The Kirkland Project, which is sponsoring the performance, is charged with addressing questions and issues of gender, diversity and social justice and provides college-wide opportunities for dynamic intellectual discussion, interaction and exchange.
The Victor S. Johnson Family Lecture Fund was established by the Johnson family to bring to the campus speakers who are alumni, public figures, scholars and others who have distinguished themselves in their respective careers and are recognized leaders in their fields. The lectures are intended to address a significant aspect of American life and thought.