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L - R: Mikayla Kwan, Aurora Chan, Kyle Toy, Howie Kwan, Jane Loy

Photo by John Ball Photography

Dim Sum Diaries: Second Helping

PLAYWRIGHT BIOGRAPHIES

 

KEVIN CHONG (“House Poor”). Kevin Chong is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, most recently the novel The Double Life of Benson Yu, which was a finalist for the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize and named a Best Book of Canadian Fiction by the CBC. His creative nonfiction and journalism have recently appeared in Time Magazine, Literary Hub, Montecristo, and the Globe and Mail. An associate professor at UBC Okanagan, he lives in Vancouver with his family.

AARON JAN (“Har Gow”). Hamilton-born, Toronto-based playwright, bookwriter, director and dramaturg. He has worked as a creator with Factory Theatre, Canadian Stage, Native Earth Performing Arts, Theatre Aquarius, fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre, Boca Del Lupo, The School of Performance at Toronto Metropolitan University, York University, Theatre Sheridan and Theatre Erindale. Member of the critically acclaimed Silk Bath Collective, whose production of Yellow Rabbit enjoyed a sold out run as a part of Soulpepper’s 2018/2019 season. Co-winner of the 2021 Rita Joe Playwriting Award, and the 2022 winner of Tarragon Theatre's Urjo Kareda Award for Emerging Artists.

 

DALE LEE KWONG (“Sticky Rice”) is a Calgary based poet, playwright, and essayist. She is a third-generation Canadian Chinese settler. An advocate for Calgary’s Chinatown, go to the Jupiter Theatre website to hear her Chinatown walking tour podcast, “Master Oogam’s Blessing”. Her work explores Chinese Canadian history, diversity & inclusion, adoption, and LGBTQ issues.  

 

MARK LEIREN-YOUNG (“Dim Sum Diaries”) is a Saanich-based Canadian playwright, author, journalist, screenwriter, filmmaker, environmentalist, and educator. His radio play Dim Sum Diaries earned him international recognition. He has written three children’s books about whales, including Orcas Everywhere (winner of the 2020 City of Victoria Children’s Book Award). He also hosts the popular environmental podcast Skaana, where he interviews scientists, environmentalists, and other experts about orcas, oceans, eco-ethics and the environment. As a playwright, Mark’s comedy Bar Mitzvah Boy, debuted in 2018 at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver, and has subsequently been produced in Toronto, Los Angeles and New York. A Czech translation of his play Shylock just finished a three-year run in repertory in Prague. His plays have been produced throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. Mark has been an adjunct professor at The University of Victoria’s Writing Department since being brought to the university as the Harvey Southam Fellow in 2015. 

 

DR. YVETTE LU (“Behind The Mask”) is a family physician, health educator, and actor from Vancouver, BC. She received a Canadian Screen Award nomination for her work as host of "House Call with Dr. Yvette Lu," a show about caregivers that has won awards at festivals worldwide. Dr. Lu has been a medical expert on Breakfast Television and other news shows, and as an actor has appeared in films and on television shows including The Good Doctor, Superman and Lois, and Schmigadoon. Among her written works is “Stories from the Closet,” a research-based play about living with chronic illness. She hopes to increase awareness about health issues and improve health outcomes through her work.

 

MINH LY (“One More Rep”) is a Chinese/Vietnamese Canadian actor/writer based in Toronto, ON. He strives to create theatre that is inclusive, relevant, and provokes discussion on issues that affect marginalized groups in our society. Minh trained at Studio 58 in Vancouver, and has worked in film/tv and theatre. Recent film/tv credits include, STAR TREK DISCOVERY (CBS), SEE (Apple TV), and CARDINAL (CTV Network). Selected theatre credits include, HANA’S SUITCASE (Magnus Theatre) and THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (Gateway Theatre). As a writer, Minh’s first full-length play, GA TING 家庭 (family), has been produced in Western Canada (frank Theatre/VACT), and Toronto (Next Stage Theatre Festival). It has also been published by Scirocco Drama, and Playwrights Canada Press. He/him. www.minhly.ca

 

LOUISA PHUNG SUK YEE  (“The Struggle Is Real”) is an award-winning director and writer for both stage and screen. Louisa’s play “Embers of the Past” was selected for 2021/2022 Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre’s play development program, MSG Lab 1 and 2. Her short film, “Hope and Grace” was nominated for Best Canadian Short Film at the 2021 Regina International Film Festival and Awards, as well as Outstanding Screenplay and Outstanding BC Film at the Short Circuit Film Festival. Credits: Co-Dir. “Vietgone” (United Players), Dir. “Beirut” (Vancouver Fringe Festival), Dir. and Dramaturge “Qi Pao” (Or Festival), “Siren” (Brave New Playwrights Festival). She/they. 

 

KENNETH TYNAN (“Moon Cakes”) is an artist based in the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples or colloquially known as Vancouver. Some select credits include Netflix's Zero Chill, a figure skating youth TV program, and more recently he played Perseus in Direct Theatre's Monster, nominated for best new musical at the Ovation Awards. As a writer, Kenneth had his short play Qi Pao go up at the Or Festival last year and he has also written a piece set to appear in this years the Brave New Playrites Festival. He is very excited for you to see Moon Cakes and partake in the meal that is Dim Sum Diaries: Second Helping.

PERFORMER BIOGRAPHIES

 

AURORA CHAN. A first generation Chinese Canadian, Aurora Chan is excited for this opportunity to help amplify the voices of the immigrant experience with Fabulist Theatre. The ‘second helping’ of excitement is reuniting with director Damon Bradley Jang, with whom she shared a stage in Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre’s milestone production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical Flower Drum Song in 2009. Aurora was most recently seen onstage as hilariously outspoken Huong in United Players’ production of Vietgone in 2022.

 

HOWIE KWAN started his acting journey in Hong Kong. He appeared in productions of classics such as The Shadow Box (2017), The Cherry Orchard (2017), and Rashomon (2016). Credited in Beautiful Mind (RTHK, 2016), and as a voice actor, Howie made his local debut in the Cantonese musical Better Me (2023). Offstage, you may find Howie exploring the city's diverse restaurants, indulging in its rich culinary culture.

 

MIKAYLA KWAN (she/her) is a Chinese Canadian actor, dancer, singer, writer, and academic, born and raised in Vancouver, BC. She is a graduate of Sheridan College’s Honours Bachelor of Music Theatre Performance Program. Mikayla is currently doing her MA in Theatre Studies at UBC and her work centers intergenerationality and representation in Asian-Canadian musical theatre and music theatre as a whole. As a woman of colour in the performing arts, she is passionate about diversifying the stories we tell and the music theatre history we study. Mikayla is thrilled to be part of Dim Sum Diaries: Second Helping! 

 

JANE LOY* has been acting all her life studying drama, stagecraft, and singing in high school then continuing her classical acting training with such noted teachers as William B. Davis, Mark High & Alex Bruhanski. Jane's favourite musical theatre highlights include the title role in Metro Theatre's Puss In Boots & Footlight Theatre Company's multiple productions. She performed in the Fringe Festival before writing her own screenplay for Rogers Community TV before moving to film & TV full time. She has had numerous roles in commercials, TV & film, most notably working with Steven Seagal in True Justice. She is thrilled to return to live theatre with the Fabulist cast!

 

KYLE TOY* is a dancer, actor, choreographer, and producer with an extensive and diverse background spanning several performance mediums.  Toy started his professional dance with a scholarship at Canada’s National Ballet School.  From there, he completed a university diploma in Dance and received scholarships from the Canada Dance Festival, Arts Umbrella, and became the recipient of the Evelyn Davis Award for outstanding ability in the performing arts. After a mentorship with Ballet BC, Toy danced with Ballet de Printemps, Ballet Victoria, Alberta Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the Canadian Opera Company, and Drayton Entertainment. He also performed in the contemporary/ballet section of the XXI Vancouver Olympics Opening Ceremonies with Sarah McLachlan. In the world of film acting, Toy has appeared in several TV shows and movies including “Once Upon a Time” (ABC), “The 100” (CBS/Warner Bros.), “iZombie” (Warner Bros.), Hallmark movies “Make Me a Match” and “Friends and Family Christmas”, and starred as a series regular in the NBC/Universal TV series “The Arrangement” for the show’s two-season run. 

 

PRODUCTION TEAM BIOGRAPHIES

 

DAMON BRADLEY JANG* (Director) has had the fortune to work coast to coast from Victoria to Newfoundland. A multidisciplinary performing arts practitioner, Damon spent two seasons at the Stratford Festival as part of the Birmingham Conservatory. Recents projects include: House Of Burton, Beauty and the Beast, Alice Through The Looking Glass (Creative Director, Viral Ventures), Sure Thing (Randolph College Young Company), Beaches (Industry Workshop, NYC), Casey and Diana, All’s Well That Ends Well (Assistant Director, Stratford), The Birds, Agamemnon (Birmingham Conservatory), Cockroach (Associate Director, Tarragon), The Sound of Music (Assistant Director/Assistant Choreographer, Drayton Entertainment). For Fabulist, he has previously directed Dracula, Once On This Island (3 Broadway World Vancouver Awards)  and co-directed performed in and choreographed the inaugural reimagined production of  Songs for A New World. Damon now resides in Toronto but still has a home base in Vancouver and travels where the work calls him. He holds a Bachelor of Performing Arts and Musical Theatre Diploma from Capilano University  and has trained at the Banff Centre and Broadway Dance Center in New York. He is the Co-Artistic/Marketing Director for Fabulist Theatre and a member of the Canadian Actors Equity Association.

 

VALERIE SING TURNER (Dramaturg). Valerie is an award-winning multidisciplinary artist who performs, writes, directs, dramaturges and produces. A recipient of the Enbridge playRites Award for Emerging Canadian Playwright, Gordon Armstrong Playwrights Rent Award, and John Moffat + Larry Lillo Prize, she was artist-in-residence with the National Arts Centre (Ottawa) for In the Shadow of the Mountains, her 10-actor play in development. Her writings have appeared in Canadian Theatre Review, alt.theatre, Ricepaper Magazine, various online publications, and operatic libretti. She has been artist-in-residence with the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, associate artist with Urban Ink Productions, and guest artist with Canada’s National Voice Intensive. In 2003, Valerie founded Visceral Visions. As Co-Artistic Producer, she works to ensure that Visceral Visions consciously addresses systemic inequality in its artistic practice, using art to build awareness and empathy; the company’s largest initiative is CultureBrew.Art, a digital platform for Indigenous and racialized artists who work in the literary, performing, and media arts, for which Valerie is Co-Director and Creative Lead.

 

AMANDA WING CHI LAM (Assistant Director/Cultural Consultant) has moved back to Vancouver after directing The Conference of the Birds in Maui, Hawai'i. Other recent work as a director include; She Kills Monsters, The House of Bernarda Alba, and How the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a Got Its Name. For this recent Lunar New Year, Wing Chi wrote/directed their first children's play; The Great Race: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiacs for Maui's children's theatre group, Keiki Drama Group.  As a child of hard-working immigrant parents, Wing received education from the Royal Conservatory of Music, Trinity College London, University of British Columbia, and Vancouver Film School. Wing is so blessed to be back in the city and working with this stunning group of Chinese Canadians. The ancestors are smiling upon us! 

MEGAN WONG (Cultural Wellness Support)  is a queer, neurodivergent, Chinese Canadian Intimacy Professional working primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Megan’s primary background includes classical ballet and contemporary dance, movement theatre, and psychology (B.A.). She is also a practicing special educator and sexual assault support worker and incorporates skills from those disciplines into her practice. Megan has consulted and presented internationally as an IP and works predominantly in Victoria and Vancouver. Select credits include Superman & Lois S3 (CW), Reginald the Vampire S2 (Syfy), Vietgone (United Players) and Seventeen (Western Gold Theatre). She/they. 

 

*The participation of these Artists is arranged by permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association under the provisions of the Dance Opera Theatre Policy (DOT).

REFLECTIONS FROM THE PLAYWRIGHTS

Kevin Chong - HOUSE POOR

 I wanted to write about the changing face of the city I grew up in through the perspective of a kind person I know well but doesn’t often get their story foregrounded. My experiences are often sheltered by being middle class and middle-aged in a very Chinese city, so I don’t feel I have lived through some of the harsher experiences [of] others, but I do feel more connected to the community through places like the Chinatown Storytelling Centre and the Chinese Canadian Museum. I think we are one of the biggest communities in Canada and I feel our stories are underserved. When I think of representation, I often think about how a lack of it warped my self-image and attitude toward my heritage as a younger person. I would love for young people today to feel less of that type of alienation.

Aaron Jan - HAR GOW

 I'm interested in pieces about lateral violence in Chinese communities, especially how the younger generation perpetuates it. I think I'm less interested in saying something and more interested in exploring the muck and grime and the ways our communities hurt and isolate each other. I think by exploring not!great!Chinese characters, it allows us as Chinese Canadian audiences to interrogate how we intersect with their failings and toxic flaws and subsequently grow as a community. More Chinese villain-heroes always! I've only benefited from being Chinese Canadian in the last few years, which has been rather strange. Since May 2020,  I feel that I've been getting more theatre work than ever. Is it because I'm Chinese Canadian? Is it because I'm good (and why didn't people start engaging me before 2020, when my resume was entirely the same)? I'm really not sure. It's interesting being in situations where sometimes you know you're - in part - hired because of your ethnicity, but also if the organization has the infrastructure to actually support you as an artist. Chinese Canadian stories are important because they allow us to not only celebrate our community and feel a sense of belonging, but also allow us to see where we're wrong, vulnerable or shitty.  

Dale Lee Kwong - STICKY RICE

This piece gives voice to voices not often heard – Chinese adoptees from China who were raised in white and Chinese families. It’s been a long journey from racial taunts in 1960s elementary school to being a sought after collaborator simply because of my race during the current Woke Culture. I’m proud to be a settler of Chinese descent, and I am especially mindful of the hard life of the early Chinese in Canada. For so much of my life there was no Chinese Canadian representation in mainstream culture, so I appreciate every opportunity to share about being Chinese Canadian and our contributions to Canada. Representation means we matter just as much as anyone else, we can take up space and know we are equal to everyone.


Mark Leiren-Young - DIM SUM DIARIES

The original Dim Sum Diaries debuted on CBC radio in 1991. A collection of five monologues, the premise was to explore “how Vancouver had changed or was perceived to have changed due to Hong Kong immigration.” When it was clear the project was making waves, producer John Juliani (who became my mentor) started talking about possible sequels. We wanted to keep creating monologue collections set in different worlds. I suggested a series of stories built around trees inspired by the response to the monologue that was (to my shock) the most controversial from the original Dim Sum - a story from the point of view of a white homeowner upset at a tree being cut. I eventually wrote that sequel. It became my first movie  - The Green Chain. After Dim Sum aired, I was urged by several people - including  Chinese Canadian community leaders - to write more Dim Sum monologues. John and I felt that if there were more Dim Sum Diaries they should be written by a Chinese Canadian writer or writers. When Fabulist staged the original Dim Sum Diaries a few years ago, that was a treat. And when John’s artistic partner, Donna Wong-Juliani, and I started discussing this new incarnation with the team at Fabulist, the idea of seeing John’s dream from 1991 come together tonight… magic. If John (who passed away in 2003) was in charge of CBC, I suspect a variation of this would have existed in 1992.

Yvette Lu - BEHIND THE MASK

Health care workers experienced a tough time during the pandemic and I wanted to explore and share some of the challenges we went through. As I was researching and writing, the piece became more about the everyday racism that Chinese Canadian physicians experience and how we cope with it. During the pandemic, I was concerned that I or my Asian Canadian friends and family might be targeted due to our race. It created a sense of vigilance and fear that I wouldn’t normally have carried around with me, and it caused me to modify my behavior. Representation is about being seen and recognized as having value. If we and our stories are not represented in the arts, then it sends a message that our stories are not important and that we are not valued members of society. Having our stories told and heard grants us a place in Canadian culture and sends a message that what happens to us, our ideas, and our lives are worthy and that we belong in Canada. 

Minh Ly - ONE MORE REP

It was important [in writing this piece] to explore beauty standards. Ultimately questioning if being a good, decent human being is better than being "beautiful". Whatever "beautiful" actually means. I think it's important for all of us to tell our stories, if not tell, at least see our stories. I am Chinese/Vietnamese and Canadian. Hence, stories I tell will be influenced by my experiences, culture, sensitivities, etc. I do truly believe deep down we're all interested in each other's stories, they simply haven't all had a chance to be told yet. When they are told in an engaging, smart, entertaining way, there will be an audience. 

 

 

Louisa Phung Suk Yee - THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

 This monologue is a time capsule of this moment in time and some of the struggles Asian Canadian women are forced to face. Having been born and raised in Canada, I sometimes forget that my race can be an issue. When I'm confronted with it, it's confusing, frustrating, and heartbreaking. Thankfully, it doesn't happen often and have found support within the Asian arts community.Representation for me is the idiom "if you can see it, you can be it."  

Kenneth Tynan - MOON CAKES

There are very few mixed-Asian pieces and it's important to highlight the internal struggle this group of minorities go through within a minority. In this piece I want to relay that white-presenting Asians tend to self-ostracize themselves from trying to participate because they don't feel like they can. I have had a conversation with a fellow artist saying I wasn't Chinese, despite my heritage. I've also had concerns about my family as my aunt was verbally assaulted, but told I shouldn't worry because I'm not Chinese enough. But I've also felt more connected to my heritage as I wrote a play last year which was presented at the Or Festival that deals with some of what Moon Cakes deals with and in that I was offered to write for the Dim Sum Diaries. Chinese Canadian stories are important as they have been a part of shaping Canadian history for years. Canadian Asians have inserted themselves into many industries and shaped them such as Figure Skating (Patrick Chan), climate change activism (David Suzuki), film (Sandra Oh) and more. We have been shaping industries, but never for ourselves and it's only been more recently that Asian Canadians have created media that was meant for us such as Kim's Convenience or Second Jen.

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