ALVIN ENG is a native NYC playwright, memoirist, performer, acoustic punk rock raconteur and educator. His plays and performances have been seen Off-Broadway, throughout the U.S., as well as in Paris, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China.
His memoir, OUR LAUNDRY, OUR TOWN: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond, was published by Fordham University Press in May 2022. The memoir chronicles growing up in a Chinese Hand Laundry in what was then one of the few immigrant Asian families in the Flushing, Queens, neighborhood of that singular universe that was NYC in the 1970s. After finding his personal and artistic voice through Asian American arts, activism, punk rock and theatre, Eng went on to play in punk bands as well as to become a playwright, author and performer. The memoir culminates in Hong Kong and China. There, Eng was invited to perform his solo performance work, The Last Emperor of Flushing, in English, in a former People’s Hall of the Cultural Revolution in his family’s ancestral Guangdong province. That performance was an extension of a Fulbright Specialist Devised Theatre/Oral History Residency that Eng co-conceived and directed with his wife, director/dramaturg Wendy Wasdahl, at City University of Hong Kong. In this devised theatre/oral history project, students wrote and performed English language plays in response to Thornton Wilder’s classic Americana play, “Our Town.” As Wilder spent part of his childhood in China, when his father was U.S. Consul General to Hong Kong and Shanghai, Our Town has many Chinese influences.
Our Laundry, Our Town was covered by The New York Times, NPR/WNYC’ All of It with Alison Stewart and The Brian Lehrer Show, NY1 and CUNY-TV, among many others. The book has also been acquired for the collections of The New York Public Library and numerous public and academic libraries. Our Laundry, Our Town is also being taught in Asian American and Urban Studies courses at the City University of New York and other colleges and universities.
The memoir will be published in paperback in October 2023.
THREE TREES, the first of Eng’s Portrait Plays series, was published by Obie Award-winning playwright Caridad Svich’s No Passport Press in 2021. This series examines and dramatizes the parallels between portraiture, history and power as manifested in the convergence of different disciplines, eras and cultures. Three Trees explores the haunting relationship between renowned 20th century sculptor Alberto Giacometti and his primary muse/model of the 1950s, Japanese philosopher, Isaku Yanaihara. This first Portrait Play had its World Premiere Off-Broadway with the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre in 2013. In 2012, Three Trees had two English language presentations in Paris. Moving Parts Theatre presented a staged reading of the play. Selected scenes were also presented at the Sorbonne’s conference, &Now 2012 New Writing in Paris: Exchanges and Cross-Fertilizations. At the Sorbonne, the playwright had the honor of performing the role of Isaku Yanaihara. In 2016, Baltimore Center Stage presented the play in a workshop production directed by Hana S. Sharif (currently Artistic Director of Repertory Theatre of St. Louis). Otterbein University and Monterey Peninsula College have also presented workshop productions.The book has also been acquired for the collection of the NYPL, as well as numerous colleges throughout the country.
Eng is the author and editor of the oral history/play anthology, Tokens? The NYC Asian American Experience on Stage. His plays, lyrics and memoir excerpts have also been published in numerous anthologies. His storytelling and commentary have been broadcast and streamed on National Public Radio, among others.
As a Professor of Playwriting, Theatre, Creative Writing and Public Speaking, Eng has had Full-Time Academic Appointments, Visiting Professorships and Residencies on the Undergraduate and Graduate level. He is also a two-time Fulbright Specialist appointee as a Scholar in Theatre/U.S. Studies. During his first appointment, he was in residence at City University of Hong Kong and invited by the U.S. Consulate, Guangzhou, to conduct theatre workshops and perform his memoir monologue, THE LAST EMPEROR of FLUSHING, in his family’s ancestral Guangdong Province.
Eng holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, Tisch School of the Arts of NEW YORK UNIVERSITY.
Current and Recent Projects include:
Spoken Word videos: National Sawdust commissioned HISTORY, NOT NOSTALGIA, CROSSROADS, 2021: FOR JAMES BALDWIN, for their virtual festival, The Fire This Time––an appreciation of James Baldwin on the occasion of Juneteenth finally becoming a national holiday.
CHI CAN’T BREATHE: FOR GEORGE FLOYD was commissioned by the Reset Theatre Coalition––a platform for BIPOC playwrights to respond to George Floyd‘s murder and other tumultuous events during the Summer of 2020.
HERE COMES JOHNNY YEN AGAIN (or How I Kicked Punk) received a 2020 Workshop Residency at Dixon Place, the renowned NYC new theatre incubator. This solo acoustic punk rock raconteur work explores the impact of opium on the Chinese Diaspora as well as NYC’s punk/counterculture through the dual prisms of William S. Burroughs’ character, “Johnny Yen”––immortalized in Iggy Pop & David Bowie’s ”Lust For Life”––and Eng’s own Grandfather’s opium overdose on the streets of NYCs Chinatown.
The first two of three workshop performances in February 8 and March 7 were SRO and well-received. Of course, the third and final workshop performance that was scheduled for April was cancelled, but the Dixon Place Workshop Residency resumes on October 24, 2020! A video of the 25-minute March 7 Workshop performance can be accessed here.
He is also in the earliest stages of writing a new play, AARP (Asian American Rock Party) Presents a One-Night Reunion of G.O.D. (Goddess of Democracy). This play with original songs is a meditation on the axis of activism, history, music and memories. It is told (chanted, ranted and sung) from the perspective of “Goddess of Democracy,” an early 1990s Alternative Rock band that formed in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising. In response to the 2019 Hong Kong uprising, the band is reuniting for one benefit concert…if they can make it through one last rehearsal/reflection process.
Coming Soon: Links to archival info on…
PLAYS & MUSICAL THEATRE WORKS (including Portrait Plays: A Cycle of Historical Dramas on Artists and Portraiture)
SOLO PERFORMANCE WORKS
ARTS EDUCATION and PUBLIC PROGRAMS
PUBLICATIONS and BROADCASTS