A Cycle of Historical Dramas about Artists and Portraiture that explores and dramatizes the parallels between portraiture, history and power as manifested in the convergence of different disciplines, eras and cultures. Dramatically, Portrait Plays also explore ways to externalize and physicalize the usually internal and bodily static process of portraiture––and all its power dynamics between artist and sitter/subject within the socio-political landscape of their time.
THREE TREES, the first Portrait Play, explores the haunting relationship between Alberto Giacometti, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and his primary 1950s muse/model, Japanese philosopher & professor Isaku Yanaihara. The play is both a love story and a window into one of the lesser-known chapters in Giacometti’s life, as well as the controversial Yanaihara family, that indelibly changed the work and life of both men. (Full-length 1W, 3M)
Three Trees was published by Obie Award-winning playwright Caridad Svich’s No Passport Press in 2021. The book has also been acquired for the collection of the NYPL, as well as numerous colleges throughout the country.
“Profound conversation between the great artist and the philosopher.”
THE NEW YORKER
“THREE TREES is a magic wand that wishes the past into the present. I was often with Alberto and company from 1949 to 1961. I had intimate talks with all the actors there. This play moves me in the deepest way by how well it recalls those challenging and so rewarding times.”
HERBERT LUST Author, Giacometti: The Complete Graphics, Friend and Model to Alberto Giacometti,
“THREE TREES is an astonishingly moving play about Alberto Giacometti, his wife Annette, his brother, Diego, and his good friend, Isaku Yanaihara. Eng has perfectly captured the personalities of each as well as the steamy and stormy interactions that wove them into a tight triangle. Eng’s deep appreciation for and comprehension of Giacometti’s art sheds a brilliant light on the complex human drama that unfolds before our eyes.”
LAURIE WILSON, author of Alberto Giacometti: Myth Magic and the Man
Staged Reading: Moving Parts Theatre, Paris, 2012
Conference Presentation: “&Now 2012: New Writing in Paris,” La Sorbonne, Paris, 2012
Off-Broadway Production: Pan Asian Repertory Theatre @ West End Theatre, NYC, 2013
Regional Theatre Workshop Production: Baltimore Center Stage , MD, 2016
Symposium Staged Reading and Workshops: Otterbein University, Ohio, 2019
33 & 1/3 CORNELIA STREET
The second Portrait Play, 33 & 1/3 CORNELIA STREET dramatizes the fateful events that forever bonded the legacies of Bohemian Greenwich Village legends, Joe Gould, proto-Beat poet and controversial oral history figure, and Joseph Mitchell, renowned writer for The New Yorker Magazine, through the powerful vortex of revered painter Alice Neel‘s groundbreaking portrait of Gould. Mitchell immortalized Gould in a 1942 New Yorker profile for writing “the longest book ever-written and the first oral history”—or did he? Later, Mitchell published a second profile, “Joe Gould’s Secret,” claiming Gould’s opus to be a hoax . . . or was it? This 1964 New Yorker profile was the last piece Mitchell published in his storied four-decade career there… even though he continued to go to the office everyday thru the 1980s. Throughout it all, Neel remained steadfast in her public support for Gould and his missing manuscript. Alternating between 1930s Greenwich Village and a 1970s Women’s Studies lecture by accidental feminist icon, Neel, the play explores the conflicts of spiritual vs. commercial ownership of a work of art, as well as that of personal stories that become published, public history. (Full-length 3W, 3M)
City Lore Benefit, NYC, 2014 featuring Kathleen Chalfant and Bob Holman as Alice Neel and Joe Gould with Susan Louise O’Connor, Paul Gigante and Ezra Barnes as Joseph Mitchell.
NYU Fales Library Manuscript Collection, 2015 – Reading and discussion of “33.3 …” in conjunction with Fales’ remarkable “Downtown Collection” that that houses Joe Gould’s notebooks––featuring Martha Wilson and Bob Holman as Alice Neel and Joe Gould with Kelly McCrann, Paul Gigante and Paul Zimet as Joseph Mitchell.
“Beat & Beyond Festival 2016,” (Annual homage to Allen Ginsberg) Howl! Happening gallery, NYC, 2016, featuring Mink Stole and Bob Holman as Alice Neel and Joe Gould with Lulu Fogarty, Paul Gigante and Matthew Maguire as Joseph Mitchell.
THE IMPERIAL IMAGE
THE IMPERIAL IMAGE, the third work of this cycle, is a dramatic triptych that explores how and why portraits of royalty and political leaders have come to hold a powerful place in societal structures and rituals. This work spans three different regions and eras beginning in Mughal era India. There, we see a tipping point interaction between Emperor Akbar and Basawan, a renowned calligrapher, as they grapple with growing western and other non-Indian influences on the Imperial Atelier and the country. The second section is primarily a monologue for Marie Antoinette’s court portraitist, Élisabeth Vigée LeBrun, in exile from the French Revolution in the Court of Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg. The play concludes with a re-imagining of the s circumstances surrounding Shepard Fairey’s creation of the ubiquitous “Hope” poster for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. (Full-length 2W, 2M)
“Writers Block 2016” Benefit Performance Series, Howl! Arts gallery, NYC Invited work-in-progress staged reading to benefit Actors Fund’s Howl HELP program to benefit theatrical artists and artisans of New York City’s East Village and Lower East Side.
“First Acts: New Plays in Development” series, Queens College/Kupferberg Center for the Arts Workshop and Staged Reading, 2017
MUSICAL THEATRE WORKS
THE GOONG HAY KID A punk-rap musical with music and lyrics by Alvin Eng
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, NYC, 1994
Theatre Mu, Minneapolis, MN. 1994
Group Theatre, Winner, Multicultural Playwrights Festival, Seattle, WA. 1990
THE LAST HAND LAUNDRY IN CHINATOWN a musical
Book and Lyrics by Alvin Eng, Music by John Dunbar
Production: La Mama, E.T.C., NYC, 1996
MAO ZEDONG: JEALOUS SON An Opera
Libretto by Alvin Eng, Music by Yoav Gal
Production: La Mama, E.T.C., NYC, 1999
Select “Group PRODUCTIONS”
Off-Broadway Production: Resonance Ensemble’s Reflections: An Evening of Short Plays at Theatre Row, NYC, 2009
THE MOURNING AFTER
Off-Broadway Production: “A-Train (re) Plays,” Peter Jay Sharp Theater, NYC, 2005