IT'S THE BITCH OF LIVING
the recipient of 11 TONY nominations is playing on Broadway to dreamlike reviews, such as "Broadway may never be the same . . . This brave new musical, haunting and electrifying by turns restores the mystery and the thrill to that shattering transformation that stirs in all our souls” – Charles Isherwood, New York Times”, I sat down at NY theatrical ‘hotspot’, The Coffee Pot, to talk with one of it’s producers, Pun Bandhu. Though relatively new to the game, his company ZenDog Productions has already racked up one TONY Award for 2005’s Glengarry Glen Ross. With 11 TONY Nominations, Spring Awakening is in the lead in terms of number of nods, in a very tough season that has some blockbuster competition, such as Legally Blonde, the musical.
did not set about to have a career in the Arts.
“I didn’t think it was practical, frankly. I majored in Political Science and set myself towards a career in international diplomacy. However, I always performed in the productions at school. After school, I thought – do I really love what I’m doing? What I loved doing was performing, so I thought – I’ll give it a year. Well aft
er a year of working as an Actor, and studying with Ann Bogart, it was going better, much better. After a year and half of doing fairly well in terms of booking, I decided I needed more training, I applied to Yale School of Drama.”
Those in the Arts, and most of those who are not, know that the Yale School of Drama is an exceptional dramatic training program. Names of legend roll through every hallway and across our movie, television, and stages – Meryl Streep, Paul Newman, and playwright Wendy Wasserstein to name but a few. It is the second oldest drama school in the country. To quote one article that was run in the Yale Herald in 1996 “1270 applied, 68 got in”, and it’s only grown more intense since then. It is a highly competitive training program that does not use color as a benchmark for talent.
That being said, there were not many Asian attendees while Pun was there - we had Esther K. Chae in front of us, and there were three in my class including myself – one Korean American – Jane Cho, and one Phillipino – Rio Portollano. I remember Esther getting us together and saying we should do something because it was the most in the history of Yale as far as we knew, so we applied for a grant and produced works by Asian playwrights. Sung Rno's play, "Cleveland Raining" at the Yale Cabaret using was the first. I think the support for us was a huge statement for Yale to make – it’s not about quotas, it’s about talent.
Attending Yale changed my life completely – it developed my skills, yes, but it also made me look at the world as an Artist, and at what my role and my responsibility was in the creation process. I will be grateful to those teachers for the rest of my life, I would not be here without them.”
moving to New York, Bandhu focused mainly on acting and did not produce
anything for two years.
"While producing is first and foremost a business, I think being an artist has made me a better producer. My understanding of dramaturgy aids me in seeing the strengths and weaknesses in a script. A knowledge of theatical history helps me evaluate a project within a wider context. Most importantly, I understand the process and am able to support and collaborate with the artists with whom I am working."
From the Yale Metropolitan Newsletter, January 2007: The Unofficial NY Yale Cabaret (UNYYC), made up of alumni from 2001 all the way back to 1969, was created to showcase the talents of Yale School of Drama graduates and their collaborators in New York City. In its inaugural year, it has presented an ambitious slate of four productions, one world premiere, one US premiere, and one NY Premiere. It has been featured nationally and internationally in media from the New York Times to the Malaysian Star, and in December received the distinction of one of NYTheatre.com's "People of the Year" for its exciting contributions to the New York Theatre scene. Many of its productions have topped the NYTheatre.com Top Ten Picks list of productions to see in all of NY, including Broadway and Off Broadway shows, have been TimeOut NY and Backstage's picks of the week.
Bandhu got together with like-minded colleagues and together they started the UnOfficial Yale Cabaret. “I did it in part because I got to a point where I was playing doctors and lawyers and roles on the periphery. That’s where people in entertainment saw Asian Americans, so I decided to create my own opportunities. Partnered up with like minded people, and there it all fell into place, the Unofficial NY Yale Cabaret.”