Soft Power: Political musical with strong Asian American cast explores cultural identity

SAN FRANCISCO — Soft Power, a new collaboration between Tony award winners David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori, rewinds the country’s recent political history and tells it through a Chinese lens.

The production, starring Fil-Am actor Conrad Ricamora, features a predominantly Asian American cast, including many Filipinos, who take on the musical’s political messages through song, dance and comedy.

“With the climate that’s happening right now politically there’s a desire for all of us to do something and nothing ever seems enough–and if I can do it with my career, my line of work and art tends to move the message stronger than any other medium. When I heard about this piece I jumped right on it,” said Jaygee Macapugay.

“What has happened today, and what the filter that people are going to walk in the theatre with, was there just a gun shooting today, okay that’s going to be a tender piece for us,” said Maria Christina Oliveras.

While political, the production is also personal, with one of the main characters struggling with his Chinese and American identities — an experience these cast members say they’ve also had and hope to address now with their art.

“Shows where we get to be strong Asian Americans that aren’t weak, submitting to the narrative of a white person, its helped me to embrace my culture and realize that I wasn’t represented growing up, and now I have a chance to be that for the younger generation,” says Trevor Salter.

But for these Fil-Ams in the arts, the path to their careers was no easy one- a struggle between following their duty and pursuing what they love — which is also one of the central themes in the musical.

Now, with their work in musicals like these, these actors say: Why not do both?

“Being as successful as I can and telling good stories and representing my parents in the best way that I can is my duty and hopefully I’m doing both at the same time. Yeah, I would totally agree with that,” says Jon Hoche.

“To do such an important show, such a meaningful show with a company of people you consider your family has been really special,” said Billy Bustamante.

“I get emotional every night when were singing the final number and people are joining in and standing up and applauding, and you can just tell that there are other people, not just us that are fighting the good fight and want to fight the good fight,” said Geena Quintos.

“While Soft Power wraps up its run here at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, its successful reception by both the public and critics alike has many keeping their fingers crossed for another production in the future.

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