Survey Conducted: Mon, 2009-03-02
Creator: Ping Chong & Company
History: Internationally-renowned theater director, choreographer, writer, and multi-disciplinary artist Ping Chong was born in Ontario, Canada in 1946. He grew up in New York’s Chinatown and studied visual art and filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts and Pratt Institute. Since beginning his theatrical career as a member of Meredith Monk’s The House Foundation, he has created over fifty major works for theater, including Humboldt’s Current (Obie Award, 1977), A.M./A.M. – The Articulated Man (Villager Award, 1982), Nosferatu (Maharam Design Award, 1985), Kind Ness (USA Playwrights’ Award, 1988), and Brightness (2 Bessie Awards, 1990). He has produced three full-length puppetry pieces – Kwaidan (1998), Obon: Tales of Rain and Moonlight (2002), and Cathay: Three Tales of China (2005) – and has created numerous installation pieces, including Place Concrete (1988) as part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh, A Facility for the Containment and Channeling of Undesirable Elements (1992) commissioned by Artists Space in New York City, and Testimonial (1995), which was exhibited at the Venice Biennale’s Transculture show.
In 1975, Ping Chong founded the New York-based non-profit Ping Chong & Company (originally The Fiji Theatre Company) “to create and tour innovative works of theater and art that explore the intersection of race, history, culture, and technology in the modern world.” A resident theater of La MaMa ETC, a world-renowned cultural organization dedicated to supporting new and original performance work by artists of all nations and cultures, Ping Chong and Company has toured extensively and performed at numerous prestigious venues nationally and internationally.
Since 1992, the company has produced over 30 works in the Undesirable Elements series, an ongoing series of community-specific oral history theater works performed by members of the community. Each production in the series incorporates the testimonies of local participants’ experiences, which form the basis of a script that conveys the historical and personal narratives of individuals who are in some way living between cultures. Undesirable Elements was first produced during a residency at Artist Space in New York City. Children of War (2002) was an original production in the series documenting the experiences of a diverse group of young people living as refugees in the United States. Also part of the series, Inside/Out is a performance piece that gives voice to individuals living with disabilities commissioned by VSA arts.
Another series Ping Chong created, the East-West Quartet, explores cultural relations between Asia, Europe and the United States in the past, present, and future. Works in this series include Deshima (1990), Chinoiseri (1995), After Sorrow (1997), Pojagi (1999), and Three Vampires: A Parable of the Philippines (2007), a work on which he collaborated with Jessica Hagedorn and Ma-Yi Theatre Company.
Sources: “La MaMa ETC Mission and History.” La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. https://www.lamama.org/history. Accessed February 4, 2015.
MacKillop, James. “Speech and Chong.” Syracuse New Times. Syracuse: Oct. 22-Oct. 29, 2008. No. 1960, pg.25.
“Ping Chong and Company.” MAP Fund. http://www.mapfund.org/grant_450.html. Accessed February 4, 2015.
“Ping Chong and Company: History.” Ping Chong and Company. http://www.pingchong.org/the-company/history/. Accessed February 4, 2015.
Pressley, Nelson. “‘Inside/Out’: Riveting Tales of Disabilities – Firsthand.” The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: June 30, 2008, pg. C.4.
Tang, Roger W. “New York’s Ping Chong & Company Recognized As Innovator In The Arts By Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Nonprofit Finance Fund.” Asian American Theatre Revue. October 10, 2008.
“Undesirable Elements.” Undesirable Elements. Ping Chong and Company. https://www.pingchong.org/featured/undesirable-elements. Accessed February 4, 2015.
“World Premiere of Inside/Out at the Kennedy Center; VSA arts Commissions New Work by Acclaimed Director Ping Chong.” PR Newswire. New York: June 24, 2008.
Summary: The surveyed collection totals 92 linear feet and consists of a range of formats documenting each show from 1972 to 2009. Administrative files comprise 8 linear feet. Within these are included administrative production files consisting of information on contracts, technical information, and materials on projects not executed. An additional nine linear feet is dedicated to development files documenting foundations that have funded Ping Chong and Company. Financial records for the years 2002 to 2008 comprise 9 linear feet.
Research and artistic production files make up 21 linear feet of the collection. Arranged by show, 8 linear feet of this consists of stage managers’ books, copies of scripts, drafts, Ping Chong’s notes, and revisions. While such documentation exists for each show, it should be noted that some stage managers’ books are still retained by the stage manager. An additional script file containing authorized copies of final scripts and draft material containing Ping Chong’s notes comprises 4 linear feet and also exists digitally in PDFs. Flat files house about 2 linear feet of production-related material for Ping Chong’s puppetry works. These include set renderings, technical drawings and schematics, and storyboards for puppet theatre works such as Obon. The collection also contains approximately 200 cassette tapes, DAT tapes, mini-disks, CDs, CD-Rs, and DVDs with sound elements for production. A bulk of these corresponds to sounds used for the production of the Undesirable Elements series. Additional production material such as the sets, props, and technical equipment for shows are housed in the company’s storage space in Queens and have not been surveyed for this project. All production materials for Cathay are stored as a unit in Washington, D.C. Reference books, including dictionaries, travel books history texts, and novels (in English, Chinese and Japanese) comprise 10 linear feet.
Sows are documented through video, photography, and press reviews. 4 linear feet of 8 x 10 production photographs are supplemented by 2 linear feet of original photos and duplicates for press release, and color transparencies for older shows housed in 3-ring binders. The company transitioned to digital photography in 2005. In addition, there is approximately 10 linear feet of working DVDs (~100) and VHS tapes (~175) documenting various Ping Chong and Company shows. 75 master tapes in Beta, U-Matic, VHS, and DVD format comprise 5 linear feet of the collection. In terms of press documentation, there is four linear feet of books and journal publications reprinting scripts and articles featuring Ping Chong and Company. Press review clippings of shows written in English, Chinese and Japanese housed in binders comprise an additional two linear feet. A sizeable collection of ephemera, including programs, brochures, postcards, flyers, magazine articles featuring Ping Chong and Company, and posters, document every show. Duplicates are available for many of these materials.
In 2004, Ping Chong and Company’s office began operating on their current networked PC system. On this, reside digital versions of their Financial, Administrative, Development, and Production files from the 1990s to the present. These files total approximately 73 GB in size. Older files have been stored on floppy disks housed in the company’s Brooklyn storage space. Email is backed up using Microsoft Outlook.
Total Size: 92 linear feet and electronic files
APA-related Size: 92 linear feet and electronic files
Languages of materials: Chinese, English, and Japanese
Location: Ping Chong & Company offices
Bibliographic Control: none
Conditions Governing Access: Currently inaccessible to the public. Portions of the collection will be transferred to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Billy Rose Theatre Division in 2009.