Asolo Rep, in conjunction with Miami New Drama, proudly presents THE GREAT LEAP, a sharp-witted new drama by award-winning playwright Lauren Yee. Directed by Vanessa Stalling, THE GREAT LEAP previews March 18 and 19, opens March 20 and runs through April 11 in the Cook Theatre, located in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.
San Francisco, spring 1989. Manford Lum is a sparky kid, renowned on the sidewalk basketball courts of Chinatown – vertically challenged but with undeniable ball skills. He talks his way onto an American college team traveling to Beijing for a “friendship” game where finds himself in the middle of China’s post-Cultural Revolution. As the story bounces between 1989 and 1971, past relationships collide with present day revelations and Manford discovers that the trip is about much more than basketball. Inspired by events from the life of playwright Lauren Yee’s own father, THE GREAT LEAP is a fast-paced and hilarious play that explores the cultural collision of identity and politics through the game of basketball.
The play’s title refers to both the athleticism of basketball and the Communist Party of China’s Great Leap Forward campaign in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Yee sees basketball as an apt metaphor for politics and diplomacy. According to her stage directions in the script, “This is a play about basketball, but it is also a basketball play. The game is reflected not just in the subject matter but the rhythm, structure, language and how the characters move through space.”
“Growing up, my father dominated the basketball courts of San Francisco’s Chinatown,” said Yee, “and in the 1980s, his legendary game won him a spot on a friendship team headed to a newly open China to play a series of exhibition games against the best teams in the People’s Republic. That nugget of his history formed the inspiration for my play THE GREAT LEAP nearly 40 years later. The play is about my father, but I wrote it for my younger brothers,” shares Yee. “In THE GREAT LEAP, Manford is a Chinese-American kid who keeps bumping up against people who don’t believe in him or see limitations when they look at him. That’s not what I want for my brothers. My wish is that they move through the world unencumbered and be whatever they want to be.”
“Thanks to Lauren Yee's driving and bitingly funny dialogue, THE GREAT LEAP is a thrilling theatrical experience whether you are a fan of basketball or don't follow the sport at all,” said Asolo Rep Producing Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards. “The ideas competing in her work: how where we come from shapes what we become, how it is possible to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, and how family is one of our most powerful and complicated resources, are ideas that speak to us all.”
“THE GREAT LEAP is about being bigger than you’re told you can be,” said director Vanessa Stalling. “There are two protagonists, Manford and Wen Chang, and both have been told they must limit themselves; but their arcs are discovering that they have the capacity to be bigger than expected. America loves a story like that, we love stories about underdogs. Lauren Yee is also a part of this amazing golden age of new playwrights when, finally, we are beginning to get access to new and underrepresented voices as institutions listen to the cultural desire for equity, diversity, and inclusion.”
Asolo Rep’s spring season also includes Into The Breeches!, a new comedy set in Sarasota in 1942, playing through March 21, the world premiere musical Knoxville, April 3-25, and another new musical, Hood, A Robin Hood Musical Adventure May 7-31. In June, Asolo Rep brings its season to a close with Snow White in an innovative new production great for the entire family, June 11-28.
For tickets and more information, visit www.asolorep.org