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''Positively No Filipinos Allowed''

A Photography Exhibit on Filipino American History Debuts Off-Broadway in SoHo

By NYTW staff


History and cultural heritage are not always communicated well through written description. However, photographic documentation provides a visual point of reference and a connection on an emotional level. It also enhances a playgoer's experience, especially when accompanied by oral history and personal narrative that can further educate and illustrate the world of a play.

A new exhibit, ''Positively No Filipinos Allowed'': The Lives and Loves of Filipino Migrant Workers in the U.S., offers visitors and playgoers an informed and aesthetic look at life in the Pinoy (Filipino American) community in California in the 1920s and 1930s. The display is curated by Randy Gener, senior editor of American Theatre magazine in New York City, and designed by Eric Ting, artistic associate of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.

This gathering of 20 photographs and oral-history testimonies is on view May 19-June 17 in the lobby of The Culture Project-SoHo, in conjunction with Ma-Yi Theatre Company's Off-Broadway production of The Romance of Magno Rubio and with the first-ever National Asian American Theatre Festival (set to take place June 11-24). The play, Lonnie Carter's award-winning adaptation of a Carlos Bulosan short story, is directed and designed by Loy Arcenas. In addition, Gener's essay, Love in the Time of the 'Manongs,' in which he introduces audiences to life and times of the first major Filipino immigration to the U.S., has been published as program notes in the Ma-Yi Theatre Company playbill for the duration of the play's run.


''This title of this exhibit refers to a photograph documenting anti-Filipino signs and graffiti that were commonly seen in the 1930s,'' says Randy Gener. ''This particular sign, 'Positively No Filipinos Allowed,' was posted on the front door of a hotel in Stockton, Calif., where most of the farm migrant workers were Filipino men. Another sign in the northside neighborhoods read 'No Dogs and Filipinos Allowed.' Mass migration of Filipinos into the United States occurred at the end of the 19th century, when the American demand for labor in the plantations of Hawai'i, the farms of California and Seattle, and the canneries of Alaska attracted thousands of mostly male Filipino laborers. Due to their isolation and enforced segregation, the migrants created Little Manilas in urban areas.''

''This lobby exhibit at The Culture Project,'' continues Gener, ''offers a poignant portrayal of the home lives and stoop labor work of the manongs (old timers) at a pivotal point in the 20th century. The exhibit also reserves a place for Carlos Bulosan, the first important literary voice for Filipinos in the United States. His most famous novel, America Is in the Heart, depicts the terrible living and working conditions of Filipino immigrants struggling to survive in America. He was part of the early 20th-century wave of Filipino immigrants known as the manong generation.''

Most of the 20 photos on display are courtesy of the Filipino American National Historical Society of Seattle, Wa., which generously gave their time and energy to the display. Headed by Dorothy and Fred Cordova, the Filipino American National Historical Society is the most important national resource and archive for all things related to the Filipino American experience in the U.S.

Performances of The Romance of Magno Rubio run May 19-June 17 at The Culture Project-SoHo (55 Mercer Street), Tuesdays-Saturdays at 8pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm, with the following exception: Opening Night, Sunday, May 27 at 5pm. Tickets are $40 during previews; $50 after May 27; students $25/$30; seniors $38/$46. Group discounts are available. For tickets, call TheaterMania.com at 212-352-3101 or online at www.ma-yitheatre.org. For more information, visit www.ma-yitheatre.org.

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