Ma-Yi’s world premiere of ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME on August 23 at La Mama’s Ellen Stewart Theater


| Poster via Ma-Yi Website

NEW YORK – After its first in-person event at The Public Theater with the critically-acclaimed, Lortel-winning production of Lloyd Suh’s The Chinese Lady, the Ma-Yi Theater Company is rolling out the world premiere of Daniel K. Isaac’s ONCE UPONA (korean) TIME at the La Mama’s Ellen Stewart Theater from Aug. 23 to Sept. 18, 2022.

ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME mixes traditional Korean fables with the horrors of the Korean War. It is a funny and profoundly moving analog for the experiences of the Korean American diaspora. Isaac deftly moves his characters through time, tracing the legacies of trauma passed from one generation to the next and the various coping mechanisms each uses to soldier on. Isaac’s epic new play marks his playwriting debut and is directed by Obie-winner Ralph B. Pena.

Daniel K. Isaac | Photo via Ma-Yi Website

“With ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME, I set out to write something unapologetically epic and explosively theatrical…aka expensive,” says Isaac. “Frankly, I was tired of being expected to write small cast plays with single settings. Affordable and producible – I hated these limitations. I’m so thankful that Ralph and Ma-Yi have signed on and not backed down from this challenge. How fitting it is to have my world premiere of this play and as a playwright with a company that has a legacy in championing Asian American voices and centering the marginalized, making the seemingly impossible possible.”

Ralph B. Pena | Photo via Ma-Yi Website

“To put it plainly, ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME is insane,” says Peña. “I’ve spent the better part of two years trying to figure out how to stage it, and I still don’t know exactly what to do. In contrast, it’s not the first impossible play that Ma-Yi has produced – I [was] thinking about Sung Rno’s wAve, Lloyd Suh’s Wong Kids, and Hansol Jung’s Among the Dead, which were equally challenging. It’s notable how all of these were written by Korean American playwrights. ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME further cements Ma-Yi Theater’s commitment to producing work that challenges both artists and audiences against ideas of what Asian American theater should be about.”

The cast for ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME includes Sonnie Brown, Sasha Diamond, David Lee Huynh, Teresa Avia Lim, Jon Norman Schneider, David Shih, and Jillian Sun, with Daniel K. Isaac and Sami Ma serving as understudies.

The creative team for ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME includes Se Oh (scenic design), Phuong Nguyen (costume design), Oliver Wason (lighting design), Yee Eun Nam (projection design), Fabian Obispo (sound design), Alexander Wylie (props design), and AK Howard (production stage manager).

Twenty-eight performances of ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME will take place Aug. 23–Sept. 18, 2022, at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, located at 74 East 4th Street in Manhattan. Critics are welcome as of Saturday, Aug. 27, for a press opening on Wednesday, Aug. 31. Performances take place Tuesday–Sunday at 7 p.m., with additional 1 p.m. performances on Saturdays. The closing performance on Sept. 18 will take place at 1 p.m. Tickets, starting at $45, are currently on sale at

Ma-Yi Theater Company cares about the safety of its audiences, staff, and performers. Before entry, Ma-Yi will require proof of complete vaccination. Masks will be required during the entire performance of ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME.

Since its founding in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company has distinguished itself as one of the country’s leading incubators of new work shaping the national discourse about what it means to be Asian American today.

–With Jay Domingo/PDM

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