‘Red Altar’ | TheUnion.com

‘Red Altar’

Nancy Wang and her husband Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo form the group Eth-Noh-Tec, which means, "The weaving [tec] together of distinctive cultural elements of the East and West [eth] to create new possibilities [noh]."
Submitted photo to Prospector |


WHO: Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra presents

WHAT: “Red Altar”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18.

WHERE: The Nevada Theater, 401 Broad Street Nevada City.

TICKETS: Tickets are $20 and are available at the Book Seller, Briar Patch, and online at http://www.catsweb.org.

“Red Altar” is a multi-media show on immigration and migration, telling the true story of the founding of the fishing industry in Monterey, California, by Chinese immigrants.

It was 1850. A Chinese junk boat, in rough seas, overshot its destination of the San Francisco Bay and crashed into the Carmel Bay. Six teenagers were flung overboard and were rescued and nursed back to health by Rumsean-Esselen natives.

Following their shipwreck, they managed to not only seek out an existence, but they eventually started a thriving fishing industry, which eventually put Monterey on the map as a major fishing “hub,” known throughout the world.

Even as their lives unfolded with success, the ever-growing specter of racism and bigotry began overshadowing their community as the anti-Chinese movement of the 1800s encroached.

“Red Altar” is an American tale of survival, persistence, and challenges that faced early Chinese settlers along the California coast of Monterey.

With today’s rallying cries against immigrants, “Red Altar” celebrates the contributions of three generations and three fishing villages of Chinese immigrants in Monterey, despite anti-Chinese violence.

Eth-Noh-Tec’s fusion of immersive multimedia and kinetic storytelling chronicles this hidden history of anti-Chinese racism in America.

Fueled with humor, pathos, and startling humanity, “Red Altar” reveals shaking truths and jolts audiences into awareness of the discrimination immigrants and people of color face today.

How the Chinese settled in Monterey Bay

Growing up in the Chicago area, Nancy Wang (one-half of the duo Eth-Noh-Tec) had no idea what role her family played in California history. Indeed, many are unaware of how Chinese immigrants helped create the commercial fishing industry in the Monterey Bay in the mid-19th century.

That’s why Wang and her husband, Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo, are shining a spotlight on that piece of American history.

When Wang moved to San Francisco in 1968, she began to connect with family members whom she had never met and began to hear stories about her great grand aunt, Quock Mui, who was better known as Spanish Mary.

Born in 1859, Quock Mui was among the first documented births among the Chinese immigrants in the fishing village at Point Lobos.

Because Spanish Mary spoke at least five languages and could foster communication among Cantonese-speaking fishermen, Native Americans, Portuguese whalers, Spanish merchants and the English-speaking Americans, she emerged, according to historian Sandy Lydon, “as the symbol of this multicultural area.”

“I knew I wanted to tell the story of Quock Mui and about how the Chinese started the fishing industry and about the racism they faced,” Wang said. “I don’t think we hear these stories in California history or in American history. These are important stories.”

Audiences, and especially students and teachers, will find this piece of history compelling and educational.

About the troupe

Eth-Noh-Tec was founded in 1982 by Nancy Wang and Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo, longstanding San Francisco artists who have contributed greatly to the Asian American performing arts movement, fusing the ancient with the contemporary.

Both artistic co-directors having trained and performed in traditional and contemporary art forms for over two decades, they have since enjoyed tremendous success in this focused fusion, truly meeting the goals of their name Eth-Noh-Tec: The weaving [tec] together of distinctive cultural elements of the East and West [eth] to create new possibilities [noh].

Opportunities for teachers and educators

With support of a generous grant from Community Players Trust, Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra is offering 25 full scholarships to teachers and educators, in the form of continuing education, which includes the play, “Red Altar,” on Saturday, Nove. 18, and a follow-up workshop, “Immigratitude: Crossing Borders, Collages of Connection,” on Sunday, Nov. 19, 1-5 p.m., to be led by the actors themselves in Nevada City. (Venue to be advised.)

This workshop serves as a “companion” to the play and gives rise to a deeper understanding on immigration, migration, and, ultimately, gratitude for people of all ethnicities.

The play and workshop are valuable tools and resources to the teaching professional, who is at the forefront of young people.

With such a hot topic as immigration today, adding such an enlightened perspective can shed light on contributions of other groups.

The play and workshop may enhance their curriculums and repertoire in the classrooms and educational environments, thus enabling them to become more effective leaders.

To apply for a scholarship, please contact Jeannie Wood at info@catsweb.org for details.

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