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The National New Play Network (NNPN) announced last week that Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) will receive one of its first “Bridge Program” grants for Kween by Vichet Chum, a quick-witted, inspirational story of a 16-year-old, Cambodian-American Lowell High School student, who aspires to be a poet under the alias Khmer Kerouac. The $10,000 grant is one of only 18 nationwide.
The Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association will partner on the production, which will premiere in a later season. MRT presented a reading of excerpts from Kween, directed by Pironne Yousefzadeh, as part of its FIRST LOOK series last November. A second reading will be presented May 16. For further information, visit www.mrt.org.
Courtney Sale, MRT’s Nancy L. Donahue Artistic Director, said, “Vichet’s vibrant and heart-forward writing enlists an audience’s entire spirit. While in Kween he is writing about a very specific family in Lowell, the national resonances of their struggles and dreams are part of the larger impact of the play. We are thrilled to continue the development process with Vichet and Pironne and cannot wait to share it with MRT audiences.”
The NNPN created the Bridge Program this year to support new work “centering Black, Indigenous, and People of color (BIPOC) artists and anti-racist practices within its member theatres.” The D.C.-based Network is an alliance of professional theatres that collaborate in innovative ways to develop new works.
A frequent MRT collaborator, Cambodian-American playwright and actor Chum appeared here in 2018 in his autobiographical play KNYUM. He also appeared the next year in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley and Jack Kerouac’s The Haunted Life. His plays focus on Cambodian-American stories.
NNPN said, “Kween follows 16-year-old Soma, a Cambodian-American student at Lowell High School, who discovers her secret powers as a poet. Under the alias of the Khmer Kerouac, Soma’s new-found passion arises against the back drop of her father’s recent deportation, her mother’s journey to Cambodia to rectify the situation, and her sister Dahvy’s upcoming wedding.”