Staging Asian America in a History of Present Illness

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of Original Version



In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to world-wide disruptions of health and safety, family, work, business, and travel. Written at the end of the pandemic’s second year, Chapter Ten reflects upon a period of time in which theatres throughout the world had closed, anti-Black violence was ever present, and Asians and Asian Americans were increasingly subject to incidents of racist harassment and abuse. Christine Mok examines online productions such as Susan Soon Hee Stanton’s Today is My Birthday and Aya Ogawa’s Ludic Proxy: Fukushima, plays written in direct response to the pandemic such as Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord, and plays written pre-pandemic, such as Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s The Deceived Slumming Party (2015) and Julia Cho’s BFE (2005), that nonetheless highlight the connections between COVID-era anti-Asian racism and a much longer history of xenophobic and sexist representation. Her chapter highlights how creative works undertaken by Asian American theatre-makers offer new ways to see, think about, and respond to the pandemic’s intense temporal, spatial, and social disruption, as well as earlier moments of crisis in Asian American history.