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Aneesha Kudtarkar DRA ’19 was first introduced to New Haven’s Long Wharf Theater by an instructor at the David Geffen School of Drama. Next month, she will be directing her first show at the theater. 

Kudtarkar will direct Long Wharf’s upcoming production of “Queen,” a play written by Madhuri Shekar. The show, which will run from May 17 to June 5, follows two doctoral candidates who have spent years researching vanishing bee populations across the globe. Just as they are about to publish a career-defining paper, one of the students stumbles upon an error in their calculations, which could cause catastrophic damage to their reputations, careers and friendship. The play is presented in partnership with the National Asian American Theatre Company, or NAATCO, and the production launches NAATCO’s National Partnership Project. According to its website, NAATCO’s mission is to “assert the presence and significance of Asian American theatre in the United States, demonstrating its vital contributions to the fabric of American culture.”

“I feel really excited and humbled to be returning to New Haven to share this particular story,” Kudtarkar said. “It feels very special to be coming back to the city where I made so many meaningful connections and memories.”

The NAATCO National Partnership Project is an initiative by NAATCO and theaters in the New Haven and New York areas aimed at expanding representation of Asian Americans in theater. Through this inaugural production kickoff, NAATCO hopes to implement strategies for the inclusion of Asian Americans in all aspects of the art form by establishing relationships with theaters across the country. 

After its run at Long Wharf, Kudtarkar will continue directing “Queen” at off-Broadway’s A.R.T./New York from June 10 through July 2.

“A spotlight shines on ‘inclusion and belonging’ in American culture today,” said Mia Katigbak, NAATCO founder and artistic producing director. “Yet despite an ever- growing national movement among Asian American theatre artists and companies to establish strong sustainable communities, Asian Americans remain on the margins of this light, continuing to be represented in stereotypical and formulaic ways, when represented at all.”

Jacob Padrón, Artistic Director of Long Wharf Theatre, said he is looking forward to the partnership between NAATCO and the Long Wharf. He is particularly excited for the collaboration between artists, administrators and creatives in the “historic” Long Wharf theater and the effort to amplify the voices of Asian American artists across the country. 

“Through the brilliant leadership of Mia Katigbak, NAATCO has been steadfast in their commitment to build a more inclusive American theater and we at Long Wharf are inspired by this call to action,” Padrón said. 

NAATCO plans to amplify voices and expand inclusiveness by selecting productions that include European and American classics with all-Asian American casts; the adaptation of such classics by Asian American playwrights; new plays by non-Asian Americans with non-Asian or Asian American subject matters or characters realized by all-Asian American casts; and the development and production of new plays by Asian American playwrights that incorporate other performative arts and media. To expand conversation among Asian American creatives and audiences, events feature pre- and post- performance talks that specifically aim to amplify Asian American voices, alongside outreach to other Asian American communities, according to the organization’s website. 

For theater-makers such as Kudtarkar, this will open many doors in representation and presentation of work as well as pave the way for other Asian American creatives to get involved in the theater. 

“NAATCO is such a central part of the Asian theatre community in NYC,” Kudtarkar said. “The National Partnership Project is an amazing opportunity for that community to expand and include theatres all over the country. It’s a way to cross-pollinate the talent pool and encourage theatres to employ Asian and Asian-American artists to tell a wide and diverse range of stories.”

The Long Wharf Theater is located at 222 Sargent Drive in New Haven.