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One Performance, Three Stories at Independent Shakespeare Company

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Kalean Ung has unique stories to tell: three of them to be exact. Of Cambodian and Jewish extraction, Ung grew up immersed in one world, but curious about her father’s origins. The result is a compendium of story telling, music, and recitation.  With the help of Director Marina McClure, Ung has shaped her performance as a memoir in 13 chapters, interweaving the discovery of her Cambodian heritage, her father’s migration and ascent in the world of symphonic music, and the horrific effects of the Khmer Rouge on his extended family in Cambodia.


The title Letters From Home refers to anguished letters sent to Ung’s father, Chinary, by family members pleading for help.  These messages were kept away from his state-side family until Kalean begged to know more about the people he’d left behind.  The enormity of the country’s tragedy and his family’s losses casts a long shadow over Chinary Ung’s considerable success as well as Kalean’s narrative.


By way of demonstrating his unique compositions, Kalean employs them as subtext throughout her performance.  But, only when she plays and sings the lullaby she begged her father to create we learn the extent of Kalean’s connection to her father. Kalean’s operatic voice is rich and true, and when accompanied by a traditional Cambodian instrument, we can understand the depth of talent in this musical family.

Working with the Independent Shakespeare Company, Kalean has added Shakespeare to her repertoire.  Here, she includes relevant monologues from some of Shakespeare’s most iconic heroines almost as punctuation to her stories.

As if this cornucopia of influences were not enough, the variety of expression displayed by the setting made up of screens (by Mark Kanieff) that simultaneously serves as a video surface for the projection design (Hsua-Kuang Hsieh) rises above most one-person shows. Eclectic lighting (Jason Mann) augments the artistic accomplishments on display. With the exception of a Cambodian dress worn fleetingly in one segment, most of the costuming (Beryl Brachman) is Western.

Without the added impact of a family member’s horrific experience of torture and neglect at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Kalean’s tale would be a pleasant narrative about the craggy road to self-realization in America, and an instructive one at that.  But the atrocities in south-east Asia promulgated by the Khmer Rouge then, coupled with the expulsion of the Rohingya in Myanmar now, weights the story in a way that demands discussion.  And here the show falls short.  Kalean cannot grapple with such inhumanity.  It deserves, in a sense, it’s own show.

Letters from Home performs Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 3;00 pm through November 18th at The Independent Studio, 3191 Casitas Ave., Suite 130, at the Atwater Crossing Arts + Innovation Complex, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Tickets range from $35-25.  Call (818) 508-1754 or at www.








Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.