MRT Debuts KNYUM
Vichet Chum brings his brand new, gorgeously poetic play to Lowell, the first Cambodian-authored play in 15 years.
Courtesy of MRT
Vichet Chum will make both his playwriting and acting debut at MRT with his brand new, one-man play following the story of Guy, a hotel night clerk who spends the quiet hours of the night shift studying Khmer, the language of his family’s home of Cambodia, in preparation for his first visit to the country his parents fled from decades before. Guy stumbles awkwardly toward fluency to awaken to parts of his heritage, both beautiful and excruciating, which shine through in his wildly luminous dreams.
Chum, who has been working on KNYUM since he was a graduate student at Brown University/Trinity Rep (Class of 2011), says, "I'm so excited to see KNYUM evolve into a fully realized, three dimensional, living, breathing thing. When you're writing, you never know what it will become, but you hope and you work and put your heart fully into it, hoping that you get the chance to share it with people. I'm so grateful to MRT and the lovely people of Lowell for inviting me into this community to share my story. It's a dream."
Lowell is home to the second-largest Cambodian community in the United States, and it has been artistic director Sean Daniels’ mission to produce a Cambodian-written play at MRT since his arrival in 2015. “Once I knew I was coming to Lowell, I knew part of what would make us relevant enough to still be around in 20 years, is that we needed to more accurately reflect the community we lived in,” Daniels says. “Lowell is a diverse city, an immigrant city, and home to one of the largest Cambodian populations in the country—none of which was being reflected in our programming. I asked around ‘who is everyone’s favorite Cambodian playwright’ and was surprised that it took a year of looking before someone introduced me to Vichet. I got to follow the progress of this piece as he continued to craft this truly gorgeous, bold, lyrical show. I couldn’t be prouder than for MRT to start the journey to reflecting our community on stage.”
Director KJ Sanchez, head of the M.F.A. in Directing program at the University of Texas at Austin, says, “I have been a huge fan of Sean Daniels for many years and am honored and thrilled to be working at MRT, and Vichet Chum is one of the most lyric, funny, charming writers/performers I’ve come across in a long time. KNYUM offers something for all of us—it is a meditation on how we all manage our parents' expectations, as well as a love story to the Cambodian people—and every time I read this beautiful play I find a new treasure.”
The approximately 90-minute show will be performed without an intermission. Performances are January 10 through February 4, 2018. Press performances are at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 13 (opening night) and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 14. All performances will be held at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre located at 50 East Merrimack Street in historic downtown Lowell. Tickets range from $26 - $73 and are on sale now at mrt.org or by calling 978-654-4678.