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Philip Kan Gotanda

Philip Kan Gotanda is an American playwright. The author of one of the largest canon of Asian-American themed work, Mr. Gotanda is a seminal figure in the field of Asian-American drama.

Gotanda began his career in the late 60’s and early 70’s with writing and performing songs, chronicling the emergent Asian American identity. Along with other artists, Gotanda formed AAMO, Asian American Music Organization, to produce and promote the new voices of Asian American Songwriter-Performers.   In the late 70’s he became active in the Asian American Theater Movement. Over the next thirty plus years American theater would be the focus of his work. 

In contrast to the acceptable trend of social realism in early ethnic theater, Gotanda felt it limiting and consciously broke from that with experimental works.  His early 80’s mythic dream play, The Dream of Kitamura, was a San Francisco-based collaboration with Eric Hayashi, David Henry Hwang, Lydia Tanji and Michael Sasaki. 

Gotanda began cultivating working relationships with artists from other communities.  He has collaborated with African American artists, Danny Glover (Yohen), Steven Anthony Jones (After The War Blues), Carl Lumbly (The Jamaican Wash). Mr. Gotanda has worked with local Hispanic arts curator, Rene Yanez, as well as Culture Clash, the premiere Latino American comedy troupe.  He wrote Beans, part of a larger Alma Delfina Project inspired by theater artist Sean San Jose’s family.  Gotanda recently acted in The Other Bario, a feature film about San Francisco’s Mission District, starring Richard Montoya.  He has collaborated with artist, Gronk, and featured Herbert Siquenza in an evening of original spoken word he curated at East West Players.  Gotanda works regularly with Campo Santo + Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco’s highly regarded culturally, racially, ethnically diverse progressive theater group. 

Gotanda is currently in collaboration with composer Max Gitech Duykers on a new performance opera. He is also developing a new play adapted from an Ryunosuke Akutagawa short story with funding awarded by the Map Fund.  In a unique collaborative project investigating mutable perceptions of race, Gotanda is working with the Lorraine Hansberry Theater in adapting his Japanese American family play, The Wash, to a Jamaican American family play, The Jamacian Wash.  

MGotanda is also a respected independent filmmaker; his works having been seen at film festivals around the world.  His last film, "Life Tastes Good", was invited to be screened at the Sundance Film Festival, later shown on the Independent Film Channel and is available on Netflix and through Cinema Epoch Films.  His other films include the shorts: "The Kiss", which won the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and selected for the Sundance Festival, was shown on PBS nationally and screened domestically and internationally at Film Festivals; "Drinking Tea" which was also invited to Sundance, was shown on PBS and played film festivals around the world.  Gotanda is one of only a few individuals selected to participate in both the Sundance Theater Lab (Fish Head Soup, After The War), as well as, the Sundance Filmmakers Lab for Directors and Screenwriters .  

MGotanda's awards and grants include: the Guggenheim, National Arts Club, Pew Charitable Trust, Rockefeller, The Lila Wallace Award, National Endowment for the Arts, TCG-NEA, Sundance Theater Fellow, Sundance UCROSS Fellow, Map Fund, Creative Work Fund, Gerbode Foundation and others.  He was selected a delegate of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation to Japan as part of a Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsored cultural exchange for prominent Japanese Americans.   He was the 2008 Granada Artist in Residence at the UC Davis Department of Theater and Dance and a 2010 Artist in Residence at the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies.   In 2011 Gotanda received the Edgerton Foundation Grant. In 2012 the New York Dramatists Guild awarded Gotanda the Flora Roberts Award For Recognition of Distinguished Work In Theater.

Gotanda was recently appointed a full professorship with the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies at UC Berkeley. He resides in the Berkeley Hills with his novelist-producer wife, Diane Emiko Takei, her mother Lilly Katsuko Takei, and their famously ill-behaved dog, Toulouse.