New York Times: A Playwright Has a Message — Anti-Asian Hate Isn’t New

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John Bernos and Dominique Xi during the Sunday performance of “Covid Crime” at Richard Tucker Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. CREDIT: AN RONG XU/NEW YORK TIMES

By Laura Zornosa

On Sunday afternoon, a pigeon flew through a performance of “Covid Crime,” a one-act play taking place at a Manhattan intersection, where yellow taxis whizzed by against the backdrop of a halal food cart.

The show, written by Lionelle Hamanaka and directed by Howard Pflanzer, was unfolding in Richard Tucker Park, a tiny cobblestone triangle on the Upper West Side. It was more of a reading than a staging — its seven actors sat in metal folding chairs, as did the audience of about 50 people.

“I saw this TV coverage of a woman being assaulted on a bus with an umbrella. She was an older woman, an older Asian American,” Hamanaka said last week, before the play. “I thought it would be interesting to see how the community’s affected by it. Because we see the outside story, but we don’t necessarily see every case.”

The performance was followed by a community forum. Shirley Ng, a community organizer at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Jacqueline Wang, the head of marketing and communications at Welcome to Chinatown, both spoke to the small crowd.

“Just like the play, many seniors will come home and not know what to do,” Ng said. “They could’ve gone to the police precinct or called 911, but there’s always this fear that they may get turned away, because they don’t have someone who speaks their language, or there’s just this fear of stepping in and not knowing — what is the process?”

The fund, a 47-year-old national organization based in New York, works to protect and promote the civil rights of Asian Americans — including encouraging seniors to report any hate crimes that may occur. Welcome to Chinatown, founded last year, is a grass roots initiative that supports Chinatown’s businesses and amplifies its voices.