War-torn love story raises awareness of Hmong journey

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Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT) will be restaging Hmong! The CIA’s Secret Army, a powerful play that tells the war-torn love story of two Hmong teens that are separated by a secret war that was armed and advised by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Based on the screenplay written by Lee Vang and adapted for theatre by Jaime Meyer, the play was originally staged at the Great American History Theatre in 1999. Groundbreaking at the time for using theatre to tell the Hmong refugee story, the play is still remembered by many in the community for highlighting significant historical events and prominent leaders that were instrumental in leading hundreds of thousands of Hmong out of Laos and in to America.

“This play includes important leaders and moments in history that can’t be found in textbooks, but has had a profound influence our reality today,” commented Kang Vang, who plays the role of Old Meng in the production.

With approximately 70,000 Hmong living in Minnesota and an estimated 5,000 refugees from Wat Tham Krabok expected to settle here within the next few years, Minnesota has become home to the largest Hmong population in the nation. Although the Hmong are welcomed by some and resented by others, it is needless to say that the Hmong community has an impact on every sector, industry, system and overall well-being of the entire state of MN.

There is an increasing need for dialogue and cross-cultural understanding between all communities, so CHAT is offering this play as an artistic approach to raising awareness about how and why Hmong people are here today.

CHAT held auditions in January with over 60 interested individuals eagerly seeking opportunities to explore all that the production had to offer. After several weeks with call backs and contemplation, Director Ellen Fenster, Assistant Director Xai Lee and Stage Manager Angela Hardy narrowed down the selection to 18 actors that make up a dynamic new cast for the play.

“I haven’t acted since high school, but I love my Hmong people and I just want to be involved with anything positive going on in the community,” expressed Tou Thai Lee, who plays the aggressively tempered Colonel Neng.

Hmong! The CIA’s Secret Army is a must-see play that offers a voice for those that don’t have one and an explanation for those that seek one.

The play will be running from March 18, 2006 – April 15, 2006 at Mounds Theatre 1029 Hudson Road in Saint Paul.

CHAT is a nonprofit organization with the mission to nurture and develop Hmong artists to enhance the community. For more information on ticket prices, group rates and other inquiries, contact: Kang Vang 651-644-6969, kang@aboutchat.org or visit www.aboutchat.org

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