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Seventh Annual ‘Spice & Slice of Asian America’ Series Features Theatre, Taiko Drumming
Did you know there are more than 1100 Asian restaurants in Minnesota? Or that the Asian population in the U.S. is only about six percent, but increased almost 50 percent between 2000 and 2010 (U.S. Census). Our schools, workplaces and communities are increasingly diverse. Hennepin County Library is presenting free programs for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month to increase cultural understanding in a world that is growing smaller every day.
The seventh annual “Spice & Slice of Asian America” program series, April 27-May 19, features the theatre and percussion of Mu Performing Arts. Families can try their hands at taiko drumming and adults can gain a new understanding of the immigration experience from three theatrical productions: “American Bamboo,” “N/A,” and “FOB.”
Multicultural Services librarian Gretchen Wronka said, “Hennepin County, where diversity is always recognized as a source of community strength, is home to approximately 28 percent of Minnesota’s Asian population. Hennepin County Library’s ‘Spice & Slice of Asian America’ series continues our tradition of creative programming that fosters cultural awareness and cohesiveness within our community. These exceptional performances by Mu Performing Arts not only provide insight into the Asian immigrants’ experience, but mirror everyone’s ancestors’experienceswhen they first arrived in this country.”
She added, “In addition to the performances, examples from HCL’s extensive collection of books and digital materials in English and other languages related to Asian cultures will be featured at each program and will be available for checkout.”
Founded in 1992, Mu is Minnesota’s only pan-Asian performing arts organization and is one of the largest Asian American performing arts companies in the U.S. Its mission is to introduce Asian American stories and issues to audiences of all backgrounds.
The play “American Bamboo,” written by Mu’s former artistic director, Rick Shiomi, offers “comic and yet poignant insights into the Asian American experience,” with Laotian, South Asian, Vietnamese and Fililpino stories, and traditional Korean mask and Bollywood-style dances.
The title of the play, “FOB,” means “Fresh Off the Boat” and is a derogatory term used for recent Asian immigrants. Performers explore stereotypes and what their cultural heritage means to them as new Americans.
The play, “N/A,” by local playwright Katie Hae Leo, personalizes issues of adoption and focuses on a Korean-born adoptee who has little or no knowledge of her birth parents and her ancestry, including medical issues.
Shiomi said, “By collaborating with Hennepin County Library to present the ‘Spice & Slice of Asian America’ series during Asian American Pacific Heritage Month, we hope to generate intergenerational discussions within the Asian American community about the Asian American identity, and within the greater community to foster an understanding of and reflect on the diversity and social issues of being Asian American.”
A library patron who attended a “Spice & Slice of Asian America” performance last year commented, "The program was great, the energy and honesty wonderful!"
Also as part of the “Spice & Slice of Asia” series, members of the audience will get to try their hands at taiko drumming when Mu Daiko, Mu Performing Arts’ taiko drumming section, performs. “Taiko” is the Japanese word for “big drum.” In North America, taiko performances include martial arts-style movements.
Mu Daiko members, who have studied with renowned taiko artists around the country and in Canada, annually perform with chamber orchestras and at schools, festivals and other community events in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest.
“Spice & Slice of Asian America” is presented in collaboration with Mu Performing Arts and funded by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
For more information, call the libraries or go to www.hclib.org.
Spice & Slice of Asian America: Taiko Drumming
Minneapolis Central Library
Pohlad Hall
Saturday, April 27, 11:30 a.m.
Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with this power-packed performance! Learn about taiko's historical and cultural background. You will have a chance to try simple taiko rhythms after the performance. 

Spice & Slice of Asian America: American Bamboo
Maple Grove Library
Saturday, May 4, 1 p.m.
Rick Shiomi’s play offers poignant and comic insights into the Asian American experience and the struggles faced by Asian American immigrants. It’s a commentary on race, culture and identity, incorporating Japanese and Vietnamese stories and Bollywood-style dances. 

Spice & Slice of Asian America: N/A
Brookdale Library
Sunday, May 5, 1 p.m.
Local playwright Katie Hae Leo’s play addresses adoptee issues of belonging and of not knowing their past and culture. “N/A” depicts a Korean adoptee’s experience in gathering her medical history without any knowledge of where she comes from and unable to locate her birth mother. 

Spice & Slice of Asian America: FOB
Southdale Library
Saturday, May 18, 2 p.m.
Two Chinese Americans confront a new, “fresh-off-the-boat” Chinese immigrant in David Hwang’s play. The characters explore Asian stereotypes and their own feelings about being Chinese, being in America, their Chinese/American upbringing and cultural heritage. 

Spice & Slice of Asian America: Taiko Drumming
Ridgedale Library
Sunday, May 19, 2 p.m.
Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with this power-packed performance! Learn about taiko’s historical and cultural background. You will have a chance to try simple taiko rhythms after the performance. 

For more information:  www.hclib.org or contact the Ask Us service by texting hclib to 66746, email, calling 612-543-KNOW (5669), or by visiting local libraries.

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