Founded in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company is a professional, award-winning not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose primary mission is to develop and produce new and innovative plays by Asian American writers. Since its founding, Ma-Yi has distinguished itself as one of the country’s leading incubators of new works shaping local and national conversations about what it means to be Asian American today.

Central to Ma-Yi’s mission are challenging popular perceptions for culturally specific theater, and encouraging artists to push Asian American theater beyond easily identifiable markers. To that end, Ma-Yi provides a nurturing home for exciting, generative, contemporary playwrights to produce risky, challenging, forward-thinking new plays for American Theater.

Onstage and off, Ma-Yi is guided by knowing why and for whom we create. Ma-Yi aspires to exemplify the extent to which theater makers can be active local partners to the diverse communities that inspire them, while also participating in larger, global conversations about our roles as artists/citizens.

Our History

Ma-Yi Theater Company was founded in 1989 for the production and development of new plays and performance work discussing and engaging with the Filipino American experience.

In 1998, responding to the growing need for a developmental venue for Pan-Asian American texts, Ma-Yi expanded its mission to include works by Asian American playwrights of all ethnicities and origins.

Since then, Ma-Yi has developed and produced works by Asian American writers including The Chinese Lady, Teenage Dick, KPOP (co-produced with Ars Nova and Woodshed Collective), The Romance of Magno Rubio, Suicide Forest (produced in association with The Bushwick Starr), Among the Dead, Jesus in India, Peer Gynt and the Norwegian Hapa Band, and Sesar, among many others.

Ma-Yi Theater Company’s works have won a total of 10 Obie Awards, 3 Lucille Lortel Awards, an Off-Broadway Alliance Award, a Richard Rodgers Award, a Drama Desk nomination for Best Play, numerous Henry Hewes Design Award nominations, and in May 2010, a special Drama Desk award for “more than two decades of excellence and for nurturing Asian American voices in stylistically varied and engaging theatre.”

Our Name

“Ma-Yi” is the term used by ancient Chinese traders to refer to a group of islands that is known today as the Philippines.

A document written sometime around 1318 and titled Wen Shiann Tung Kuo (A General Investigation of the Chinese Cultural Sources) contains a stray reference to the Philippines that dates back to 982 AD. The text reads: “There were traders of the country of MA-YI carrying merchandise to the coast of Canton in the seventh year of Tai-ping-shing-kuo.”

Another pre-Spanish source is the Tao-i-chih-lio (Description of the Barbarians of the Isles) by Wang Ta-yuan, dated 1349 AD, with the following reference to MA-YI: “The people boil seawater to make salt and ferment (molasses) to make liquor. The natural products are kapok, yellow beeswax, tortoise shell, betel nuts, and cloth of various patterns. The Chinese goods used in trading are cauldrons, pieces of iron, red cloth or taffetas of various color stripes, ivory, ‘tint’ (a Chinese silver coin) or the like.”

The company’s name was chosen in recognition of the vibrant culture that existed in Ma-Yi, prior to its colonization at the hands of the West.

The Team

Ralph B. Peña | Producing Artistic Director

Ralph has been Ma-Yi Theater Company’s Artistic Director since 1996. Under his artistic leadership, Ma-Yi Theater has become the country’s leading incubator of new plays by Asian American playwrights, with a history of productions garnering numerous awards including nine Obie Awards, the Off-Broadway Alliance Award, nine Drama Desk nominations, a special Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theater, and most recently, a Lucille Lortel Award and the Ross Wetzsteon Obie Award. For Ma-Yi, Ralph has directed Felix Starro, The Chinese Lady, The Children of Vonderly, House/Boy Microcrisis, House Rules, The Wong Kids in the Secret of the Space Chupacabra GO!, and Among the Dead. Ralph’s work has been seen on the stages of Laguna Playhouse, Victory Gardens, Long Wharf Theater, Children’s Theater Company, The Public Theater, NAATCO, The Round House Theater, and LaMama ETC., among others. He is the recipient of an Obie Award for his work on The Romance of Magno Rubio and a proud member of the Ensemble Studio Theater.

Jorge Z. Ortoll | Board Member, Senior Advisor, Former Executive Director

Jorge assumed the position of Executive Director in 2004, produced all of its productions and oversaw its steady growth and respect in the industry and communities it serves. He believes that the bedrocks of longevity for an arts organization, besides artistic excellence, are fiscal responsibility and responsiveness to the communities that it is important to. He has served as panelist for the Nancy Quinn Fund of the Alliance of Resident Theatres in New York, and has represented the United States in the bi-annual conventions of ITI (International Theater Institute of UNESCO) since 2002. As one of the seven founders of CAATA (Coalition ofAsian American Theaters and Artists) in 2004, he was in the steering committee of the First National Asian American TheaterConference in Los Angeles in June 2006, and one of three members of the executive committee that organized the highly successful First National Asian American TheaterFestival held in New York City in June 2007. Jorge is the recipient of the TOFA award in 2011 (Twenty Outstanding Filipinos Abroad,Washington DC), and in December 5,2012, he was awarded the PAMANA Presidential Award at Malacanan Palace byPresident Benigno Aquino III, acknowledging his distinguished work as a Filipino in the field of Arts and Culture outside the Philippines. Born and raised in Manila, Jorge holds a B.A. degree in Economics and Accounting from Holy Cross College and an M.B.A. degree from Columbia University.

Sarah Hanlon | Associate Producer

Sarah is a world traveler performing in shows such as the national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, regional productions of Les Misérables, Showboat, Man of La Mancha, and her family’s favorite, Pocahontas. Much love to Chris and Mochi. For Mom.

Jesse Jae Hoon | Production Associate, Graphic Designer & Copywriter

Brooklyn-based playwright/actor. Select theatre: The Weird, As You Like It, Buddy Holly At The Armory, The Rehearsal: Playing the Dane, Blessing. Web series: “Blank My Life.” Has helped develop new work at Ars Nova, Clubbed Thumb, Dixon Place, and Joe’s Pub. Plays include Dong Xuan Center, a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s 2019 National Playwrights Conference. Former teaching assistant at the Goodman Theatre. Graphic design work includes the Samuel J. Friedman Health Center, Am I Write Ladies?, DSA, Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, and Disney on Broadway. Political field work includes Julia Salazar (field lead), Tiffany Cabán, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Zephyr Teachout, and Bernie Sanders’ 2016 & 2020 presidential campaigns. Jesse holds a BFA in Drama from NYU Tisch and is a proud member of Democratic Socialists of America. For Mom & Dad and my friends, family, and teachers.

Ma-Yi Theater Company Staff

Staff and Board

  • Ralph B. Peña
    Producing Artistic Director
  • Mike Lew & Rehana Lew Mirza
    Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Resident Playwrights*
  • Joi Barrios, Ph.d.
    Literary Manager
  • Mike Lew & A. Rey Pamatmat
    Co-directors, The Writers Lab
  • Sarah Hanlon
    Associate Producer
  • Jesse Jae Hoon
    Production Associate, Graphic Designer
  • Everyman Agency
    Press Representative
  • David Reynolds
  • Jerry Tower,
    Gibson Dunn Legal Counsel
  • Mark S. Lichtenstein
    Crowell & Moring LLP Legal Counsel
  • Gary Eisenkraft
    CPA Accountant

Board of Directors

  • William A. Cook, MD (Chair)
  • Christopher Chorengel
  • Corrie Davidson
  • Jessica Dosch
  • Janel Grant
  • Justin Lim
  • Cao K. O
  • Jorge Z. Ortoll
  • Ralph B. Peña

Advisory Board

  • Loy Arcenas
  • Lydia Benitez Brown
  • Daphne Ceniza-Kuok
  • Curtis S. Chin
  • Ian Darnton-Hill, MD
  • Sony Dabao Salvador
  • Ronald Eames
  • Ernest L. Escaler
  • Edwin Josue
  • Mia Katigbak
  • Theresa Maja-Schultz
  • George Martel
  • Charlotte Newberger
  • Lily O’Boyle
  • Fabian Obispo
  • Gertrudes Pajaron
  • Lori Pennay
  • Arianne Recto
  • Elizabeth Roxas-Dorbish
  • Jerry Sibal
  • Lolita Valderrama Savage
  • Cristina Sison
  • Cristina Tabora
  • Francisca Tayag
  • Richard Upton
  • Ching Valdes-Aran

Founding Members

  • Chito Jao Garces
  • Margot Abuan
  • Ankie Frilles
  • Luz De Leon
  • Isolda Oca
  • Ralph B. Peña,
  • Arianne Recto
  • Cristina Sison
  • Bernie Villanueva


Thank you to these institutions who make Ma-Yi’s work possible:

Actors' Equity Foundation | The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation | AXA Foundation | Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc. | Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation | Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust | Howard Gilman Foundation | The Jerome Foundation | The John Golden Fund | Lucille Lortel Foundation | The Shubert Foundation | National Endowment for the Arts | Department of Cultural Affairs–NYC | The New York Community Trust | New York State Council on the Arts

Government Support

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Your contributions allow us to continue to produce and develop innovative, exciting new work by Asian American playwrights and to keep theater tickets affordable.