We are about new work.
Founded in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company is a Drama Desk and Obie 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 work shaping the national discourse about what it means to be Asian American today.
- We provide a home for generative artists to take big innovative risks as they hone individual and collective skills.
- We encourage our artists to stake new creative territories by pushing Asian American Theater beyond easily identifiable markers.
- We challenge popular prescriptions of what culturally specific theater should be by producing challenging, forward-thinking plays written by today’s most exciting playwrights.
- We aspire to be exemplars of how theater can be an active local partner to our diverse communities, while participating in larger, global conversations about our roles as artists/citizens.
- We are guided by knowing WHY and for WHOM we create.
The Obie Award-winning Ma-Yi Theater Company is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1989 to develop and present new plays and performance works that essay the Filipino-American experience.
In 1998, we expanded our mission to include new works by other, non-Filipino, Asian American playwrights. This widened focus was prodded by the growing need to provide a developmental venue for Pan Asian-American texts.
In May 2003, Ma-Yi Theater Company’s production of “The Romance of Magno Rubio” was honored with Obie Awards for Lonnie Carter (playwright), Loy Arcenas (director), the entire cast including Art Acuña, Ramon de Ocampo, Ron Domingo, Jojo Gonzalez, Orlando Pabotoy, and Ralph Peña (lyricist).
Ma-Yi has produced critically acclaimed productions of new works by Michi Barall, Linda Faigao-Hall, Jessica Hagedorn, Chris Millado, Qui Nguyen, Han Ong, Ralph B. Peña, Sung Rno, Lloyd Suh, and Alice Tuan, among others. Our work is anthologized in “Savage Stage,” a collection of plays developed and produced by Ma-Yi Theater. Ma-Yi Theater Company’s works have won 10 OBIE Awards, 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.”
“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.”
We chose this name in recognition of the vibrant culture that existed in Ma-Yi, prior to the coming of the colonizers from the West.
Site Photo Credits: Brian Barenio, Web Begole, Ralph B. Peña & Matt Zugale
Staff & Board
Producing Artistic Director
Ralph B. Peña
Jorge Z. Ortoll
Joi Barrios, Ph.D.
Co-Directors of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab
Michael Lew & A. Rey Pamatmat
Michael Lew & Rehana Lew Mirza
Board of Directors:
William A. Cook, MD – Chair
Mars Custodio, MD
Steven J. Litner
Cao K. O
Jorge Z. Ortoll
Francisca M. Tayag
Lydia Benitez Brown
Curtis S. Chin
Sony Dabao Salvador
Ian Darnton-Hill, MD
Lily O’ Boyle
Theresa Maja Schultz
Chito Jao Garces – Founding Artistic Director
Luz de Leon
Ralph B. Peña