the Dream of Kitamura, written and directed by Philip Kan Gotanda

  • Playhouse Production

  • Zellerbach Playhouse

  • April 20-29, 2018
  • Friday & Saturday–8p; Sunday–2p
  • Buy Tickets

Cal Students, Staff & Faculty, & Seniors: $13 online in advance, $15 at the door. ID required.
General Admission: $18 online in advance, $20 at the door.

Written and Directed by Philip Kan Gotanda
Choreography by Katie Faulkner
April 20-29 // Zellerbach Playhouse

TDPS presents the Dream of Kitamura – a mythic, ghostly tale based on a haunting image that appeared to esteemed playwright and TDPS Professor Philip Kan Gotanda in a dream. Gotanda will direct this darkly evocative and movement-driven play in collaboration with award-winning choreographer Katie Faulkner. The show opens Friday, April 20 and continues through Sunday, April 29 in the Zellerbach Playhouse. Tickets are $13 – $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS Box Office at or at the door.

The Dream of Kitamura is a mystery-shrouded hallucination that begins when Lord Rosanjin dreams that the demon Kitamura is coming to kill him. His horror is so profound that he hires two bodyguards to defend him against his own delusion. But are they who they appear to be? And what of the icy, repressed Lady Zuma, and his petulant daughter Otsu? Something rots in the House of Rosanjin as great love kills great love.

One of America’s leading playwrights, Philip Kan Gotanda is best known for plays that focus on the Asian American experience, such as The Wash, The Ballad of Yachiyo and Yankee Dawg You Die. This particular play stemmed, not from his own life experiences, but from a dream: “I dreamt the central image,” he explains, “and that dream was very potent. The image was my father as an aging lord, in an ornate, gothic throne. I was to his left, and a composite of my brothers was to his right. My father was pointing into the darkness, crying ‘KITAMURA. KITAMURA.’ We pulled out our swords to protect him. I woke up and my sense was that my father was dreaming of death coming for him. Out of this, I built a murder mystery—a feverish, dream play.”  While writing the play, Gotanda sought to trust his source, the dream, by allowing his unconscious to drive the process. When images surfaced, he accepted the ideas without judgement and explored how they might form themselves onstage.  

Gotanda notes that when he wrote the Dream of Kitamura in 1981, “I was a young artist, I was a young Asian American artist, still inventing a theatrical sense of what that would mean for the stage.”  The dream, the unconscious fused with the conscious struggle to find home in America, provided a reservoir of source material: Butoh, The Three Stooges, martial arts movies, Japanese fashion mash-up, Spaghetti Westerns and Gagaku ceremonial Japanese court music.

Fittingly, and perhaps inevitably, the Dream of Kitamura has a non-linear structure, with a narrative that is presented through both text and ritualized movement. In TDPS’s production, Katie Faulkner’s choreography is integral to the story telling. “I’ve always been intrigued by Katie’s pieces at TDPS, letting her know how much I’ve enjoyed them,” says Gotanda. “Now we’re working closely together on Kitamura, which has a highly visual movement vocabulary. The moving pictures without text are just as important as the text-driven scenes, telling a story that is immersive and inhabiting a dreamscape.”

An early work by Gotanda, the Dream of Kitamura is more experimental than most of his canon, and had its first production at San Francisco’s Asian American Theater Company in 1981, directed by David Henry Hwang. It pushed the boundaries of what defined Asian American theater, as realism held sway as the correct form of telling “community” stories. The play was further developed at East West Players, directed by Mako, followed by a collaboration at New York’s Theater of the Open Eye with Joseph Campbell, Isamu Noguchi, and Jean Erdman, which toured it around the Hawaiian Islands and the West Coast.   

Gotanda is excited to be revisiting the Dream of Kitamura again after many years away from the play. For the TDPS production, he is working with a culturally and racially diverse student cast – Korean, Native, Black-South Asian, Irish, Latinx, White, Guatemalan, Filipino, Costa Rican – a change from previous productions where the cast was exclusively Asian. Gotanda sees this production as a strong learning opportunity for the mixed group of actors—and for himself. “Although it is the same script, my approach now is different,” Gotanda shares. “How I engage the world now is quite different. How I think about American Theater is different, in particular as seen through the practice of teaching at the University. the Dream of Kitamura at TDPS is a new play.”

View the press release.