Where I'm From
When a co-worker asks Howard out to lunch in the San Gabriel Valley, the Asian American enclave where he grew up, Howard reexamines his relationship with his hometown and his identity.
Howard Ho is a playwright and composer. WHERE I’M FROM was previously featured in Center Theatre Group’s Community Stories. His plays RESET and VARIOUS EMPORIA are both O’Neill Finalists. His musical END OF THE LINE (co-written with Kristen Rea and Chris Edgar) was a Finalist in Samuel French’s Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival. His musical PRETENDO was featured in Center Theatre Group’s Library Reading Series. He’s been a member of writers groups at Moving Arts, The Vagrancy, Company of Angels, and New Musicals Inc. He has sound designed over 50 shows with sound design nominations from the Ovation Award and the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. His Youtube channel (youtube.com/HowardHoMusic) dissecting musicals has over 120,000 subscribers and was recognized by Lin-Manuel Miranda. His journalism has been published in Entertainment Weekly, LA Times, Howlround, and American Theatre magazine. He holds degrees from UCLA and USC.
A BIT ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I was working as a marketing assistant at East West Players, the nation’s longest running theatre of color, and as part of being at the theatre all the time, I attended readings of new works from the playwriting classes. At that point, I had written articles for publications like the LA Times and Entertainment Weekly, but hadn’t delved too much into fiction or drama. But there at East West Players, I felt empowered not only seeing so many Asian Americans writing new plays and representing our community, but also the fact that what was once just words on a page could come alive so quickly and vividly in the hands of a director and actors. I quickly asked to be part of the next playwriting class and wrote my first full-length in a span of 10 weeks.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
Company of Angels was having its playwriting group develop a series of short plays for a festival, and I was invited to participate. As an LA-based theatre company, COA’s prompt was to write about a distinct neighborhood in LA. As a child of Taiwanese-American immigrants in the San Gabriel Valley, a famously AAPI immigrant enclave, I decided to write an autobiographical piece about my complicated relationship with the area called WHERE I’M FROM. While we were all set to premiere in March 2020, the pandemic put the production permanently on hold. Meanwhile the country faced waves of anti-Asian hate and violence. As a result, I developed the piece further as a response to this, bringing visibility to an ethnic enclave that was largely invisible for so long but now is reclaiming its pride and its unique melting-pot identity. In April 2021, Center Theatre Group commissioned a video presentation of WHERE I’M FROM. Currently, I am working with Company of Angels on adapting WHERE I’M FROM into a full-length musical.
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Musical, Asian-American, Self-Examining, Satirical, Panoramic
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
My main playwriting influence is the Asian American theatre movement including David Henry Hwang, Lauren Yee, Julia Cho, Prince Gomolvilas, and so many others. My main influences as a musical theatre writer and composer are Lin-Manuel Miranda, Stephen Sondheim, Jonathan Larson, and Stew. Other influences include Lynn Nottage, Tom Stoppard, Peter Shaffer, and August Wilson.
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I have memorized enough random facts to make it past the audition rounds of Jeopardy into their contestant pool.
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
The Great Leap by Lauren Yee, Yellow Face by David Henry Hwang, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson, Aubergine by Julia Cho, Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, Amadeus by Peter Shaffer.
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I’m developing WHERE I’M FROM with Company of Angels into a full-length musical celebrating the San Gabriel Valley, especially in honor of the victims of the Monterey Park shooting that recently took place there. My play RESET is an O’Neill Finalist this year as well as a Semi-Finalist at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and RESET will be produced later this year at LA’s Moving Arts Theatre.