Tiger Style! is an outrageous satire about two Chinese-American siblings struggling with stereotypes and the western gaze as they search for acceptance. Albert Chen is a computer programmer tired of being a “pushover” who is never acknowledged for his hard work. His sister Jennifer -- a professionally driven doctor recently dumped by a car radio installer -- wants to fix her low self-esteem. Concluding that they have a lapse in life skills due to their “tiger parents,” they embark on an “Asian Freedom Tour” that eventually takes them to the People’s Republic of China.
Sean Sekino plays Albert Chen in Olney’s production of Tiger Style! We’re lucky to have Sean all the way from LA, which happens to be where this play begins. It’s been wonderful getting to know and work with Sean (who started a trend of bringing communal chocolate and snacks to rehearsal). As someone who was in every rehearsal, I can tell you that you won’t want to miss his vibrant performance. He has us cackling every day. Please enjoy this interview with Sean:
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started working in theatre.
Hi, I’m Sean! Some quick facts- I like coloring books, bowling, and golfing. I’m scared of sharp objects, heights, and children.
As far as acting- welp - I started acting as a kid, working random commercial gigs and Disney Channel movies. Ha! Yeah, you read that right. Came to stage work in high school, as many of us did, and fell in love. In professional theatre, I actually began working behind the scenes as music director for musicals, working with ensemble and soloists, playing piano and percussion in the pit. I’ve stage-managed a few plays back home. Kinda been all around the theater, I guess.
Where are you from? What is the theatre community like there, and how has your time been with the DC theatre community?
I’m from LA, where you assume streamers, TV, and film take the ‘main stage.’ But, there is a vibrant theatre scene back home- multiple under 99 seat theaters, like one every other block, in what feels like a small family of theater. I did a show in a theatre called Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater and how cool is that name? There’s also a jam-packed Hollywood Fringe Festival, so many improv stages, not to mention the regional theaters in the city - many opportunities to flex your stage muscles.
Just being introduced to the DC theatre community, I’ve loved how tight-knit it seems. Everyone seems to know everyone, “Oh, have you worked with so-and-so?” “Yes, I love so-and-so!” I’ve also been surprised at how much work is out here! My colleague was saying there are over seven regional theaters in this area? That’s amazing. A lot of opportunities for great artists.
What has been exciting and/or challenging about your work on Tiger Style!?
Albert is such a fun challenge. He has such vibrancy; he’s like the spirit animal of the play, bringing humor and quick whips, but also many theses of the playwright. Keeping up the high energy, you would think, would be the challenge. But, honestly, it lies in finding small moments, slow breath in the character, because it’s so easy to keep Albert kicked in high, comedic gear. And Natsu [Onoda Power] has definitely helped shape Albert into a more agreeable character. I’ve loved playing Albert, he’s my own spirit animal in many ways.
What is a favorite role you've played? What is one of your dream roles?
I recently worked a small new play written by a close friend. Marty Has Cancer was honestly my favorite stage experience. So fun. The role wasn’t just written as the ‘funny, Asian sidekick’ ya know? The character was written as the voice, or the anxieties, of the playwright, so there were a lot of moments to really sink my actory teeth into - ha!
At my age, who doesn’t want to play Chris Keller of Miller’s All My Sons? Eventually, I would love to play DHH of Hwang’s Yellow Face. It’s such an important satire that challenges stereotypes, rather, flips them on their head. And the DHH character, written as this fantasized, yet autobiographical mess is all at once self-actualized and self-hating. I would love to explore the mixtures of the part.
When you aren't performing, how do you like to spend your time?
I’ve been checking out the trails here in the area! I’ve loved the countryside here, it’s truly a contrast from LA. I took a morning run along the Hawlings River and passed a deer! Like, a living deer! I never see that in LA - ha! I actually sprained my ankle on that run. Oops. I’m fine now, guys, I’m fine.
I’ve been exploring the Korean restaurants here in the area with some cast members. There’s quite a selection of great asian restaurants around here! When I travel, I go for the hole-in-the-wall spots. We went to Iron Age for Korean BBQ and had a great freakin’ time. So much soju….
Who are your theatrical icons and why do you admire them?
Ya know, I’ve been reading up on Eleonora Duse, Italian actress. A truly bohemian life, she had affairs with poets and dancers. She inspired a whole generation of actors. She worked with Isben! Check out The Mystic in the Theatre: Eleonora Duse, by Eva Le Gallienne, mentioning ‘Duse’s Blush’- creating a genuine reaction is so difficult as an actor, ya know, keeping it, as they say ‘fresh.’ For Duse, it seemed effortless to stay effortless. A lover confesses to her in the play, how she managed to stay so alive in the scene, she turned red of embarrassment every night of performance. Inspiring.