<i>Making Tracks</i> breaks ground

April 18, 2005

Got a chance to see Making Tracks, the Asian American rock musical, at the San Jose Repertory Theatre this past weekend before it ended its run.

I was impressed with the scope of the story and delighted to see an accurate portrayal of Asian American history that really tugged at your heartstrings. Anyone whose family has come from someplace else to the gilded shores of America can identify with this story.

Making Tracks is a groundbreaking work of Asian American theater and the anti-Miss Saigon, though its narrative maybe too much for those who haven't taken an Asian American studies class. Some reviewers have noted this. About half the audience I saw the play with was non-Asian and maybe many of the Asians Americans have never heard any of the history, but most of them took part in the standing ovation at the end. I think there was enough in the story for the uninitiated to understand the history, and the great performances and music also pulled in the audience.

The story covers six generations of a family and encompasses the major events in Chinese and Japanese American history -- from the Gold Rush and building the railroad, to picture brides, World War II and the Japanese internment, to the struggles of Asian Americans to find themselves in today's American society.

One quibble is that other Asian groups are left out (there are some minor references to Filipinos, and most of the actors are Filipino), though the themes resonate across ethnic and racial lines.

Another minor quibble is that in a couple of the songs, the Mandarin pronunciation for "America" (mei guo) is sung by the characters even though they're supposed to be Gold Rush-era Cantonese immigrants. This reminds me of the Fruit Chan movie Dumplings, set in Hong Kong, where Bai Ling's character speaks Mandarin and everybody else is speaking Cantonese. What's with the dissing of Cantonese?

But I digress. Making Tracks was worth seeing and hopefully there will be a national tour, as the producers want.


Harry Mok

Editor in chief

Editor in Chief Harry Mok wrote about growing up on a Chinese vegetable farm for the second issue of Hyphen and has been a volunteer editor since 2004. As a board member of the San Francisco and New York chapters of the Asian American Journalists Association, Harry has recruited and organized events for student members. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also a graduate student instructor in the Asian American Studies Department.



Someone from AsianWeek even more nitpicking than me has pointed out the Mandarin-Cantonese thing and more historical inaccuracies in the show.