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Profile: Alvin Chan

by Alex Déglise

Reneé Rodriguez, executive director of Curious Frog Theater Company is doubtless: "Alvin Chan is a pretty amazing actor."

And pretty amazing you’d better be when a team takes the bet of building up an entire production based on your skills and persona. "I'm very nervous. Being at the center of this project is exciting and embarrassing at the same time. It's a first for me," shared a modest Mr. Chan.

The 26-year-old Asian-American actor from Hawaii is humble; his resume is not. At the age of six, he was already a part of several school productions and a choir. Right after his BA in theater from the University of Hawaii, he was a working actor, employed by the national Honolulu Theater of Youth, for which he performed in no less than six shows over one year.

Quickly Mr. Chan's ambition and talent brought him overseas to New York City, where he has already performed in four classical masterpieces. His first collaboration with CFTC occurred last summer when he was cast in their production of Much Ado About Nothing. Curious Frog, whose mission statement is to offer a new perspective on modern and classical works through non-traditional casting, was the best match for Chan. His magnetism and charisma made a strong impression and Rodriguez decided to trust him one hundred percent with the upcoming spring production.

"Alvin's work has such life, presence, connection on stage. It goes beyond the gifts a good actor gives his director: being on time, learning lines quickly and accurately, and being a dream to work with,” shared Rodriguez.

Chan seized the occasion enthusiastically: "I chose True West right away. I was craving contemporary material for a change."

He acknowledges that several themes of the play talk to him powerfully. The myths of American life or the search for the real American experience is one of them. Chan came to New York to be a part of projects that matter, to help to make society better. He is here to build his American dream, but doesn't feel at all like a foreigner on the promised land the Big Apple represents for actors. When I clumsily asked him when he came to the U.S., he reminded me carefully: "Well, Hawaii is the U.S." Let's be clear people, Alvin Chan belongs to the promised land.

Having grown up with a younger brother, sibling rivalry is another aspect he can relate to, but never took to an extreme. Family matters a lot for Chan. He has always been backed up by them, even pushed a little bit sometimes.

"It's my mother who encouraged me to choose acting as a hobby in high school and college. She's always been very supportive. When I changed my major in graphic design to acting though, she freaked out a little," recalls Chan laughing.

In True West, Austin, the younger brother, is a screenplay writer. Guess what? Chan is a playwright. He has already been through the long, painful but gratifying process of giving birth to a script, and is writing another one already. His play, A Queer for Romancia, is about to be produced in Hawaii at the World Community College. Chan is making the trip for the premiere before coming back to get ready for the opening of True West on May 14th.

When I asked him which one of the two characters he is going to incarnate, Chan hesitated and finally answered, "If I could do both, that would be awesome. But I think it will be more realistic to limit myself to Austin."

Sorry, but True West is closed. Visit the archived show site.