american|asian Beautifully Details the Scope and Import of the We Are Here! Festival

american|asian, the 90-minute combination of two 45-minute works surrounding Asian-American identity, makes for a powerful, emotional combination at the We Are Here! Festival.   

There is a wonderfully unstudied quality to performer Aaron Jin’s True Love, but Gay. “I’m going to read you a story, but also this is definitely my script!” he begins. Right from the start, it’s impossible to tell if that quality is intentional or not, and that makes for a deeply-felt, stripped away, immediate performance. As it exists, Jin connects his story- one of loss and love and Grindr- to the audience. This all comes about through candid geniality and incisive self-reflection.

Steven Tran, performing The Sonata Years, the second half of We Are Here’s excellent american|asian couplet, is more subdued. There is no direct address to the audience, rather reflecting the artist’s introversion and artistry first. This comes in the form of the precise, difficult classical music the young pianist fell in love with. This focus on precision shapes the narrative, more composed where Jin’s feels almost improvisational. The two balance each other perfectly, and the two 45-minute shows fly by all too fast.

To describe the narrative of either story is to take away the immediacy of these performers’ work. These are personal stories, fully realized in the compressed space of the 18th and Union stage. Simply watching these men perform is the best way to process their feeling, and it is feeling more than story that drives these two works. Coming-of-age, coming out, and the intersections of Asian-American identity are all explored, and american|asian is raw, honest, and brave in that exploration.

american|asian is currently running at 18th and Union. For tickets and more information, go to

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