The Great Leap
“Fast-moving, furiously funny ... a must-see!” –Theatre Eddys
From the acclaimed playwright of Cambodian Rock Band!
San Francisco. 1989. Basketball standout Manford Lum is a fast-talking, dominating teenager on the street courts of Chinatown. But when he elbows his way onto a college team traveling to Beijing for a “friendship” game, the outcome isn’t what anyone expects. Traversing history that is both personal and political, this sharp and funny play pits a U.S. coach against his Chinese counterpart — and countrywide protests and cultural revolution against their deeply personal tolls and generational fractures.
The celebrated playwright of Cambodian Rock Band, Lauren Yee uses her father’s basketball heroics and the student-led demonstrations that rocked the world as a springboard for this moving story that keeps the tension rising right up until the final buzzer.
A co-production with Artists Repertory Theatre.
“A beautiful play with vibrant characters and rich history crackling with fresh dialog.” –BroadwayWorld
The recording of this production is being offered as an accessibility option for those who are unable to see the show in person. The recording will be taken from a single camera, placed near the back of the house. It will offer a view of the full stage and overall experience, rather than close-up shots of individual performers. Get a ticket here.
The Great Leap Plot Summary
Please note, this summary contains spoilers.
In 1971, during the height of China’s Cultural Revolution — a time when the Communist Party of China, led by Chairman Mao Zedong, hoped to establish China as an anti-capitalist world power — American basketball coach Saul Slezac visited China to coach a Chinese basketball team. When he left, his translator, Wen Chang, was made the team’s new permanent coach.
Eighteen years later, in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Chinese American phenom point guard Manford Lum leaves his mother’s funeral to try out for the team Saul is taking back to China for a “friendship game” between him and his old friend Wen Chang. Though Manford is short, too young, and only has a month to train with the team, Saul allows him to join them on the trip. Saul is quoted as saying that no Chinese team will ever beat an American team, and Wen Chang wants the opportunity to prove him wrong.
The team arrives in China in June 1989, during a time students in Beijing and around the country were protesting the Communist Party. These protests were widespread but the heart of it beat in Tiananmen Square. Manford finds himself swept up in the protests. When Party officials see a picture of him with protestors, he is banned from playing in the exhibition. Manford finds his way to Wen Chang’s apartment to plead with him, only to learn about a deeper connection between them. Wen Chang is actually Manford’s father, and his mother fled China while she was pregnant with him to keep him safe.
On the day of the game, China’s team is solidly beating the American team but in the final moments, Manford comes into the game despite being banned and changes the tide. The Party leaders are unhappy with the outcome of the game and knowing that he may be punished for the loss, Wen Chang sends a letter to Manford acknowledging his relationship with him and his mother before joining the protests in Tiananmen Square.
Calling all readers! Multnomah County Library put together a reading list inspired by our production of The Great Leap.
Literary Manager Kamilah Bush spoke to playwright Lauren Yee about her inspirations and the personal connections that led her to write The Great Leap.
Learn more about the The Great Leap forward and other historical events during this time, as well as some of the people and work behind this play.
Learn a little about basketball and some of the lingo you'll encounter as you watch The Great Leap.
Written by Lauren Yee
Understudy Manford & Wen Chang
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Sunny Min-Sook Hitt
Sound Designer & Original Composition
Kristen Lyn Mei Kuk Mun*
Amanda Vander Hyde*
Assistant Stage Manager
New York Casting Director
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Associate Lighting Designer
Associate Sound Designer
Jenna Cady Lee Newberry
Laurel Jane Vonderau
Student Workshop Leaders
Meet the Cast
Tommy is a Brooklyn-based actor making his debut at Portland Center Stage. Film/TV: FBI: Most Wanted (CBS), Hit and Run (Netflix), Master (Amazon), and Boogie (Dir. Eddie Huang). Proud member of SAG-AFTRA. AEA debut. B.F.A., 2019. Much love to Zi, Sunny, Barbie, PCS, ART, my hilarious cast, HCKR, ChiChi, my friends, and anyone else who needs a hug. “This is for the dreamers, the believers, the doers. Stand up tall, lead with your heart, and shoot your shot. And to my dad, who sacrificed everything to give me everything — this one’s for you.” @prettydumbboys
Kenneth originated the lead role of Hsu in Matt Charman’s The Machine at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City, London’s Donmar Warehouse, and the Manchester Int’l Festival. He has worked at theaters in New York City and regionally, including The Shakespeare Theatre, The Pearl Theatre, Clubbed Thumb, Arena Stage, The Studio Theatre in DC, Baltimore Center Stage, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Cleveland Playhouse, and the American Players Theatre. Film/TV: Search Party, FBI, The Affair, Mr. Robot, Madam Secretary, Unforgettable, The Following, Delocated, Deception, Children of Invention, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Second Act. He trained at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, the Public Theatre Shakespeare Lab, and American Conservatory Theatre (M.F.A). For mom, who never wavered. Ikennethlee.com
Based out of New York City, Sami is a queer, first-generation daughter of Chinese immigrants learning to navigate and enjoy the messy terrain between her traditional culture and her American upbringing. Recent theater credits include: Fan Zhilan in Tiananmen: The Musical, Tong in Vietgone, Kendra/Jenna in Gloria, Margot in Lazy Eye, and Grace in FOB. Recent TV/film credits include: Tender Ears, Death Saved My Life, Where the Light Enters, and All Hail Beth. Love and endless gratitude to the cast and crew, everyone at PCS and ART, Andrea Zee, her beautiful family, Maxwell, and her teams at Eris Talent Agency, and LG Management. For her guardian angel, Jason K. Ma.
Darius is a theater artist based in Portland. Some previous shows at Portland Center Stage include: Stupid F***ing Bird, Bedlam’s Sense and Sensibility, The Santaland Diaries, Beard of Avon, Twelfth Night, The 39 Steps, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He has also worked with companies including Third Rail Repertory Theatre, Artists Repertory Theatre, Folger Theater, Woolly Mammoth, Portland Playhouse, Syracuse Stage, Theatre Vertigo, and many others. Occasionally, you can see Darius on screen — most recently in the film Pig. He is a proud company member at Third Rail Repertory Theatre, a co-founder of the Anonymous Theatre Company, and an avid collector of turtles.
Brian is thrilled to be returning to the theater after more than two years away. Brian received his B.A. in drama from the University of Portland in 2011 and completed his acting apprenticeship at Florida Studio Theatre the following year. Since returning to Portland, he has been seen with many local companies, including Bag&Baggage Productions, Lakewood Theatre Company, and Original Practice Shakespeare Festival, where he is an associate artist. Recent credits include Eddie/Dr. Scott in The Rocky Horror Show with Lakewood Theatre Company (BroadwayWorld nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical) and Nicky/Trekkie/Bad Idea Bear in Avenue Q with Enlightened Theatrics in Salem. Much love to his family and friends, especially Jessie, Hannah, and Bryan!
Wynee is excited to be participating in her first PCS and ART production! As an actor, she has worked locally with Corrib Theatre, Northwest Children’s Theater, Oregon Adventure Theatre, Boom Arts, Advance Gender Equity in the Arts (AGE), LineStorm Playwrights, PDX Playwrights, Speculative Drama, Bag&Baggage Productions, and Exoplanetary Media. Offstage, she is a concierge and a house manager at PCS, and a development and communications associate at Boom Arts. Wynee is an associate producer for Lunchbox. She was an Emerging Artist in the 2021 Spring Cohort of Advance Gender Equity in the Arts' IGNITE program. Wynee is grateful to her colleagues, friends, and family for their support.
Meet the Creative Team
Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band, with music by Dengue Fever, premiered at South Coast Rep, subsequent productions at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, City Theatre, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Signature Theatre, and Jungle Theatre with an upcoming national tour. Her play The Great Leap has been produced at the Denver Center, Steppenwolf, Seattle Repertory, Atlantic Theatre, the Guthrie Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Arts Club, and InterAct Theatre. Honors include the Doris Duke Artists Award, Whiting Award, Steinberg/ATCA Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters literature award, Horton Foote Prize, Kesselring Prize, Primus Prize, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton, and the #1 and #2 plays on the 2017 Kilroys List. She's a Residency 5 playwright at Signature Theatre, New Dramatists members, Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab member, and Playwrights Realm playwright. TV credits: Pachinko (Apple), Soundtrack (Netflix). Current commissions include Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, Second Stage, South Coast Rep. B.A: Yale. M.F.A: UCSD. laurenyee.com
Zi is a queer, first-generation South Asian-American, culturally Muslim theater director, educator, and leader. Recent honors: TCG Rising Leaders of Color, 2021. Upcoming directing: Snow in Midsummer at Classic Stage Company. Director (selected): Manik Choksi’s The Ramayan (currently in development at Ars Nova), Ragtime (Playmakers Repertory Company), The Flick and Red Speedo (Juilliard), House of Joy (New York Stage and Film), Shabash! (LCT3), Lady Apsara (filmed for Prospect Theatre Company), The Wild Party (Yale), and Les Misérables (Pace). Resident Director: Hamilton (National Tour). Associate/Assistant Director: The Band’s Visit (First National Tour), Six Degrees of Separation (Broadway), The Rose Tattoo (Williamstown and Broadway), Ripcord (Manhattan Theatre Club). Alum: Drama League Directors Project, Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, Drama League Artist Residency Program, MTC Alper Directing Fellowship, Williamstown Directing Corps. Graduate: NYU/Tisch. Zi is currently the inaugural artistic directing fellow at Artists Repertory Theatre, where he serves as director of DNA: Oxygen, a new initiative dedicated to the development and production of new work generated by, led by, and featuring artists of color.
Sunny is a New York City-based choreographer, movement director, performer, and teacher. Credits include: associate director/choreographer, Untitled DanceShowPartyThing (Virgin Voyages) and associate choreographer, Soft Power by David Henry Hwang. She has been seen in The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time (Actors Theatre of Louisville), The Tempest (The Public Theater), and most recently June Rites !! by Lee Sunday Evans on Governors Island. In 2021, Sunny created Body Of Work with long-time collaborator Ani Taj — an exploration of dance + economics, including the release of three dance NFTs. Her most recent durational performance, On View: WFH, was created and presented during the pandemic. She’s currently on the adjunct faculty at The New School and is a proud member of SDC. sunnyhitt.com
Chika is a New York-based scenic and projection designer. Her design credits include: The Great Wave (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Hunky Boys Go Ding-Dong (Adult Swim Network), Another Dream, Un(re)solved (Ado Ato Pictures, Tribeca Film Festival), The Winning Side (Epic Theatre Ensemble), Awake (The Barrow Group), The Naturalists (Pond Theatre Company), Vietgone (TheatreSquared), The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Yale Repertory Theatre, CT Critics Circle Award nominee), a number of dance theatre and Off-Broadway shows. She is a recipient of the Donald and Zorca Oenslager Fellowship Award in Design. M.F.A in design from Yale School of Drama. She is a faculty member of NYU, Tisch School of the Arts. chikashimizu.com
National Tours: Martin Luther on Trial and The Great Divorce (Fellowship for the Performing Arts). Off-Broadway: Desperate Measures (New World Stages), Sideways (The Peccadillo Project), Closer Than Ever (dir. Richard Maltby) and Storyville (Henry Hewes and Audelco nominations for Outstanding Costume Design, York Theatre Co.), The Body Politic (59E59 Theaters), Surely Goodness and Mercy (Keen Co.), The Sensational Josephine Baker (Emerging Artists Theatre). Regional: Vietgone (Geva Theater Center), The White Snake (Baltimore Center Stage), Back Home Again (Lesher Center for the Performing Arts), Crazy For You and Spamalot (Muhlenberg SMT), I Do! I Do! (Peterborough Players), Tosca (Boheme Opera N.J.), and Ruined (regional premiere, Best Costume Design — Best of the Suncoast 2010, Florida Studio Theatre). Adjunct: NYU Tisch School of the Arts. M.F.A.: New York University. nicolewee.com
Cha is from Manila, Philippines. Off-Broadway credits: The Fever (Minetta Lane/Audible Theater); one in two (Signature Theatre); What to Send Up When It Goes Down (Playwrights Horizons/BAM, ART NY) among others. Regional: Everybody (PlayMakers Repertory Company); Marisol (Trinity Repertory Company); On The Grounds of Belonging (Long Wharf Theatre); America V2.1 (Barrington Stage); Yasmina’s Necklace (Premiere Stages); Legacy Land (KCRep). Upcoming: Soft (MCC Theater); Change Agent (Arena Stage); Exception To The Rule (Roundabout Theatre Company); Sanctuary City (Berkeley Repertory Theatre). Training: M.F.A., NYU Tisch School of the Arts. seelightingdesign.com seelightingfoundation.com @seethruuu
Fan is a sound designer and composer whose recent Off-Broadway design and original music credits include: At the Wedding at Lincoln Center Theatre LCT3, Our Dear Dead Drug Lord at Second Stage and WP Theatre, Paris at Atlantic Theatre, Suicide Forest at ART Theatre, Pumpgirl at Irish Repertory Theatre, Molly Sweeney at Theatre Row, Round Table at 59E59 Theaters, Behind the Sheet at Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Trail of the Catonsville Nine at Abron Arts Center. Regional: Pipeline at Studio Theatre, D.C., Eclipsed at Milwaukee Rep, Animals at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Chinese Lady at Long Wharf Theatre, Yasmina’s Necklace at Premiere Stages, Seven Guitars at Yale Repertory Theatre, Redeem at Cincinnati Ballet, Revolutionist at Pittsburgh City Theatre, Red Maple at Capital Rep. Training: M.F.A., Yale School of Drama. fanzhangsound.com
Born and raised in Taiwan, Barbie discovered her passion for acting in 2003 as an exchange student in Eugene. After earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon, she received her Master of Fine Arts degree in acting from Southern Methodist University in 2014. She is a resident artist and the education manager at Artists Repertory Theatre and was featured in the titular role of The Chinese Lady, Today Is My Birthday Audio Drama, Better Maybe, Magellanica Audio Drama, A Doll’s House, Part 2, Everybody, and Magellanica. Her other credits include The Break (Long Distance Affair, a co-production of Juggerknot Theatre and PopUP Theatrics), Renaissance: Technically! (Portland Center Stage) , The Wolves (Portland Playhouse), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Anonymous Theatre Company), The Mermaid Hour (Milagro), Slavs! (Southern Methodist University), Mother Courage (Oregon Contemporary Theatre), Shakespeare in Hollywood (Very Little Theatre), King Lear (Lane Community College), and she was a founding ensemble member of Bootstrap Theater Company in Truckee, California. Barbie is a teaching artist with Hand2Mouth, Portland’s longest-running theater ensemble, and a barista at Tōv, Portland’s only double-decker coffee bus.
Kristen was born and raised on the island of Oahu and has worked as a stage manager in the Portland theater community for the past 10 years. She graduated with a B.F.A. from Southern Oregon University and is proud to return to Portland Center Stage for her 9th season. When she is not stage managing, she works as a fight choreographer and teacher. She has been recognized for her fight choreography four times by the Portland Drammy's and is a proud AEA stage manager.
A graduate of Western Oregon University with a B.F.A in technical production, Amanda is a freelance stage manager in the Portland theater scene. She works as a production and stage manager for the likes of Oregon Children's Theatre, CoHo Productions, triangle productions!, The Actors Conservatory, Many Hats Collaboration, and Chapel Theater. She also works as the resident stage manager at Majestic Theatre. Along with stage managing, she is an intimacy choreographer in the Portland area, having worked on various pieces, including Heathers: The Musical at Linfield University. She wants to thank her partner for putting up with her late hours and constant busyness.
Andrea is delighted to return to PCS to share this important story. Upcoming projects: Where The Wild Things Are (Off-Broadway), Golden Shield (Off-Broadway), and Yemandja (National Tour). Off-Broadway/New York City: Neurosis; Syncing Ink; Elf; New York Stage and Film; ACLU/NYCLU. National Tours: The Sound of Music, Bullets Over Broadway, Elf, and Finding Neverland. Regional: Portland Center Stage, 5th Avenue Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, Arrow Rock Lyceum, Alley Theater, and TUTS. Credits as casting associate include Broadway: Chicago, … The Great Comet of 1812, On The Town, and Pippin. National Tours: Anastasia, Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. Film/TV: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix), Y: The Last Man (FX), and Blue’s Clues & You! (Nickelodeon). Commercials: Comcast; Grammarly. zee-casting.com
What Critics Are Saying
"We started the show laughing, ended in tears, and couldn’t stop talking about it after. If that’s not reason enough to buy tickets, I don’t know what is." - PDXParent
"The stakes are high and the consequences dire for all of The Great Leap’s players." - Portland Mercury
"The Great Leap brings together basketball, politics and history to explore personal identity, cultural ties and relations between the U.S. and China." - Portland Tribune
"Cultural divides and father-figure issues ensue, along with the looming cataclysm of the Tiananmen Square student protests." - Oregon ArtsWatch
"It’s not just a story—it’s an invitation to watch all the pieces of these living characters surface and fall into place." - Willamette Weekly
"Lee succeeds in communicating the full spectrum of human emotion without saying a word." - BroadwayWorld
"The Great Leap is worth your time. It's full of the kind of drama we've missed for so very long." - The Crippled Critic
"A lot to take in here with Tiananmen Square Rioting and the basketball game all happening at the same time. Wonderful acting and lots to learn about life that you will reflect on long after the performance. I loved it!" - Audience Rave
"Such a great show! Not just about basketball, much more than I expected!!" - Audience Rave
"One of the best productions I have seen at Portland Center Stage. The actors were outstanding in their roles. I have always been interested in other cultures and The Great Leap told the story of an important time in the history of China from the perspective of Chinese Americans and Chinese." - Audience Rave
"Strong examination of cultural differences through moving personal stories" - Audience Rave
"We thought it was funny, well written, perfectly paced- with amazing use of light and space/set design!" - Audience Rave
"Blown away. Funny, deep, and well-paced. It hits you in all the ways you want and in many ways that you aren't expecting." - Audience Rave
"Impactful story touching on so many important themes - immigration, values, history, culture, family. Very well done!" - Audience Rave
"It was wonderful! The story was captivating and the actors were great! As usual, the set and direction were superb. It pulled me into the story as if I were there." - Audience Rave
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