The Inside Scoop on "Poor Yella Rednecks"

SCR Staff
 | Feb 21, 2019
The cast of Vietgone

Director May Adrales and playwright Qui Nguyen (fourth and fifth from left) with the cast of SCR's 2015 world premiere production of Vietgone.

“An unlikely intermingling of family play, history play, sex farce, action flick, and cultural critique. It is overtly rollicking and sneakily moving.”—The Guardian about Vietgone

In the award-winning Vietgone (2015 world premiere at SCR), playwright Qui Nguyen recounted his parents’ hot and hilarious courtship in a Vietnamese refugee camp in 1975. For the next chapter in the family's story, Poor Yella Rednecks, it's six years later and Tong and Quang are building new lives in a foreign land called rural Arkansas. But marriage is hard—especially when she’s having doubts and his first one isn’t over yet. ​This family’s history makes for a raucously funny, deeply moving take on the immigrant story, told with hip-hop style.

Poor Yella Rednecks reunites Nguyen with director May Adrales. He’s thrilled to work with her again.

“She’s my perfect artistic partner in bringing this story to life as she’s also the child of Asian immigrants who grew up in the deep ​South and, like me, isn’t afraid to laugh loudly,” he says.

Adrales calls Nguyen a “mad genius” who “smashes together genres of fantasy, romantic comedy, drama in ​his notorious signature style, along with the theatrical spectacle of movement, music, puppets and projections.”

Nguyen ​calls Poor Yella Rednecks his most personal play yet.

“It’s about my family,” he says. “It’s about two people who are very much in love here in America, but also haunted by the ghosts of who they were in Vietnam. And as the title suggests, it’s about living in poverty in the ​deep South as Asian immigrants. That’s the heartbeat of the play, which I’m aware sounds heavy."

Nguyen is known for shows full of kung fu fights, random ‘90s hip-hop dance breaks, immature puppets, and even more immature jokes. “I can assure you, that’s also this play,” he confirms.

He credits his mother, Tong, with the humor that infuses his work.

“After my mom saw the very first play I ever wrote (a “serious” show in 2006 called Trial By Water, about Vietnamese boat people) she remarked, ‘This not sound like you. You funny. This play not funny. Be funny. That you.’ So therefore, this is all her fault. Blame her. And that’s why she’s the lead character in Poor Yella Rednecks. (How ya like that, mom?).”

Adrales says that this Nguyen play spotlights people who struggle to make something out of nothing to create a better future for their child.

“In a time where immigrants are criminalized and cruelly punished for fleeing violence and war, Poor Yella Rednecks ushers in a much​-needed reminder of shared humanity,” she says. “I believe everyone will find they have more in common with the Nguyen family than differences. And, along the way, you’ll laugh at some off-color jokes, cry a little and open your hearts a bit more.”

Learn more about Poor Yella Rednecks and purchase tickets.

Did you know that Poor Yella Rednecks is part of the 2019 Pacific Playwrights Festival? Check out all seven bold, new plays.