This epic play/rock concert thrusts us into the life of a young woman trying to piece together her family history thirty years after her father fled Cambodia. Featuring actor/musicians who perform a mix of contemporary Dengue Fever hits and classic Cambodian oldies live, playwright Lauren Yee brings to vivid life the Cambodian rock scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s, a movement cut short by the Khmer Rouge’s brutal attempt to erase the music (and musicians) once and for all.
Directed by Marti Lyons (Native Gardens) this story is about survivors, the resilient bond of family and the enduring power of music.
Cambodian Rock Band is presented with City Theatre Company and Merrimack Repertory Theatre.
Please be advised, this production contains loud music, use of strobe lights, and depictions of violence. It is recommended for ages 13 and up.
Lauren Yee, Playwright
Marti Lyons, Director
Rammel Chan, Duch
Eileen Doan, Pou/Guard
Peter Sipla, Rom/Journalist/Drums
Greg Watanabe, Chum
Aja Wiltshire, Neary/Sothea
Matthew Yee, Ted/Leng/Guitar (April 5–21)
Christopher Pow, Ted/Leng/Guitar (April 22–May 12)
Hannah Todd, Associate Director
Matt MacNelly, Music Direction
Yu Shibagaki, Scenic Design
Izumi Inaba, Costume Design
Keith Parham, Lighting Design
Megan Turnquist, Assistant Lighting Design
Mikhail Fiksel, Sound Design
Nova Grayson Casillo, Props Design
Skyler Gray, Dramaturgy
Denise Yvette Serna, Assistant Director / Directors Inclusion Initiative Fellow
Kanomé Jones, Casting Director / Line Producer
Dana Nestrick, Stage Management
Erica Sandvig, Production Management
Eleanor Kahn, Charge Scenic Artist
Ellie Terrell, Scenic Artist
Collin Helou, Lighting Supervisor
Kirstin Johnson, Sound Supervisor / A1
- ★★★½ “Remarkable…superb…triumphant”
- ★★★★ “Brilliant…Crazily clever and compelling…There really isn’t a dull moment in CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND.”
- ★★★★ “Exhilarating… Wonderful… Hilarious.”
—Time Out Chicago
- “Stunning…scorching…one of the best plays of the year.”
- “The best show you’ll see in Chicago this spring. Maybe all year.”
- “CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND makes Victory Gardens the go-to, high-energy Off-Loop theater of the moment…”
—Windy City Times
- “Cambodian Rock Band, Lauren Yee’s intense, highly original, richly theatrical play with music is now in a brilliantly realized production at Victory Gardens Theater vividly directed by Marti Lyons.”
- “Brave, heartwarming and funny”
—Third Coast Review
- “Brave, heartwarming and funny”
—Third Coast Review
- ★★★★ “A major artistic event… One of the most rewarding viewing experiences available to local playgoers this season.”
—Chicagoland Theater Reviews
- “Magnificent… beyond brilliant… You have to be here”
—Stage & Cinema
- “Amazing… Powerful… One of the finest shows of the year”
After every performance of Cambodian Rock Band (unless otherwise noted)
Join us for one of our intimate post-show conversations led by members from the Victory Gardens community, reflect on what you’ve seen, and share your response.
April 11th | Thursday | 9:45PM
Cambodian Rock Band features an array of psychedelic surfer rock songs by Dengue Fever, an American band that fuses sixties Cambodian pop and psychedelic rock. During the Khmer Rouge the genre disappeared with the death of the artists who created it, but the art form has now been given new life by Dengue Fever. How can art be preserved in the wake of war, displacement, and genocide? When art and artists are threatened, what can we do to keep the art-form’s legacy alive? Join us after the show in conversation with artists who base their work on traditional art forms as they discuss and celebrate the preservation and evolution of their art.
April 18th | Thursday | 9:45PM
Between the years of 1975 and 1994, 157,518 Cambodian citizens were admitted to the U.S.—97% of which were refugees of the Khmer Rouge. In Cambodian Rock Band Neary grapples with her father’s silence as a survivor, refugee, and immigrant, as well as her own disconnect with her family’s history. How do immigrant parents communicate their family histories of survival to their children, and how do families integrate these histories into their everyday lives? How do immigrants and their children navigate the generational gap while negotiating the challenging experience of living as an immigrant in America today? Join us in conversation as we discuss the power and complexity of oral histories, intergenerational communication, and familyhood.
Post-Show Presentation and Conversation
April 20th | Saturday | 5:30 p.m.
Made possible by the support of The David Rockefeller Fund
In 2017, when gathering information to increase our knowledge about the experiences and conditions of racial and ethnic groups in Chicago, the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy discovered a major disparity: data collected – if at all – about Asian American populations in Chicago was either unreliable or unavailable. IRRPP moved immediately to work to eradicate this lack of investment in Asian American communities and in April 2018, they published their report, A Tale of Diversity, Disparity, and Discrimination: The State of Racial Justice for Asian American Chicagoans. Join us as we hear about their findings and learn about where were are now – and where we hope to go from here.
April 25th | Thursday | 9:45PM
The Cambodian Heritage Museum and the Killing Fields Memorial were established in Chicago in 2004. Together these organizations make up one of only two Cambodian museums in America. For fifteen years, these sites have provided the Chicago public with an integral means of access to an ardent population of Cambodian storytellers, artists, and survivors. Join us after the show for a chance to dialogue with representatives of the museum as they keep the history and culture of Cambodia—along with their own personal stories—alive and thriving.
May 3rd | Friday | 9:45PM
Nearly forty years after the Khmer Rouge’s rule, 2018 saw the deportation of over 200 Cambodian Americans that, like Chum, call America home. How do we define home—is it the sights? The smells? The feelings? How do experiences and memories of pain and struggle transform our understanding of where we belong, where we return to, and where we call home? And what do you do when the home you knew is gone, and the place you’ve fled for refuge threatens to deport you? Join us after the show in conversation with refugees and experts on displacement as we explore the complexities of conjuring a home in exile.