As we get ready to celebrate over two decades of the Haas Award at our Haas Happy Hour on February 27, we’re sharing reflections from past recipients in this series.
Bi Jean Ngo moved to Philadelphia in 2005 and was the most recent recipient of the Haas Award in 2016. She’s an actor, teaching artist, and creative director.
We asked Bi how it felt when she received the award. “I was thrilled, and there was a moment when I thought to myself, ‘Did you just say my name? MY NAME?’ And then I looked around at this see of beautiful faces belonging to our phenomenal theatre family, and it all happened so fast. Seth Rozin jumped up from across the aisle and bear hugged me. I remember thinking that my heels were really high, and I didn't want to trip down the aisle or up the stairs to the stage. I remember feeling at once the levity of celebration and the immense responsibility of holding such an immense honor, and realizing that this marked the beginning of an even deeper journey.”
“I moved here from New York, and I was inspired by the unparalleled camaraderie, generosity, and shared curiosity of my theatre colleagues here in Philly. That's why I cultivated relationships with theatres here, fell in love with teaching here, and also founded PAPA: Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists. I wanted to contribute to the creative growth of this city. Philly is unique because we've created an ecosystem of artists who work together beautifully and who strive to generate new work, keep each other employed, and encourage professional development. There is a strong culture of mutual respect and mentorship here. Although Philly is a big city, the theatre community is intimate. It's that intimacy that allows us to support each other's projects, socially interact on a regular basis, and nurture creativity.”
Bi credits many in the community for supporting her as an artist: “Seth Rozin and the InterAct family, Gayle Isa from Asian Arts Initiative, Charles MacMahon and the Lantern family, Emilya Cachapero and the folks at TCG, my awesome family of Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists, Philadelphia Young Playwrights and so many more.” Yet, there are artists emerging along with Bi. She shares: “I am totally inspired by Sam Tower, Jeremy Gable, Hannah Van Sciver. They are creating new work, writing their own rule book, and connecting artists from all over the city through physical theatre, original writing, mixed media, music, and beyond. I love them and am learning so much from them. Shout out to Amanda Morton, too, who is an amazingly gifted musical director, teacher, and producer. These people give me new life goals.”
Join us for the Haas Happy Hour on February 27, where Bi will sit down with the inaugural Haas Award recipient Grace Gonglewski to talk about their life and work!