Community, Events, North Carolina Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Special Collections

Original Siamese Twins To Be Topic of Talk by Playwright Philip Kan Gotanda, Dec. 6

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I Dream of Chang and Eng
Program with playwright Philip Kan Gotanda
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011
Wilson Special Collections Library
5 p.m. Reception and exhibition viewing | North Carolina Collection Gallery
5:30 p.m. Program | Pleasants Family Assembly Room
Free and open to the public
Information: Liza TerllFriends of the Library, (919) 548-1203

The lives of Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese twins, have been a source of fascination for nearly two centuries.

On Dec. 6, playwright Philip Kan Gotanda will speak about his new play, I Dream of Chang and Eng, which reimagines the remarkable lives of the pair.

The program will also feature presentations and readings from the play by undergraduate students who have researched the lives of Chang and Eng through documents in the Wilson Special Collections Library. A display of materials curated by the students will be on view during the event.

Chang and Eng were born in 1811 in Siam (now Thailand). As teenagers, they traveled the Americas and Europe, becoming popular celebrities. The pair eventually settled in North Carolina as gentlemen farmers, marrying sisters Adelaide and Sarah Yates of Wilkes County, and ultimately fathering 21 children between them. Chang and Eng died within hours of each other in 1874.

I Dream of Chang and Eng premiered in Berkeley, Ca., in March. Gotanda is known especially for his sensitive explorations of the lives of Asian Americans in both his many plays and as a filmmaker. He has been artist in residence at Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. His works have been produced by theaters across the country, including the American Conservatory Theater and the New York Shakespeare Festival.

Gotanda comes to UNC at the invitation of Heidi Kim, assistant professor of English and comparative literature, and the instructor for English 265 Honors, “Literature and Race, Literature and Ethnicity.”

“Philip is unquestionably one of the foundational and most influential figures in Asian American theatre,” said Kim. “He’s been incredibly generous with my students and has added immeasurably to their learning.”

Kim’s students used materials about the Bunkers and their era from the North Carolina Collection and Southern Historical Collection in Wilson Library. Their display and presentations will highlight letters and documents, pamphlets, photographs, and museum objects.

The program is sponsored by the North Carolina Collection, Southern Historical Collection, and the Friends of the Library.

Funding for Gotanda’s visit comes from the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost through the Performing Arts Special Activities Fund, the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, and Honors Carolina.

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