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Director brings Asian culture to borough stage

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A native of Taiwan, Chiu, 30, moved to Queens five years ago, settling in Forest Hills after receiving her master's in theater from Northwestern University.Chiu became involved in the festival during its first year, when she helped with outreach and publicizing the event by going to community groups and schools. In April 2007, she was hired as the festival's curator, which made her responsible for booking acts for the event. Held every spring since 2006, the Asian Cultural Festival is a week-long event of performances by Asian entertainers, ranging from acting to dancing to spoken word."The message that we're carrying is very important... because there are no Asian cultural festivals in New York," Chiu said, noting that there may be events in the city that focus on one Asian group such as Chinese and Koreans but not one that encompasses all of Asia. She said the festival also provides an outlet for Asian performers to showcase their talents in the arts Ð a world where Asian-American actors have few opportunities to be cast in roles that are not stereotypes. "The Asian Cultural Festival really gives them a stage to perform," Chiu said.The festival was without an artistic director until Chiu, also a working actress, was hired in that capacity in 2006. In that role, she selects which performers to hire and also assists in fund-raising as well as soliciting donations.Jeff Rosenstock, the executive director of the Queens Theater, said the organization was looking to hire working artists as artistic directors for its various festivals to improve the quality of the events."What do I, as a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, know about Asian programming?" Rosenstock said. Chiu "has such a larger portfolio of potential artists (to book). You have to make that artistic investment to get that level of quality." As part of this year's festival, running from April 21 to April 27, Chiu has booked Dulsori, an eight-drummer ensemble from Korea; Ragamala Dance and Music Theater Ð an Indian dance company based in Minneapolis and Henry Cho, an Asian-American comedian from Nashville.Chiu said the festival used to focus on Korean and Chinese performers, but "now we want to include as many Asian ethnicities as possible. One of my interests is bringing artists (from) across the globe to cooperate."One of the goals for the Queens Theater, Chiu said, is to expand its Asian programming beyond the festival and into its regular season to accommodate the large Asian population in Queens.While planning for the festival is a year-round job, Chiu also pursues her acting career.She most recently performed during the Queens Theater's Legislative Revue, a collection of skits put on by borough legislators. She also helped the elected officials with singing and feeling comfortable on stage.Among her acting credits are Tuptim in "The King At I" at a theater in Binghamton, N.Y. as well as an unconventional role playing a Mexican in "Night Over Taos," an off-Broadway play about a revolt in New Mexico.Chiu recently finished a pilot program conducted by the Sesame Workshop Ð the non-profit organization behind "Sesame Street" Ð where she was the host of a show that taught one key Chinese word to English children during each episode.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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