The journey of Making Tracks began for me as an exploration into the rich and diverse history of Asian Americans and how my own life fit into that context. Despite growing up as all-American as one can be, as an actor, I was quickly realizing that to most of America, I still looked like a foreigner, and thus I was limited to playing the roles of the gook, the geek, and the gangster. In the summer of 1993, after being accosted by a border guard who refused to believe that I was American, I began searching through history books and reading stories of Asian Americans before me: stories that through a privileged prep school and Ivy League education had still somehow remained unknown to me. I discovered stories of Chinese laborers risking their lives to tie this country together, immigrants detained for years at Angel Island, and Japanese Americans fighting valiantly for their country while their families were locked away in internment camps. These were my stories too, I realized, and they belonged not only to me, but to all Asian Americans, and to all Americans.
After bringing the piece together as a series of historical vignettes at Pace Downtown Theater, NYC, in January 1998, I commissioned three of the original writers to collaborate with me in developing the concept into a book musical: Woody Pak, a recent Juilliard graduate who I met through a mutual friend, and Brian Yorkey and Matt Eddy, classmates from Columbia. We wanted the music to be rock, because it was important to us that we reach out to young people, a generation distanced not only from these stories, but from the theater as well.
We reconceived the show and produced it Off-Broadway in cooperation with the Taipei Theater, NYC, in February 1999. We brought on another Columbia classmate, Lenny Leibowitz, as director, and a first-rate cast of Asian American theater professionals, many who I had performed with in Miss Saigon. After receiving an overwhelming response from the audience and the media, the Village Theater invited us to Washington to continue developing the show in March/April 2000. Once again, we went back to the drawing board, and with the help of Alan Muraoka, Second Generation's (2g) Resident Director, we created a new second act, nine new songs, and a new framing device for the story. On the heels of that successful run, we then brought the show to my parents' homeland, Taiwan, in collaboration with the Taipei Philharmonic Foundation. That production also marked the launch of this album, in collaboration with our good friends at Sony Music Taiwan. - Welly Yang