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Min Kahng talks about how he created musical based on manga

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Min Kahng is the composer and writer of the award-winning “The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga,” which he based on the autobiographical comic by Japanese artist Henry Kiyama. Kahng will lead a master class for students on a three-day visit to Harvard as part of the Office for the Arts’ Learning From Performers program.

In addition to leading a workshop, Kahng will deliver a public lecture at Houghton Library on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in connection with its exhibition on “Treading the Borders: Immigration and the American Stage.” In advance of his visit, he talked with the Gazette about his creative process and artistic journey.


Min Kahng

GAZETTE: “The Four Immigrants” was originally a Japanese manga. How did you come to bring it to the stage?

KAHNG: I stumbled upon it in a used bookstore in downtown Berkeley (California). Henry Kiyama was a 20th-century Japanese artist who came to the U.S. to study art. He was college-age in San Francisco when immigration laws were stiffened. It primarily interested me because the narrative we are told about Asian immigrant history is they came here to become laborers. To learn there was a Japanese immigrant who came to study art at the San Francisco Art Institute really spoke to me because I feel like I’m trying to carve a similar path. I got in touch with the English translator Frederik Schodt, who I discovered lives 20 minutes away. Fred is a very generous and giving person. He gave me his vote of confidence, and through him I got the blessing of Kiyama’s daughter and granddaughter, who are in Japan.

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