INTERSTATE: New pop-rock poetry musical shines a spotlight on queer Asian-Americans

Melissa Li and Kit Yan became friends more than 10 years ago. They met while performing together at a queer Asian-American cabaret in Boston, where Li performed as a singer-songwriter and Yan as a spoken word performer.

It was during these early performances that Yan, who is transgender, got the idea of performing together on the road, and bringing their queer Asian-American perspectives to other communities across the country.

“Backstage one day I was saying to [Li], ‘What do you think about quitting our jobs and getting in a little compact car and going on the road, and bringing what we’re doing in the [cabaret] out to wherever we’re going,” Yan told NBC News.

Kit Yan
Kit YanGrace Naw

Li thought it was a good idea, and the two formed the band Good Asian Drivers. They then set off on a cross-country tour in 2008 and performed together in cafes and small venues across the United States, seeking out other queer communities.

It was this cross-country tour that inspired the story for their new musical, “Interstate,” which is one of 12 productions taking part in the 2018 New York Musical Festival.

Described as an Asian-American, pop-rock poetry musical, “Interstate” tells the story of two transgender people at different stages of their journey, as they navigate love, family and masculinity while finding community in the age of social media.

“It’s definitely a queer, Asian, trans story which is one that is rarely seen,” Yan said, noting that the musical is written about and by queer and transgender people.

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