On a dark Tuesday night of April 2nd, 2024, I walked from my parking space in Little Tokyo to the legendary East West Players for the 26th season opening of Tuesday Night Cafe. This is my third time coming to Tuesday Night Cafe, and it always has a special place in my heart. Tuesday Night Cafe is the longest-running free arts and performance series in Downtown LA and the oldest-running open mic for Asian Americans in the country. It isn’t hard to see what makes this space so special. 

This open mic is always filled with pleasant surprises from poems, music performances, and art about collective experiences from acceptance, microaggressions, racism, sobriety, friendship, love, and loss of love. This space is always special in that it reminds us how much representation matters and connects us all together. I love being surrounded by other Asian people and getting to see them express themselves through art and music. 

The run of the show for Tuesday Night Cafe starts with an opener. The 26th season opens with a powerful calligraphy demonstration by a Japanese artist named Kuni Rhythm, where we watch art being made while listening to the meditation of voices and other musical rhythms. During the break, I was able to see the art piece and admire the beauty of his creation.  

After the show opener, the open mic begins. If you are interested in the Open Mic, you must arrive at 6:45 pm to get one of the open mic slots. There are three open mic slots, and performances are five minutes long. Open mic performances typically feature musical performances or spoken word reserved for Asian Americans or people of color. Please keep in mind that you must bring your own instruments, and there is a limit of only two mics per slot. 

The open mic openers featured two poets of spoken word. The first poet Alyssa Aguilos, shared experiences of loss of love and growing up. She talks about growing up in Los Angeles as a Filipino American. The second poet, David Chung, shared his experience about his love for Dr. Seuss and how he learned of Dr. Seuss’s racist characters mocking the Asian American community. His poem was a direct response to these characters and learning to accept his Asian American identity. The third open mic performer was Maze, a transgender adoptee learning to come to terms with their identity. Maze shares a beautiful cover with all of us. 

After the Open Mic performances, the opening season starts with the season opener, Marasi. Marasi is a musician from Carson who shares his love of music. One of his songs features a rapper Chris Sidders, where they express the importance of love over war. 

Following the opener performance, the opening show always features a short film called Union. It covers how the Union Center for the Arts (East West Players Theater) became an art space. Originally a church, the church members decided not to renew their lease for the space when it was deemed no longer viable for the church’s needs. This created the perfect opportunity for an art partnership to become the Union Center for the Arts. The partnership was created between the East West Players, Visual Communications, and LA Artcore to allow all to co-mingle in the space and foster an art community. I love that Tuesday Night Cafe honors its history in paying homage to the building that allows art to flourish.

After the short film, Priska takes the stage to share new songs from her upcoming EP. Before she sings, she tells a story about the expectations of being the oldest daughter in her Asian family. She also mentioned that she met her current husband at Tuesday Night Cafe years ago. Seeing how connected the community is to this space was heartwarming. She sings songs about sobriety and finding yourself. 
At the end of the night, the audience is encouraged to support the art booths and speak with the artists who create zines, jewelry, art prints, and much more. Tuesday Night Cafe continues to run until the end of its season in October. To catch its performances, check them out on Instagram: tnproject or on its website: tuesdaynightproject.org. As a volunteer organization, you can also support its efforts by donating here.