Brenda Wong Aoki

Playwright | Performer | Storyteller


Brenda Wong Aoki is a storyteller, anthologized playwright, producer and artistic director. Known for her agility across disciplines, she creates monodramas for symphony, dance, solo performance, taiko and jazz ensembles. As the first nationally recognized Asian American storyteller, trained in traditional Japanese Noh theatre, Aoki’s stories are inspired by traditional legends and everyday life. Her work has been produced worldwide.

Aoki's work appears in many anthologies and includes her own book, Mermaid Meat: The Secret to Immortality, published in 2009.

A curriculum developer and educator, Aoki is a founding faculty member of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University and has been an Artist-in-Residence at various institutions in the US and Japan. She’s been a governor for The Recording Academy, worked with the Grammy Foundation, and currently is a board member of California Humanities.

Brenda has deep roots in San Francisco. Her grandfather was a founder of Japantown in the 1890’s, and her grandmother was a leader of the first Chinatown garment union. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and artistic collaborator Mark Izu and son, Kai Kāne Aoki Izu. In 2017, Brenda will celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Aoki family in San Francisco. 

…stories, ancient and new… dominated by women battling the odds with a strength bordering on obsession.
— The Washington Post


– NEW WORK ! –

Aunt Lily's Flowerbook: 100 Years of Legalized Racism


Emmy winning musician Mark Izu accompanies his wife and "America's foremost Asian storyteller" Brenda Wong Aoki to share touching and personal family histories with universal and contemporary appeal. The two acclaimed artists weave memories recorded in a recently discovered family diary with further flourish, story and song tracking over 100 years of history in the American West. From the Transcontinental Railroad, to WWII's Japanese American internment camps and 442nd Infantry Regiment, to San Francisco hippies and through today. Joined by koto master Shoko Hikage, the performance offer a poignant glimpse of our shared history and demands it not be repeated.



Honors and Awards

Aoki’s honors include the San Francisco’s 2013 Inspirational Leadership in the Performing Arts award, a US-Japan Creative Artist Fellowship, two NEA Solo Theater Fellowships, ASCAP Plus Awards, Critic’s Circle Award, Hollywood Drama-logue awards and AFIM INDIE Awards for Best Spoken Word recordings. Her work has been commissioned by the US Congressional Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, Asian Arts Council, Japan Foundation, MAP Fund, Dramatist Guild, SF Arts Commission, California Arts Council, Zellerbach Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts.