Year Zero
by Michael Golamco

Year Zero
Left to right: Christine Corpuz, Tim Chiou, David Huynh, Eymard Cabling

Scenic Design
Costume Design
Lighting Design
Composer/Sound Design
Properties Design & Set Dressing
Production Stage Manager
Public Relations
Technical Director
Set Construction
Scenic Artist
Production Crew

Light Board Operator
Sound Board Operator
Spot Operators
Stage Crew
Key Art
Production Photography

David Rose
David Potts
Anthony Tran
Luke Moyer
Peter Bayne
Leesa Freed
David Elzer/Demand PR
Robert T. Kyle
Red Colgrove
Chris Holmes
Sean Kozman, Matthew Maldonado
Christopher Rivera, Heather L. Waters
Kathryn Horan
Heather L. Waters
Christopher Rivera, Heather L. Waters
Travis Moscinski, Brie Quinn Renta
Doirean Heldt
Michael Lamont

(in order of appearance)


David Huynh
Christine Corpuz
Tim Chiou
Eymard Cabling


Long Beach, California, in the spring of 2003

Running Time

Approximately 2 hours. There will be one fifteen minute intermission

Notes from the Playwright

Through the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot (meaning "Brother Number One" took control of Cambodia in 1976; he declared this new year to be "Year Zero", a reboot of civilization that would erase thousands of years of Cambodian history. Their goal was to start with a blank slate and build an agrarian utopia.

Over the next four years, millions of Cambodians perished from starvation and overwork in the countryside; "undesirables" -- educated people, Buddhist monks, Christians, ethnic Chinese and other enemies of this new society -- were summarily executed.

I am told that on one of the walls in Tuol Sleng -- the notorious prison used by the Khmer Rouge to murder over 17,000 people -- someone left some graffiti written in English: "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children." This quote is attributed to Bobby Sands, a member of the IRA who died in prison as a result of a hunger strike.

To me, this quote very well fits the legacy of the Cambodian people -- and indeed the legacy of all survivors of both historical and personal tragedies. It says something clear and true about the human spirit: We endure, we survive. And it remained central in my mind as I was writing the play Year Zero.

Year Zero is about the children of the survivors. Who are they? Where are they now? It turns out that they live right next door to us, living lives parallel to our own.

As they became Americans, these children carried with them a tragedy that is unique to them but universal in meaning to all Americans: We all came here to escape from tragedies in every corner of the globe; we were all reborn here as Americans, forced to transform into something new in order to survive.

Everything I write begins as a comedy. Year Zero is no different. Because I believe that in order for people to move forward -- for us to find each other in the vast cultural landscape of this country -- there has to be laughter shared between us.  When we laugh together, we connect as human beings. Laughter is where we come together.

And for us, the time for tragedy is over. For the children, all of us, there has been enough tragedy.

-- Michael Golamco


Angkor Wat: A beautiful and iconic temple complex built by Khmer kings over several centuries.

"Bong pro": older brother"

Choeung Ek: The best-known of the sites known as The Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge regime executed about 17,000 people between 1975 and 1979. Today it is a memorial containing over 5,000 human skulls.

"Fobby" Slang for F.O.B., stands for "Fresh Off the Boat."

Khmer: Pronounced "Ka-MAI" the ethnic group to which the great majority of Cambodians belong, and which from the 9th to 13th centuries controlled an empire encompassing almost all of Southeast Asia

Khmer Rouge: The ruling party that killed nearly two million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979 in the name of a Communist agrarian ideal.

MCAT: Medical College Admission Test

Samlot: A village in Cambodia surrounded by land mines

TRG: Literally, "Tiny Rascal Gang" a Cambodian gang that originated in Long Beach in the mid-80s, now considered the largest Asian gang in the United States.

Tuol Sleng: A notorious prison used by the Khmer Rouge to torture and murder. Today it is a museum.


I love immigrant stories.

Every immigrant who has come to America has had to deal with the challenge of honoring the culture of the old country while navigating the complexities of assimilation, an experience that resonates for all Americans, even when we are removed from it by several (or many) generations.

Some of my favorite Colony plays have dealt with the immigrant experience.  “A Day Out of Time” was set on Ellis Island.  “Morning Star” and “Rags” took place on the Lower East Side of New York among transplanted European Jews.  Both settings are a familiar heritage to many in our audience.

And the plays were wonderful, still remembered fondly by those who saw them.  So I’m always on the lookout for stories like these.

Then, about a year ago, in a season brochure for Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theatre, I came across an announcement of a World Premiere play about first-generation Cambodian-Americans who live just down the freeway in Long Beach.  It was an immigrant story that was entirely different – and yet exactly the same.  I was intrigued, and determined to track the play down.  I mentioned it to Colony Executive Director Trent Steelman – and he knew about it!  It turned out the play had received a staged reading at East West Players, where Trent used to work.  He contacted their Artistic Director Tim Dang, who kindly sent over a copy of the script.

And I fell in love with it.

Here was a traditional American immigrant story that explored the timeless issues of cultural memory and assimilation, but in a community many of us know absolutely nothing about.  Most important (to me), I believed in these people, I cared about them.  And that’s the ultimate test for me, when I read a play.  Do I want to spend an evening with the people the playwright has created, and be a companion on their journey?  In this case, the answer was a resounding “YES!”

I hope you enjoy your journey with Vuthy, Ra, Han, and Glenn, imagined and created by Michael Golamco in “Year Zero.”

– Barbara Beckley


Brad Brown    Michelle Byrnes   Ellen Dostal
Tim Dang, Producing Artistic Director, East West Players
Kayla Girling   Linda Kavalsky   Chanthou Victoria Keo
Ray Lorme & Linoleum City   Chantha Marie Thaxton
Marilyn Tokuda, Arts Director, East West Players
Phil Torf & House of Props   Wadler Data Systems