Special Spotlight Show September, 5, 2012
Written and directed by Steve Stajich. Performed by Joe Wandell.
Presented by California Performing Arts Center.
“Mekong Joe” is the amazing true story of Joseph Tran Thanh Hai Wandell. Born in Vietnam during the latter years of the Vietnam War, his birth parents were a Vietnamese mother who loved him dearly, and an absent G.I. His mother gets him and his brother out of Saigon as the city falls, while the two young boys dodge Viet Cong sniper fire. Joe makes his way to America, where is adopted by a Caucasian couple with an unstable home environment. It’s a less than ideal situation in which any child would grow up, more so a boy who is foreign born.
Against the odds, Joe manages to begin a career of sorts in Hollywood, amassing a carload of TV credits and a small bunch of feature film credits. To his frustration, the Asian American actor finds himself being typecast as….a Latino gang banger.
Thirty years after leaving Vietnam, Joe and his brother, with the assistance of NBC Dateline, reunite with their birth mother….at the very airport where they had dodged sniper fire, running for their lives.
Joe Wandell portrays himself in his own story.
Steve Stajich is the writer and director of “Mekong Joe.” Stajich has written for episodic television (“Reba,” “Daddio”), comedy shows (“Leifer Madness,” “An Evening at the Improv,” “Politically Incorrect”) and for radio (“Prairie Home Companion”). He has also written and performed his own songs. His previous works for the stage include “Soap,” “The Imp,” and “Plug.” He will direct his most recent play, “Auto Parts,” in October in Los Angeles. He writes a column for the Santa Monica Mirror.
“Mekong Joe” is more than the tale of a young boy’s survival in a far away land. It is, above all, a story about the love of family, the devotion of this young man to his mother, and a promise that he makes to his own offspring. It is also a story of miracles.