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The rattled hymn of a tiger cub.

PLAYWRIGHT MIKE LEW AND director Moritz von Stuelpnagel have more in common than names that are often mispronounced. When the two met 12 years ago as interns at Playwrights Horizons in New York City, they discovered they shared a sense of humor.

"[Mike's work] shares with me a great mix of high-brow and low-brow," says von Stuelpnagel, recently nominated for a Tony for directing Hand to God. "Some of the humor is incredibly stupid--disarmingly so--and yet he offers a provocative point of view that's really jolting."

The two have worked together in numerous capacities over the years, including on readings and productions of Lew's Bike America at the Alliance Theatre and Ma-Yi Theatre in 2013. This month, they reteam to take on a formidable stereotype in Lew's Tiger Style! at the Alliance Theatre (Sept. 30-Oct. 18).

Tiger Style! takes its inspiration from Amy Chua's controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother--or rather, from the intense backlash to its stern prescriptions. Lew, who admits that he was raised under that overachieving, Ivy League-seeking style of parenting, has written a play about a pair of Chinese-American siblings who discover that, despite their educational achievements, hard work does not always equal personal or professional success. His aim is to "to provide a counternarrative" to the idea that Asian Americans are "just a bunch of robots that don't care about ourselves."

Tiger Style! also provides an immigrant backstory that gives context to that much-debated style of parenting. So-called tiger parents, after all, are people, too.

"As a parent, you don't know that it's going to be okay for your kid--you're just giving them the viable strategies that you know," explains Lew. He feels that the struggle delineated in his play isn't a culturally specific one, but is "meant to be something that anybody who is assimilating to America over generations can relate to."

The immigrant experience is also something that von Stuelpnagel knows firsthand--his parents came to the States from Germany in 1975. Working on Tiger Style! and trading stories about their shared experiences has added a new dimension to their friendship.

"We have had a wonderful, open conversation about the ways in which it's different for us and about the ways in which it is the same," says Stuelpnagel. "It gives me a chance to know my friend. And he just wants to hang out with somebody in Atlanta who will go to the aquarium with him on his day off."

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Title Annotation:ATLANTA; Mike Lew and Moritz von Stuelpnagel's "Tiger Style!"
Author:Tran, Diep
Publication:American Theatre
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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