Over the last three decades Gotanda has composed many plays designed to broaden theater in America. Through his plays and advocacy, he has been instrumental in bringing stories of Asians in the United States to mainstream American theater, as well as to Europe and Asia. The creator of one of the largest bodies of Asian American-themed work, Gotanda's plays and films are studied and performed at universities and schools across the USA.
Gotanda wrote the text and directed the production of Maestro Kent Nagano’s MANZANAR: AN AMERICAN STORY, an original symphonic work with narration. His newest work, AFTER THE WAR, premiered at the American Conservatory Theatre in March 2007. AFTER THE WAR chronicles San Francisco’s Japantown in the late 40’s when Japanese Americans returning from the Internment Camps encountered a flourishing African American jazz scene. A Japanese translation of his play, SISTERS MATSUMOTO, opened in Tokyo with the Mingei Geikidan Company.
Gotanda is also a respected independent filmmaker; his works are seen in film festivals around the world. His most recent film, LIFE TASTES GOOD, was originally presented at the Sundance Film Festival and can presently be seen on the Independent Film Channel. Along with executive producers, Dale Minami and Diane Takei, he is currently developing his newest film, INSCRUTABLE GRIN. with their production company, Joe Ozu Films
Gotanda holds a law degree from Hastings College of Law, studied pottery in Japan with the late Hiroshi Seto and resides in Berkeley with his actress-producer wife, Diane Takei . His play collections include NO MORE CHERRY BLOSSOMS, FISH SOUP AND OTHER PLAYS, published by the University of Washington Press. Other published plays include THE WASH, THE DREAM OF KITAMURA, DAY STANDING ON ITS HEAD, YOHEN and THE WIND CALLS MARY .
Awards Gotanda has received include the Guggenheim, Pew Trust, 3 Rockefeller, Lila Wallace, National Endowment for the Arts, National Edowment for the Arts-Theater Communications Playwriting Award, PEN Center West, LA Music Center Award, 2007 Japan Society of Northern California, Chinese For Affirmative Action, NJHAS, City of Stockton Arts Award, East West Players, Asian American Theater Company Life Time Achievement, 2 California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, 2009 MAP Fund Creative Exploration Grant, 2008 Granada Arts Theater Fellowship, UC Berkeley Arts Center Fellow in Theater, Sundance Theater Fellow, Sundance Film Fellow Program.
His website addresses are listed as www.philipkangotanda.com and www.lifetastesgoodmovie.com.
Gotanda is considered a leading American playwright and one of the most prolific playwrights in Asian American theatre. Theaters where Gotanda's works have been produced include American Conservatory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Campo Santo+Intersection, East West Players, Manhattan Theatre Club, Mark Taper Forum, Missouri Rep, New York Shakespeare Festival, Playwrights Horizons, Asian American Theater Company, Robey Theatre Company, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and South Coast Repertory. Notable plays include Song for a Nisei Fisherman, The Wash, Yankee Dawg You Die, Fish Head Soup, Sisters Matsumoto and After The War. He has also written screenplays for The Wash , "The Kiss", "Drinking Tea" Life Tastes Good which he also directed and acted in.
He has been Artist-in-Residence at Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
A selection of his plays is collected in No More Cherrry Blossoms: Sisters Matusumoto and Other Plays (Seattle and London, University of Washington Press, 2005).
From Ethnic to Mainstream Theater: Negotiating 'Asian American' in the Plays of Philip Kan Gotanda By: Dunbar, Ann-Marie; American Drama, 2005 Winter; 14 (1): 15-31.
Die Imaginierung ethnischer Weltsicht im neueren amerikanischen Drama By: Grabes, Herbert. IN: Schlote and Zenzinger, New Beginnings in Twentieth-Century Theatre and Drama: Essays in Honour of Armin Geraths. Trier, Germany: Wissenschaftlicher; 2003. pp. 327—44
Philip Kan Gotanda By: Randy Barbara Kaplan. IN: Liu, Asian American Playwrights: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Greenwood, 2002. 69-88.
Philip Kan Gotanda By: Maczynska, Magdalena. IN: Wheatley, Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, Fourth Series. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale; 2002. pp. 116—27
Asian American Theatre History from the 1960s to 1990s: Actors, Playwrights, Communities, and Producers By: Kim, Esther Songie; Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, 2001 Feb; 61 (8): 2998-99. Ohio State U, 2000.
Yankee Dawg You Die by Philip Kan Gotanda By: Cho, Nancy. IN: Wong and Sumida, A Resource Guide to Asian American Literature. New York, NY: Modern Language Association of America; 2001. pp. 185—92
Philip Kan Gotanda By: Ito, Robert B.. IN: Cheung, Words Matter: Conversations with Asian American Writers. Honolulu, HI: U of Hawaii P, with UCLA Asian American Studies Center; 2000. 402 pp. pp. 173—85
Philip Kan Gotanda By: Hwang, David Henry; BOMB, 1998 Winter; 62: 20-26.
Choice and Chance By: Siegal, Nina; American Theatre, 1996 Feb; 13 (2): 26.
Fish Head Soup and Other Plays By: Omi, Michael. Seattle: U of Washington P; 1995.
David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly and Philip Kan Gotanda's Yankee Dawg You Die: Repositioning Chinese American Marginality on the American Stage By: James S. Moy, Theatre Journal, Vol. 42, No. 1. (Mar., 1990), pp. 48—56.