World Premiere Of Mai Khoi’s BAD ACTIVIST Coming To Pittsburgh Playhouse

The International Free Expression Project, in partnership with the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, proudly presents Mai Khoi’s “Bad Activist” at 7 pm Sept. 15 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse’s PNC Theatre. This performance is part of the Center’s Media Innovator Speaker Series.

Mai Khoi, often called the “Lady Gaga of Vietnam,” now lives in exile in Pittsburgh after her music was banned in Vietnam due to her activism in the cause of free expression. She’s been detained, harassed, evicted from her home, and eventually forced to leave her country. For her courage in defending human rights, she has been awarded the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award for Freedom of Speech.

This presentation of “Bad Activist” is its first as a fully realized multimedia production – a tour de force in which Mai Khoi tells her remarkable story and performs with extraordinary musicianship.

“‘Bad Activist’ epitomizes the work of the International Free Expression Project by exalting creative expression while demanding protection for the right of all people to express themselves freely,” said Greg Victor, IFEP founder & CEO. “It is a vehicle for Mai Khoi to put on vivid display the exceptional courage, activism and artistry that have made her one of the world’s leading advocates for human rights.”

“The Media Innovators Speaker Series is designed to celebrate leaders who have made significant contributions to journalism, storytelling and free expression,” said Andrew Conte, Director of the Center for Media Innovation. “Mai Khoi is among the very best examples of that, and I’m grateful we can celebrate her and showcase her work.”

Tickets are now on sale, starting at $35. VIP tickets are $250 and include:

  • Reserved premium seat for the World Premiere of Mai Khoi’s “Bad Activist”
  • An invitation to the artist’s private afterparty in the Playhouse Highmark Theater emceed by journalist Natalie Bencivenga and featuring a Q&A with Mai Khoi conducted by Tony Norman, NEXTPittsburgh columnist and IFEP board member
  • Mai Khoi jamming with her band members and chatting with guests
  • Food and drink and a meet and greet opportunity with Mai Khoi
  • A live auction of a home-cooked meal with Mai Khoi at Winged House, her home at City of Asylum, and a silent auction of IFEP artworks

VIP tickets support the International Free Expression Project, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization that works to advance free-expression rights. Mai Khoi is a member of IFEP’s International Advisory Board.

Mai Khoi learned to play piano on keys drawn on a cardboard box and rose to become a huge pop star in Vietnam. She played arena concerts and was widely compared to Lady Gaga by the international press. She lived a glamorous, celebrated life. But she began to chafe under government censorship and turned her celebrity to the cause of democracy and free expression. She soon was forced to live the life of a dissident. She was surveilled, harassed, detained and interrogated. Her friends were questioned by the authorities. She was evicted from her home and chased into hiding by the police, eventually finding her way to Pittsburgh with the help of IFEP, the University of Pittsburgh and City of Asylum.

Mai Khoi’s heroic contributions to human rights have been recognized with the Four Freedoms Award for Freedom of Speech (2022) and the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent (2018). Last year, she was honored by IFEX, the global network of free-expression organizations, when she was inducted into its “Faces of Free Expression” gallery of free-expression champions. IFEP turned the “Faces” project into a block-long art installation along the facade of the former Post-Gazette building Downtown.

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