On May 18, four artists virtually assembled to celebrate Asian American art and artists. The event was hosted by the Intiman Theater – a Seattle-based professional theater company – in partnership with Pork-filled productions. To commemorate Asia-Pacific American Heritage Month, the artists discussed the power of cultural visibility in American theater and the role the performing arts can have in increasing the visibility of Asian-Americans.
The first artist to perform, Susan Lieu, is a Vietnamese playwright and author whose work portrays ignored stories. An excerpt from his show “140 LBS: How Beauty Killed My Mother â where Lieu brings a story from his own childhood to life, was included in the performance. The play blends themes of the experience of multigenerational immigrants, bodily insecurity and struggling with personal loss.
âThese stories are vulnerable,â Lieu said. âTalking about our multifaceted version in our country can be seen as weak and broken harmony. What we’re doing is a great counterculture to what we were raised into.â
Kathy Hsieh’s performance followed Lieu. Hsieh is one of four Asian American women who founded SIS Productions, which “strives to create, develop and produce quality works that involve Asian American women, their themes and Asian American issues.” Hsieh’s goal is to produce theater in a non-hierarchical and collaborative way.
âBeing invisible is not a choice we have; we are doing what we need to survive, “Hsieh said.” What people now see as anti-Asian hatred is what we have experienced since our beginnings in public schools in this country. We have helped create our invisibility in this country to protect ourselves. “
Hsieh performed a monologue on the pandemic, “As if you never existed,” that she wrote a year ago. Hsieh’s character shares her pain as she struggles with her father’s absence. In the monologue, Hsieh sends a video call to her father, which the audience receives from the father’s perspective.
âWe were so invisible that people didn’t get to see us on stage,â Hsieh said. superpower.”
Michael Yichao is a Seattle playwright, actor, and game designer. In his performance, Yichao shared a song from his new musical, “Death follows me”. The show opens on the first day of the new school year, when Monica, the new girl, and Theo, the school’s golden boy, witness a supernatural death. Monica continues to sing “Death Follows Me”, telling Theo how death follows her wherever she goes.
Roger Tang, executive producer of Pork Filled Productions, was next to share a monologue: “When to give up”, by Kendall Uyeji. In the play, Uyeji tells the story of his grandfather forced to give up his art because of anti-Asian hatred. His grandfather is credited with inspiring Uyeji to pursue art.
In closing remarks, the artists agreed that there was a lot of pressure in the theater and performing arts industry. Without Asian Americans’ role models in the arts, it may seem impossible to them to be successful in this field. The artists have said they want to produce more art that represents their own contemporary experiences as Asian Americans, rather than limiting themselves to immigrant stories traditionally depicted in plays.
âThe wide range of performances that we have seen shows the spectrum of humanity that we represent, [and helps] people realize that we are human beings through art, âHsieh said.
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