Week #5 – U.S.A

Posted by on Jun 11, 2013 in News | No Comments

Waaaaa! My brain and heart and soul are being so well-fed, not to mention my stomach.I’ve been staying in foodie areas where the hipsters have truly invaded. That means lots of yummy food served by people with tattoos.

As for theat-arrrrrr, the Asian-American peeps in LA, NYC and now Chicago have been receptive and generous with their time and insights. One major thing I have observed is that I had under-estimated the progress Asian-Americans have made as individual and collectively as artists. That’s not to say there isn’t visibility, but everyone I’ve met with has talked about lack of opportunities and representation still being an issue. From my faraway perch in Australia, I had viewed the presence of Asian-specific theatres and a coterie of writers as the American context being more advanced than lil ol’ Australia with its zero Asian theatre companies. In some ways America is setting the benchmarks, but in the context of such a large population, the artists and companies I have met still feel like there is a lot of work to be done. The ocean is bigger, and they are small drops.

Chicago seems to have a very vibrant independent theatre scene, they locally refer to independent theatres as being about 99 seat theatres or shopfront theatres. As an aside, I also note that Americans use the term ‘reach out’ to denote making email contact – “Thanks for reaching out, Michele”.

One thing I am incredibly envious of is the New Dramatists in New York City. Dedicated to the playwright. Let me repeat that again. DEDICATED TO THE PLAYWRIGHT. For reasons I’ll put down to lethargy, I had avoided going to this place until my last day in New York. Argh! Where is my time machine? There is a cosy public library with a rehearsal studio off to the side, and in the library are shelves of neatly presented, alphabetically organised scripts by contemporary playwrights. I loved Clarence Coo’s ‘Beautiful Province’, which had the ‘I-wish-that-was-my-work’ effect on me. It had a sort of Todd Solondz feel to it but was highly theatrical. Brutally funny, and tragic on so many levels. I wish I had come to the New Dramatists every morning as a daily brain nourishment. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go back to New York.

In New York, I saw ‘Dojoji’ by Pan Rep, and then met with Tisa, the Artistic Director, and Ernie, the playwright afterwards. Earlier that day I had been at the prestigious Julliard observing a rehearsal of a reading of a prize-winning play by Jihae Park. I was desiring to see studios filled with child prodigy violinists but as I made my way to the restroom, I walked past a class with a large, wooden floor, mirrors, and a student at the centre of the room performing solo. To the side, someone was operating a trance-like sound design. I think a teacher was present, or in my mind’s eye I inserted the teacher. “It’s like a scene from a movie, where someone is auditioning!” Later in the week I had a beer on a rainy rooftop – “This is New York, there’s no happy hour in any rooftop in New York” said the server when Mike asked about happy hour – anyway, I met with 3 members from the Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab. We did what any good under-paid playwright does – we bitched!

Anyway, to return to my current location, Chicago, let me rattle off some interesting things I’ve been invited to so far. A personal pick-up from the airport from Jin Kee, an improv performer and member of the Asian-American collective A-squared; hanging out for the day with multi-talented and super busy professional arts worker and artist Giau Truong; going to a rehearsals of A-squared’s ‘My Asian Mom’, which included about 15 Asian-American actors writers and directors; having a tea with Lavina (surname escapes me), who is South Asian and Artistic Director of Rosaka, which is soon to be in residence at Victory Gardens. Lavina is studying directing at de Paul, and her schtick is realism, as well as re-imagining classics (Melbourne’s auteur fetish may be calling her!). I’m off to see Stir Friday Night. It has nothing to do with performances on a Friday night, as it is Monday night right now. SFN are an Asian-American improv group and they’re playing in a free improve show in downtown Chicago tonight. Hoping to catch Danny Bernado’s play rehearsal tomorrow; go to the Filipino Independence Day reception on Wednesday and sit in on a meeting Circa Pintig is having (er, Circa is meeting with a director, I’m just sitting in, hope the director doesn’t mind). I’ll also meet with Silk Road Rising in the arvo. Ahhhh. Yes, I’m writing on an Australian blog so I can say ‘arvo’. I have been missing using that word. On Friday night I will try to catch Red Tape’s production of Young Jean Lee’s ‘Lear’. Can I please wake up tomorrow and find out I am Young Jean Lee or that, at least, I have stolen her brain?

And in a circular fashion, Jin is going to take me to the airport on Saturday.

Chicago – you’re awesome! You’re my first city. You’re my first coast! I’ll deep-dish pie you on your ocean-like lake. I’ll ride your windy ways. I’ll forgive you for your lack of cross-town trains. Your Logan Square is a circle!