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Dispossessed

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Victoria Linchong
July 8, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Writer/Actor.

What is your show about?
The personal journey of a struggling artist from the mean streets of the old Lower East Side to the meaner streets of the new New York.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
My theater practice has changed in the past couple of years. I still love heightened language and strong stories, but I've also begun exploring the use of video and movement as well. So the pieces I've been working on lately are sort of like eclectic collages. I suppose it's a more documentary kind of approach to telling a story, although the pieces themselves are usually fictional. This latest one, though, is more like a creative essay. It's very personal and completely non-fictional for a change.

What are some of your previous theater credits? (Be specific! Name shows, etc.)
My last play, BIG FLOWER EATER, was a devised theater piece that delved into the untold story of women in Asia through shamanism in the Hmong, Korean, and Taiwanese cultures. Okay, that sounds very erudite, but it was also sort of a ghost story too; the entire play was set in a haunted bathroom. We workshopped the piece at the Red Room at Horse Trade Theater and then did a full run at Theater for the New City. Previous to that, I brought an entire company to San Francisco Fringe to perform PAPER ANGELS, Genny Lim's seminal play about the effect of the Chinese Exclusion Act on a group of would-be Chinese emigres in 1911. We did the play outdoors at Portsmouth Square, right in the middle of Chinatown, and won Best of the San Francisco Fringe.

Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
This show will definitely generate lots of conversation since New Yorkers are ALWAYS talking about their apartment situation. I'm pretty sure most people will find out things they never knew about apartment history. And also, my not-so-secret aim is to get people to more deeply consider the importance of retaining (and sustaining) communities in New York City. There's a lot in the show about gentrification in the Lower East Side, what Penny Arcade so perfectly calls the New York you miss or the New York you missed.

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
Smart and/or surprising?

If you had ten million dollars that you had to spend on theatrical endeavors, how would you use the money?
I have tons of crazy ideas - like a tour of PAPER ANGELS to all the historic Chinatowns in America - but all my ideas added up would only cost a couple of hundred thousand. If I had a ridiculously huge windfall like TEN MILLION DOLLARS, I'd start a foundation to provide independent producers with a creative retreat, grants, and cash flow loans to create smart sociopolitical work. Most people think of producers as Zero Mostel, chomping on a cigar and fleecing old ladies from their hard-earned savings. But producers of independent theater are mostly entrepreneurial artists who are willing to put all their resources behind making a show reality. Many are writer/directors who don't believe that someone will wave a magic wand and "discover" them. Or they just want to realize theater that they think is important to the cultural landscape. And as a producer, unless you are lucky to have a fantastic support team with access to a nice cushion of cash, you often find yourself struggling to make things happen - both financially and psychologically. It's so difficult and under-appreciated. Women producers and producers from a culture where theater is not favored have even fewer resources to draw from and struggle even more. Consequently, I think producers are more likely to experience burn-out than other people in this high burn-out field. And burn-out for producers is a tragedy. Everyone know that for theater to continue to be relevant, it has to hold a mirror to the world. There's been all this outcry lately about the lack of gender parity and Asian-American representation in theater. But if we want plays by women and plays featuring Asian-Americans in leading roles, well, we have to support women and Asian-American producers.