Did your own personal experiences influence the creation of any of the characters or plot of the play?
36 Views is the play that I more consciously drew from personal experiences. But I don't think I was always aware in the writing of how close it hits home in certain ways. I was taken aback with the degree to which it mirrors certain concerns and experiences, but in a fun-house mirror way, not necessarily in a one-to-one relationship. I learned a lot about bringing myself to the table with this project.
What made you choose to write for theatre? Have there been challenges for you as an Asian American female playwright?
I chose to write for theatre relatively late. I started college as a classics major and i was in law school for a year. My family never went to the theatre when i was growing up. Ididn't experience the culture of seeing and making theatre until much later, at the end of college and afterwards. i met some very smart and committed people who were working in theatre at the time. I think sometimes you get pulled into a field because of mentors and colleagues that impress and inspire you. That's what happened with me.
In terms of being an Asian American writer, I'm mixed race. I think there are issues about being racially mixed that are different that for people who are Japanese-American, or Korean-American, or Chinese-American in background. People don't know where I come from. My father is Japanese. My mother is Latina. There is a line in the play, "I look at you and I don't know what i'm seeing." I think a lot of people look at me and don't know what they're seeing. There are issues that people who are of mixed heritage deal with that are complicated in terms of finding their home in a specific ethnic group.
Someone who has been a huge inspiration to me has been Chay Yew. He is a playwright and also a director. I admire Chay for working with the infrastructure of theatre and theatre-making to provide more opportunities to Asian-American artists. He is very involved with East West Players and the Mark Taper Forum in L.A. and he just took over NATCO in seattle. I take heart in Chay and other artists like him.
Interview conducted by Cindy Yoon of Asia Society.