In addition to providing creative representation by being a Chinese American writer telling stories, I also incorporate Chinese history and inclusive characters and worlds in the stories I tell. My play “Intertwined” portrays a fictional story of a Chinese immigrant who falls in love with a white woman during a time when a union like that is illegal. In California, anti-miscegenation laws were active until 1948, when it was the first state in the union to end them.
I am also working on a film documentary featuring an important Chinese American entrepreneur and an action comedy TV pilot centered around a fictional Chinese American family in San Francisco.
Despite the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, there are many ways to promote this community, including shopping at Asian American businesses, reading literature written by members of these communities, and choosing to watch stories written by and portrayed by Asian American artists. And, of course, every underrepresented community benefits from the same efforts.
In recent months, I have been leveraging my membership in the Writers Guild of America West Asian American Writers Committee (AAWC) to advocate for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and to help organize events that elevate the voices of writers in our communities, and to address bias and provide solutions from within the film industry.
On Wednesday, April 14, the AAWC, along with the support of the Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity, hosted an inspiring and raw discussion with influential Asian American writers about their experiences in Hollywood along with actionable strategies for supporting our colleagues and portraying authentic characters and stories. This panel was moderated by Jenny Yang (Last Man Standing) with panelists Soo Hugh (Pachinko), Tze Chun (Gremlins), Nancy Kiu (Batwoman), Danny Chun (Speechless), Sunil Nayar (4400), and Veena Sud (Seven Seconds).
Writers play a unique role in our theater and film communities and in our society as a whole. We understand how essential narrative is to understanding the human condition and to connecting with each other.
At this time, we are experiencing the impacts of a society that stifles Black voices and reinforces narratives that promote white supremacy. We should not be willing to continue to go back to business as usual. As we open this conversation, there are actions that all of us can begin now.
I invite you to participate in the elevation of Black writers using tools that are easily accessible to you.
1) Become familiar with the work of Black playwrights and screenwriters, particularly writers who are actively producing work. 2) Write recommendations for plays by Black authors on review websites, including online bookstores. 3) Promote Black writers and their work on social media. 4) Encourage theater companies that you respect to present more work by Black writers (it’s particularly powerful if you recommend two or three authors and specific plays). 5) Recommend Black writers for developmental opportunities. 6) Encourage your friends and colleagues, particularly your White friends, to get to know the works of Black writers. 7) Watch films made by Black writers and directors. When theaters open up again, make an effort to buy tickets for shows written by Black writers.
When we read the works of Black writers, we understand their concerns and their communities better, and we are better able to implement effective anti-racism strategies. When we promote Black writers, we redistribute access to opportunities to writers who may otherwise get overlooked. When we support productions by Black writers, we help ensure their longevity as playwrights and screenwriters and poets and novelists, and we often help create more acting opportunities for actors of color.
Most importantly, when we elevate Black writers, we get to experience their essential and transformative stories, and that’s really what storytelling is about.
In June 2019, I got to teach playwriting to a creative and clever group of teens through the Eugene O’Neill Studio Retreat. The students had one week to write an original play at the historical Tao House and then we had one week to rehearse the plays with students in the actor program.
It was a delight to work with Norman Gee, Brady Lea, and all of the writers, actors, and volunteers. I remain particularly grateful to the students who educated me about the significance of Vines and invited me into their funny, heart-string-tugging, and contemplative worlds.
Honored that my song “You Can’t Hide” co-written by Phil Surtees will be performed for Musical Cafe‘s Cabaret Benefit on Sunday, February 3. Musical Cafe is a project of Play Cafe, which both support the development of new plays by Bay Area writers.
This year, I was invited to return to the HBMG Foundation‘s National Winter Playwrights’ Retreat for the Fifth Anniversary reunion where I played (a version of) hockey on a frozen pond, ate at Arp’s a lot, and had a closed developmental reading of my full length play, “Sweet, Sweet Revolution.”
This winter, the HBMG Foundation invited me to include a second play in their American Playbook project. “How Touching” was originally commissioned by the Playwrights Foundation for their One-Minute Play Festival, and I updated this piece for the American Playbook.
Many thanks to Ann Pittman Zarate, Kate Brennan, Greg DeCandia, Amanda Bermudez, and Joshua Bermudez for reading and recording this important piece about consent and children.