That Company Feeling

hi-res

Creator/Contributor: Hsiung, S. I. (Shih I.), 1902-1992 Date: 1983?] (issued) Contributing Institution: Museum of Performance and Design, Performing Arts Library

I have just completed an exhilarating, exhausting (for me ‘coz I’m getting a little long in the tooth now), fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable week of Research and Development on Hsiung’s Lady Precious Stream. First performed at the Little Theatre in John Street, London, by the People’s National Theatre, directed by Nancy Price and Hsiung, and ran for 1000 nights between February 1935 and November 1936.

So, eighty years on a group of East Asian actors who are based in Britain headed on over to the English Touring Theatre’s rehearsal space for a week of exploration via text, movement (Tommy Franzen)and sound (DJ Walde).

Call me slow on the uptake but it wasn’t until we were half way through the process and after a brief discussion in the rehearsal room with David Yip and Daniel York which continued on social media, that it dawned on me . . .

Lady Precious Stream Rehearsal Room

Lady Precious Stream Rehearsal Room

So this is what it is like for friends, colleagues and acquaintances, who are white. They experience this feeling every single day of their lives. It is an involuntary social action and reaction for them. The equivalent of the body’s impetus to breathe. They walk into a room, a space, anywhere and they are accepted, (in a general sense) reflected and repeated. You are truly amongst a group of your peers. You are surrounded by those that are at once both familiar and dissimilar. There is an immediate connection.

RSC rehearsal for Richard III

RSC rehearsal for Richard III

When I walked into rehearsals rooms at the beginning of my career, I would invariable be the only one of my kind in that space. Not so much these days. But then these days I am seldom presented with the opportunity to walk into a rehearsal room, let alone find myself cast in a Theatre production. But that’s a post for another day. What I and the other seven East Asian actors, cast for the week of developmental exploration experienced, does not happen on a daily basis, or even at regular intervals, it is the exception, not the rule. Our white counterparts and colleagues have this experience on a daily basis, to the point, that it has surely become a subliminal and subconscious life reaffirmation. For those who are in the culturally dominant centile of our society, whether as gatekeepers, purse-string holders, Artistic Directors, Producers, Commissioning Editors or Casting Directors. From the rehearsal room to what they may consume as an audience, its presentation, its packaging (whether that be the actors and creatives that are employed) it all reflects the face and power of its maker. And that face, at the moment is predominantly white, Eurocentric, many are middle-class, majority male and Oxbridge educated.

CEO's

Tony Hall BBC|Adam Crozier ITV| David Abraham C4|Jeremy Darroch SKY

Greg Doran RSC|Rufus Norris RNT| Rupert Goold Almeida|Edward Hall Hampstead

Greg Doran RSC|Rufus Norris RNT| Rupert Goold Almeida|Edward Hall Hampstead

I had never “analysed” how I felt or why, when working within a theatre company. Let me say now, I’ve never been treated badly, well only twice and that was very early on in my career.  Again, another post for another day.

I’ve always loved and love working in theatre. In a company environment, in that creative crucible, there is nothing like it. But usually I was the only East Asian member within the company. If you were lucky, I might be one of a few BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) members of a cast. However, I was always painfully aware of my own difference.
In the early days, if the discussions ever touched on East Asian themes, everyone would automatically turn and look at me. Of course, me being the font of all knowledge on matters East Asian – NOT! I have over the years acquired knowledge. I have taught myself much about East Asia and East Asian cultures and histories. But that’s because I wanted to, I personally needed to. Not because all people who look East Asian automatically know everything about their country, their continent past and present. Any more than every single person who has ginger hair and or green eyes is going to know everything there is to know about ancient Gaelic history. Not everyone who has ginger or green eyes is of Irish heritage. brave-gif-2871-19043-hd-wallpapersEven if they were, would they automatically know everything there is to know about ancient Irish history? Does every English person know in intimate and minute detail medieval English history?  I grew up in Conservative South-east England, my immediate knowledge is of  church spires, cricket and cucumber sandwiches, not Imperial China, Feudal Japan or Ancient Korea.
However, apparently my face, for many says otherwise.  People who are not of colour never have to contend with this expectation. People who are not of colour are never (normally) subjected to representations of themselves that are only two-dimensional, racist, demeaning and or dehumanising in nature.

LPS-CAST

From left to right: Jennifer Lim|Matthew Leonhart|Andrew Koji|Kerry Gooderson|Daniel York|Lucy Sheen| David Yip                     Cast of Moongate Production’s R&D on Lady Precious Stream                                                                                                           April 2015

 

 

 

 

So to have had this recent opportunity working with other East Asian actors on a text written by an East Asian is a true gift. One which I shall treasure. My wish is that we get to the point where no East Asian Artists feels their difference in the way that my generation have and often times today still do. That we get to a stage in British culture where casting a BAME actor, or an actor with a disability, is not questioned for “what political, social or cultural, point is the production making. But that we both as practitioners  and audience members can just sit down and enjoy the show.
I have my fingers crossed that Lady Precious Stream will be revived for a modern British audience.

 

Interview with Lucy Sheen for The Adoptee Survival Guide

Lucy Sheen aka 4gottenadoptee:

Here I am being interviewd by the wonderful

Originally posted on elle cuardaigh:

Lucy_Sheen

It is my pleasure to present Lucy Sheen, co-contributor of The Adoptee Survival Guide:

(Elle) In the US, it is not unusual for white people to adopt children of a difference race, either domestically or from overseas. But when you were adopted in England, you were very unique. Can you tell us a little about that?

(Lucy) Yes. I am one of just 106 Hong Kong Foundlings transracially adopted by predominantly white families in the UK. We were the first-ever organised group of transracial adoptees to come to the UK. It was called The Hong Kong Project (1950s to early 1960s), and grew out of the initiation of World Refugee Year 1959. It was an effort to cope with the spillover of WWII refugees and those in the Far East fleeing Mainland China. Hong Kong had an estimated 300,000 people living in the streets or in flimsy, makeshift housing. Initially the…

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Interview with Elle Cuardaigh – Adoptee Survival Guide contributing author

Today I’m proud and very privileged to be talking to Elle Cuardaigh, fellow adoptee and author. Elle if you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself, please.

1425706_1388313531409950_1457197398_nMy pen name is Elle Cuardaigh and I live in the Seattle, Washington area. (And yes, it is raining, and yes, we really do drink a lot of coffee.)

How old where you, Elle when you were adopted?

1425706_1388313531409950_1457197398_nI went home directly from the hospital with my adoptive parents at the age of three days. It was a private adoption arranged by the family doctor, who also delivered me. So he was my paediatrician and adoption facilitator.

How quickly did adoption become an active part of your life?

1425706_1388313531409950_1457197398_nI cannot remember a time when adoption was not a huge, if usually silent, part of my existence. I was determined to find my birth family by the time I was a teen. I joined a search organization (Washington Adoptees Rights Movement) when I was nineteen. It would have been when I was eighteen, but it took me that long to save up the required fees. I felt I could not have children until I knew where I came from.

How did you become one of the contributing authors on the Adoptee Survival Guide

1425706_1388313531409950_1457197398_nLynn Grubb said she was writing a book and needed adoptee contributors. Her shameless flattery for my book The Tangled Red Thread may have had something to do with me immediately agreeing to help. I asked what she wanted me to write about, and she said, “Funeral crashing.” So that’s how that happened.

Adoption, what for you is the most important issue connected to adoption that you would like to see changed and why?

1425706_1388313531409950_1457197398_nIf I could change just one thing about adoption today, it would be that the money was taken out of it. As long as people can profit from an industry, there will be
corruption. Take away their incentive, and suddenly it’s on the up-and-up. That goes for both adoption and foster care. So many children are being taken from their parents for no reason other than someone is making a living from it.
Thank you for the chance to interview with you, Lucy.

No, thank you Elle for agreeing to talk with me today. If you would like to know more about Elle then click on the links below.

index

The Tangled Red Thread


Elle Cuardaigh
author of  The Tangled Red Thread
and contributing writer to the Adoptee Survival Guide

Coming soon Poeming Pigeons

CoverPoemingPigeons300

Poeming Pigeons
Poems about Birds

$12.00
(Special Pre-Order Price until April 18, 2015)

Poeming Pigeons is a curated collection of poetry from around the world — over 100 poems expressing our fascination, fear, frustration and undeniable connection to our fine, feathered friends. Between the pages of this anthology, you will discover stories that make you wonder, cry, laugh, cringe and inspire — all through poems about birds.

Chinese Numbers by Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen

ChineseNumbers2Dover 58
An airtight coffin
Each lifeless corpse had once held onto a breath of hope
A wish for a better life
Suffocated by greed
Was that a dream too far?
Morecambe bay 21
The devils beach
Pitch black, desperate, they waited in vain
The rushing tide unfurling,
Death a rippling length of silk flowing, fluttering, falling, covering
Their stooped work aching bodies
Pingfan 3,000 to 12,000 human experiments
Catalogued, examined from a safe distance
Prostitutes for war
Women for comfort some barely past their teens
Military sex-slaves
20,000 probably more, we may never know
Unit 731, 1644 and 100
10,000
or more plague infested bags of flesh
Ravaged by untreated venereal diseases
400,000 living corpses consumed
by Cholera, anthrax and Tularemia, unleashed from a lab
Man indeed had become death

©Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen 2014