I’ve said it before + I’ll say it again, I cannot believe how quickly my time in Taipei has flown! As I write this I am two days away from my final six weeks in Taiwan. I have 10 days of Mandarin Chinese class to go, my next show with World Family English begins this weekend + so will the second round of goodbyes. I anticipate being swamped with work + events over the next few weeks, so I will do my best to keep up with blogging about my experiences + adventures!
One huge update is that I began interviews for my play three weeks ago! If you are new to this blog, I moved to Taiwan in December to write a play about politics + ethnicity in Taiwan. It will be interview based + educational in scope, as I think that Taiwan is a very interesting place that deserves more attention on a global scale.
I have written one play before, Lillian Smith: Being Heard. It is a one-woman, multi-character also educational in nature, about real female American writer, Lillian E. Smith, who devoted her writing career to fighting against segregation and racism in the American South in the 1940s-60s. Half of the play is her words, pulled from many of her books and letters. Lillian’s family + the Board of the Lillian E. Smith Foundation have given me their full support for my project, as well as permission to use any of her words in my piece. The point of that play is to highlight the fact that we have come a long way towards building a culture of understanding + acceptance, yet we still have a long way to go.
In terms of my play about Taiwan, as a foreigner who would inherently have trouble understanding the intricacies of this place, it is important to me to have primary source material from Taiwanese citizens to include in my play.
I think everyone has a story worth telling. Since coming to Taiwan + since my trip to Vietnam + Thailand with my bestie, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my role as a storyteller. As an actress + writer, telling stories is my passion. I see it as my duty to lend my voice to stories of my own + stories of other people. My play about Taiwan will be another one-person multi-character play. I will create the characters in the play based on the interviews that I conduct.
I am most interested in the political climate of Taiwan right now + the ways ethnicity (ie, Taiwanese, Mainlander, Hakka, Aboriginal, foreigner, etc.) might affect the way that people deal with one another on a day to day basis.
So far I have had five interviews with Taiwanese individuals about their impressions of politics and ethnicity in Taiwan. Some of my interviewees have already given me permission to use their names in tandem with their words within my play. Others are more comfortable letting me use their words under a pseudonym. All have been eager to speak with me, candidly about their feelings about + experiences in Taiwan. My interviews have ranged in time from 1-4.5 hours. Yet, I could easily speak with each person for days about this place!
The more I listen, the more ideas I get about other people whose views would be interesting to include as voices in my piece. Such as people based in the United States who are involved with U.S.-Taiwan (R.O.C.) relations. I am already anticipating continuing the interview process Stateside!
When my most recent interviewee asked how much longer I would be in Taiwan + I said, “Six weeks,” he replied that I should stay longer. It is just not in the cards for this visit, though I wish that I had started interviews a bit sooner. It is clear that I will not be able to interview 280 people as Anna Deavere Smith interviewed for her play, Twilight: Los Angeles, about the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Given time restraints, I will be lucky if I get to 20 or 30! But I am confident that I will have a wealth of information to pull from. Here’s to fruitful interviews to come + a fulfilling six weeks!
Yesterday was the birthday of a couple of my best friends who live in NYC. They were inspirations for the first rap that I wrote, which was included in the second A Nook for Rhyme Crooks event here in Taipei. Since they never got to hear it the first time around, I decided to shoot a super amateur video as a little bday gift for my buddies! Hopefully we can create a better version to be in the near future.