I contacted Dr. Peng in July about an interview for my play + he invited me to come to his home in the mountains of New Taipei City for an August interview.
Here are some of the shots I took on the walk from the MRT.
Naturally, in true Taipei-Google-Maps fashion, the directions I received were…. lacking. The 20 minute walk from the MRT station was really 50 minutes of walking up a mountain. I pride myself in being punctual + generally I arrive to events early. I had factored in time to get lost, but not that much time.
By 10:00am, our meeting time, I hadn’t arrived but had instead taken a wrong turn. Then I found that I didn’t have a proper number to phone Dr. Peng to apologize for my lateness + ask for directions.
But, as I’ve mentioned, people in Taiwan are extremely generous + trustworthy. I found two men at an outdoor temple next to a tennis court + asked them for help.
One zipped off on his scooter to make sure the building was where he thought it was + before I knew it he was giving me a ride, sidesaddle on the back of his scooter, further up the hill to Peng’s apartment complex.
Naturally, I was mortified by my tardiness + so overwhelmed that I was meeting someone I had read so much about that as soon as I saw Dr. Peng, who is still a tall, vibrant man at age 90, I felt the urge to cry.
Luckily I kept it together for the interview, which lasted 1 1/2 hours, overlooking this incredible view.
A stand out moment of the interview was when I asked Dr. Peng where he found the courage to speak out with his 1964 manifesto advocating democracy in Taiwan. He replied that he didn’t think he was courageous–it was just what he had to do. Later in the interview, we were speaking about my career as an actress + he said that I must have a lot of courage to tackle such a challenging career. I realized that we had a few special things in common.
One of the coolest parts about the conversation was that, not only was I interested in learning about Dr. Peng, but he was also interested in my career + intrigued by the idea of a one-person show. He has never seen one before, so I promised to send him a copy of my first play, Lillian Smith: Being Heard, once I can make one! He also told me that despite having been interviewed by 6 Japanese journalists the week prior, I was the first playwright who had ever interviewed him. That made me feel very, very special.
I won’t give away anything more, but after having the opportunity to speak with a man who is so revered internationally + who has endured so much in his life, I left feeling lucky, feeling blessed, feeling humbled. Incredibly humbled.
On my MRT ride home after the interview, this Mos Def song came on my iPod + it felt perfect. At a time when many people of Taiwan were silenced by martial law, Dr. Peng Ming-Min spoke out, shining his light for the world to see.
What a great motto to live by.