The days I spend at the O'Neill National Puppetry conference are always magical. This year, I found space within myself (and the literal space outside myself) to explore an idea - an issue - that has been knocking around my brain for years. I will be ever thankful for the support of my fellow puppet artists - generous, full souls who held me up, who heard me.
While I go to the conference to work on puppetry, spending time on such safe, artistically fertile ground leads to all sorts of creation. I gave myself permission to let some words come out in a way I never have.
I follow three amazing artists on Instagram. (Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Lauren Patten). I do this, not only because I admire them as performers and artists, but because I am inspired by how they do not shy away speaking and sharing their truths whether through music, poetry, or just Instagram posts. I am especially inspired by how they hold, with grace and compassion, any truths they are given in the form of a character or a script.
Theatre is changing. New scripts include ranges of characters, diversifying who is portrayed in plays, in musicals. As a result, more and more people are seeing themselves represented on stage. THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL. I admire the grace and compassion with which theatre artists hold this responsibility.
I reflected on all the shows I’ve seen… and I have never seen myself on stage.
I am bi-racial: equally of European descent, equally Japanese. While my blood may have originated in different countries, both sides of my family have lived in this country for a while. On my dad’s side, “a while” means before the American Revolution. On my mom’s side, “a while” means before World War II. As an actor, I grew jaded over the last few years, only being called for “Asian” roles. I didn’t feel seen as myself. I felt like I was being forced to accept one part of myself while denying the other.
Friends have heard me rant about this in dressing rooms and over coffee. My family has endured this conversation over and over. I felt beaten, worn down, and grew apathetic. I turned away from theatre, tired of pushing against this pressure to be one race over another. I decided it wasn’t my fight.
Something in me changed after my experience at Jagged Little Pill. Rather than shying away from my feelings, I squared my shoulders and set my jaw. I refused to feel defeated or invisible. I let myself get a little angry. I set my feet on the path for change. This IS my fight.
I spent the last twelve days in my artistic home (The National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center). This issue, this subject, this truth of mine found some fertile ground. Seeds that had been planted long ago started to break through the surface. This poem is the fruit of one of those seeds.
I don’t know where this “fight” will take me. I don’t know how it will end. But I do know that I will do everything I can so that future little girls and boys of mixed anything can see themselves on stage. So they can feel seen. I know there are bigger issues in the world than theatre, but this is the way I can resist. This is my rebellion.