New York, NY
There is really a scrappy defiance to Taiwan that is kind of punk rock. But with a lot more than three chords.
Who are you?
I am a New York City native, born in the East Village to Taiwanese immigrants. I am a unique mix of uptown and down, rural Taiwan and inner city New York. I began working in theater on my own at the age of 14, first as an actress then (at the age of 17) as a producer. As an actress, I most notably was in Jeff Weiss’ HOT KEYS, which won an Obie Citation. As a producer, my credits include the world premiere of Tennessee Williams last short plays, several plays by James Purdy including one with Laurence Fishburne and an Obie Award winning anti-war event.
What do you do?
I currently work as Development Assistant at Film Forum, a nonprofit cinema that is well-regarded for its program of classic, independent and foreign films. Three years ago, I also founded Direct Arts, a new theater and film company that aims to produce and promote plays and films that explore the intersection between cultures. We’ve been producing a monthly reading/screening series that pairs a play and a film, one short and one full-length, both touching on some analogous sociopolitical topic. I curate the event and sometimes direct, sometimes act. I’m also working on a documentary on Taiwanese identity and independence, called ALMOST HOME: TAIWAN.
Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?
Taiwan, like most islands, is a beautiful blend of cultures. I love being part Hakka, part Chinese, part Japanese and probably part Austronesian. People stop me in the subway and ask for directions in Vietnamese, Malaysian, Korean… no one ever knows what ethnicity I am, which always makes me feel I AM ASIA. There is so much about Taiwanese identity – what the heck ARE the Taiwanese? But I think, really, Taiwan’s identity reflects some beautiful global future where everyone is related to everyone else, where the whole world truly is one.
Besides being such an incredible mix of cultures, Taiwan stands for independence. More than America, even. The civil liberties, the right to speak in your native tongue, the simple right to declare, “I am who I am” without fear – all of this was recently won with much bloodshed and many many tears. Every time I am in Taiwan, I marvel at just being able to speak Taiwanese in the street – it really makes you value what you might otherwise take for granted being American. There is really a scrappy defiance to Taiwan that is kind of punk rock. But with a lot more than three chords.
What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?
I think people get so lost in equating Chinese ethnicity with Chinese politics. That’s not the same thing. Chinese ethnicity means you have the same ancestors. Chinese politics means you are subject to the censorship and restricted civil liberties of the Chinese Communist Party. Most Taiwanese people have Chinese ancestry but no one in Taiwan is subject to the Chinese political system. And no one who values their civil liberties would want to be. When you look at it that way, the controversy vanishes, poof! Of course Taiwan is part Chinese, but no, Taiwan is not part of China. I’m looking forward to some near future when this distinction will be clear to everyone and there will be much more support for Taiwan’s democracy, which was won with so much bloodshed and so many tears.
Any additional information you would like to share?
Information about my documentary ALMOST HOME: TAIWAN is at http://www.almosthometaiwan.com. I’m distracted by too many things in NYC and looking to get away for 5-7 days to do nothing but assemble a rough cut. You can find out about the rest of my work at http://www.directarts.org