The malaise of a generation

As written in response to a class assignment (three-page directing manifesto) in the MFA directing program at Brown/Trinity Rep.

I have no idea how to write this manifesto because I have no idea what I want to say anymore. These days, it feels like I don’t want to say anything at all. One month ago, I wrote a different draft of this manifesto that asked whether it was possible to balance personal relationships with the pursuit of professional success in the theatre industry. I’m not ready to share that now. I’m sure that somewhere in there was a sufficiently interesting discussion about how the industry is structured to favor individuals who are willing to work punishing hours for negligible pay, on top of other invisible costs. But that version of my manifesto doesn’t fully account for the choices I’ve made — and if nothing else, the past two weeks have shown me that I may not have thought my priorities through, well before all this shit started hitting the fan, and now I have to confront the life I’ve actually been making, the life that’s left after work has been stripped away.

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Interview for “Ask A Director”

Hannah Wolf, the curator of the blog “Ask a Director,” recently invited me to answer some questions about the work I do and the work I want to be doing.

Started in 2013, “Ask a Director” is a resource for finding and fostering community between emerging directors. It currently features discussions about the processes, inspirations, and aspirations of national and international directors alike.

I loved having the opportunity to add my voice to that conversation — here’s what I had to say!


On diversity hiring: Choosing the “best” person for the job

director's haven domestic departure

Photo by Austin D. Oie Photography

“Do you think it’s easier for you to get work because you’re Asian?”

I’d graduated from college just a few months before, holding an embarrassingly sparse artistic resume for someone who wanted to work in professional theatre. Clueless about how anybody booked artistic work in Chicago, I was volunteering my time at an unpaid theatre internship in the hopes of some distant, unspecified payoff.

So I replied, “No.”

But in the following months, I found myself frequently going back to that very question.


Opportunity cost

opportunity cost lifeline fillet of solo 2016

I performed this piece at Lifeline Theatre’s Fillet of Solo 2016.

The visa that allows me to legally work in the United States will expire in August.

I’ve got a few options. First, and most obviously, I could go back to Singapore. But, though Singapore prides itself on its—I quote—“burgeoning arts scene”, Singapore is also a really small and kind of bureaucratic city-state, which can limit the opportunities available to theater artists like myself.

Or I could get green card married. That isn’t strictly legal, so if you’d like to hear more about that, come find me afterwards.

Or I could go to grad school.

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On giving up acting (or, why I staged Domestic Departure)

The first time I ever auditioned for anything in America, I was so nervous that I couldn’t even talk to the other kids in the waiting room. All I knew about America then was what they’d told me back home. And in Singapore, the Americans were legendary for their degree of artistic talent and expressiveness. I was convinced that I didn’t stand a chance.

I read the monologue anyway, because once you’re there, you might as well see the whole thing through.

The professor finally looked up at me. “Your English is very good,” he said. He sounded pleasantly surprised.

Apparently the most memorable aspect of my audition was how, despite my appearance and nationality, I was fluent in English.

Like I said, I never stood a chance.

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