by Katherine Chou
|AAP Producing Associate Katherine Chou (center)|
I had never been an associate anything before Artists at Play. An associate is someone James Bond is told to meet, someone who is always seen in profile lurking behind pillars before they ultimately betray him and are killed for making their own plans. An associate is the craggy old guy flanking the mafia kingpin with a velvet-lined briefcase full of money. But here I am, a Producing Associate at Artists at Play, and not a single briefcase or pillar has been made available to me.
What has been made available, beyond new friendships and connections, is room and permission to grow. With each production, Artists at Play has handed me new roles I sometimes struggle to picture myself inhabiting. With their trust, however, all I have to do is step into them. This is one gift Artists at Play has given me, but there are other ways in which joining this small theater company has affected my work that go beyond personal ambition.
What I cherish the most about my work with Artists at Play is the chance to step outside my own cultural circles. As a writer and filmmaker, every project is deeply, even painfully personal. The emotional stakes are always so high. It is both a privilege and a relief to be able to champion other people’s work.
And while emotion and personal ties are what lead me to latch onto a particular project as a producer, I relish the chance to step back and tell stories that live outside my experience. For me, there is as much joy in getting to know the nuances of other communities as there is in weaving my own specific cultural knowledge into our production of The Chinese Lady.
The desire for representation comes from a self-centered place, a desire to see oneself reflected in storytelling. When I write, I am compelled to think of my own story as the Most Important Story. But the truth is, we will only reach real representation through a multiplicity of voices. We are stronger when we amplify each other, because representation is not a zero-sum game.
In fact, having a bounty of stories to look to alleviates the pressure on all of us as individual creators. If there’s a full table at the potluck, that makes your very specific and kind of mediocre pina colada banana bread (a real recipe I have seen on Pinterest) less of a crisis.
As a young artist, I have often been on the receiving end of others’ generosity, and I have asked myself how I might pay it forward in turn, with so little at my disposal. With Artists at Play behind me, I have the reach, resources and know-how to support creators who excite me. Being able to help tell stories that are not my own through Artists at Play has become a vital part of my creative practice. Wherever our individual paths take us in the future, I am proud to have been associated with them.