We are numb and overwhelmed by the recent rise in anti-Asian violence and the horrific murders in Atlanta. Processing our anger, grief and pain, individually and collectively, through shared (virtual) space gave us the opportunity to find healing through our work together.
Our thoughts often return to our last mainstage production before the pandemic, The Chinese Lady by Lloyd Suh. Under the direction of Rebecca Wear, the show beautifully rendered the tragic tale of Afong Moy, an actual but long forgotten figure in history, touted as the first Chinese female to set foot on American soil. We learn of how this teenage girl was purchased, put on display, fetishized, monetized and eventually thrown away. The play reminds us of the brutally extensive history of anti-Asian violence that has been happening in America for centuries. The real tragedy is how often history repeats itself and the helplessness of whether we can somehow disrupt these cycles of violence.
Artists at Play has spent the last 10 years telling stories that demonstrate the humanity and complexity of the diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander community. This is what we do, burned into the very fabric of our existence. There are countless other theatres across the country that do the same. But now is the time for all of us, particularly White American Theatre, to move beyond token diversity and do the hard work that brings equity and justice to our communities.
The work of disrupting and dismantling these oppressive systems is ongoing. Practicing anti-racism and education is ongoing. In what other ways can we disrupt the cycle? How do we take action? Donate to Asian Americans Advancing Justice (National, Atlanta, Los Angeles), read plays likeThe Chinese Lady and books like California Dreaming: Movement and Place in the Asian American Imaginary edited by Christine Bacareza Balance & Lucy Mae San Pablo Burns. Even with the challenges we continue to face as a result of the pandemic, Artists at Play will continue to champion the voices of AAPI communities. We practice our art as a means of restorative justice. This is why we create theatre, why we tell the stories that we tell and why we foster community. Our work will always be ongoing.
We are still here. Let us be there for each other. Let us support one another, whether it is with grace or space. Let us stand in solidarity. We are here.
Artwork by Megemiko Art.