PAT round up - 2018!

Meri Kirihimete everyone! 

Thank you to all our Asian creatives that have performed, participated and shared their time with PAT this year for Fresh Off the Page. There were a whopping 71 creative practitioners involved this year and we are thrilled to have met more talented directors, writers and actors.

We've had our biggest year yet, presenting two original works and one from Singaporean pals The Finger Players 十指帮; Roots by Oliver Chong 🍚(winner of Best Design at Auckland Fringe), Orientation by Chye-Ling Huang 🐍(winner of the Hackman cup for most original play) and Tide Waits For No Man by Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant 🌊, our first Wellington production (coming to Auckland Fringe in Feb).

A massive heart-felt THANK YOU to our supporters and funders - Equity New ZealandAlbert-Eden Local BoardCreative New ZealandUnitec Department of Performing & Screen Arts NZ Film Commissionand the beauties at Basement Theatre

Thank you to our awesome audiences for this year - we look forward to meeting more of you in 2019! 

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Chye-Ling Huang one to watch - Asia Media Centre

New Zealanders with Asian heritage making waves

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Lynda Chanwai Earle summarises Kiwi-Asian’s to watch after the meteoric rise of Crazy Rich Asians in the US, naming PAT co-founder Chye-Ling Huang and PAT chat interviewees Yoson An and Xana Tang as some of them. Read more below or follow the link here!

30 AUGUST 2018

Like a Bollywood classic, Crazy Rich Asians opened across the globe to dizzying anticipation. It became a soaring box office hit in the first week of release.

The film may have generated hype in the US for its impact on Asian-American representation in Hollywood, but reviews ran a little chillier in Singapore, the primary setting for the story, likely because of the prevalence of American-Asian casting.

Crazy Rich Asians is a ground-breaking retelling of the ‘Cinderella/Pride and Prejudice’ story, only with much more product placement. The film turns the tables on racial representation, with non-Asians playing only the most minor roles. Not since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club has there been such an Asian-centric story coming out of Hollywood. 

So what of New Zealand’s treatment of its own prodigious Asian talent? How are high-profile Asian actors faring? According to directors such as Roseanne Liang, the issue of lack of representation on screen is all too familiar, and the reason why talent often heads offshore.

Here are some New Zealanders with Asian heritage who are making waves internationally.

Augusta Xu-Holland

Augusta Xu-Holland was born in Auckland in 1991 to a Chinese father and Pākehā mother. 

Beijing-based Xu-Holland broke into the China-Hollywood film-making industry as a foreign actor working in China. Most recent roles include Catherine Standish in the 2016 film On Wings of Eagles opposite Joseph Fiennes (Eric Liddell) and in The Last Race opposite Zach Ireland, where she found her dual ethnicity an advantage.

She has been cast as Pudding in the upcoming film Meta Area, Chanyang Yin in Special Mission, and Eva Li in Eight Hundred.

Xana Tang

Twenty years after Disney’s animated classic, Xana Tang has been cast as Mulan’s sister in director Niki Caro’s highly anticipated live-action remake.

Tang is a New Zealand-born Chinese-Vietnamese actor. She studied Communications at AUT and speaks fluent Cantonese and Mandarin.

At 16, Tang made waves as Spit in Michael Bennett’s award-winning feature film Matariki. She was the lead in the television comedy Hounds, which won best TV comedy series at the 2012 New Zealand Film and Television Awards.

She’s had notable screen roles in Power RangersThe Almighty Johnsons and Cherry, and a major supporting role in the TV drama Filthy Rich.

Tang was cast in the highly-anticipated Australian comedy series The Letdown, her major Australian screen debut.

Michelle Ang

Michelle Ang is a film and TV actress currently based in New York City. She was born in Christchurch to Malaysian-Chinese parents, and did a double degree in law and chemistry at the Victoria University of Wellington.

Ang first made her name in New Zealand’s teen hit series Tribe and Xena: Warrior Princess. She is known for her work on the long-running Australian TV series Neighbours, where she was nominated for a Logie, and for her role in New Zealand’s Outrageous Fortune.

Ang won Best Actress (Feature) at the 2011 New Zealand Film and Television Awards for My Wedding and Other Secrets directed by Roseanne Liang.

Her international film work has screened across the globe, and she has won awards including those at Berlin and Sundance.

In 2016, Ang was nominated for an Emmy for her work on Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462.

She has appeared in The Beaver directed by Jodie Foster, Big Momma’s HouseLike Father Like Son, and was the lead in the 2012 MTV scripted series Underemployed by Emmy-nominated writer Craig Wright.

She starred as the mother of Tui in the first season of the mini-television BBC series Top of the Lake directed by Oscar-winner Jane Campion.

Yoson An

China-born Yoson An immigrated to New Zealand at a young age. He worked in theatre, most notably with Proudly Asian Theatre, before breaking into the New Zealand screen industry in 2012 in the short film Death Note, followed by roles in Director Roseanne Liang’s hit webseries Flat3.

His first major feature role was in the local cult classic Ghost Bride, followed by roles in international films The MegMortal Engines, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2.

Highlights in television include the HBO Asian miniseries Grace, and in 2017 he played the series lead Charlie in the new SBS crime-thriller Dead Lucky, opposite Rachel Griffiths.

It was announced this year that An would play the love interest in the big-budget Hollywood remake of Mulan directed by Nicki Caro.


JJ Fong

JJ Fong’s roles include Alice Lee in the New Zealand television show Go Girls, and Betty in Step Dave. In 2016, Fong was cast in the role of Filipino-New Zealander and cosmetic surgical nurse Ruby Florez on Shortland Street.

Fong co-owns the production company Flat3 with friends Roseanne Liang, Prelina Lau and Ally Xue, and is known for her role as Jessica in the web series Flat3Friday Night Bites and K-Road Stories.

Fong is currently in Hollywood following up roles in film, so watch this space.


Chye-Ling Huang

Chye-Ling Huang is a Chinese-Pākehā director, actor and writer. She co-founded the theatre company Proudly Asian Theatre (PAT) with Filipino-Kiwi actor James Roque in 2013.

Huang has produced and acted in PAT produced Black Tree Bridge and recently won Playmarket’s ‘Asian Ink’ for her ground-breaking new play Orientation, which challenges the desexualisation of Asian men.

Huang also directed Asian Men Talk About Sex, a Loading Docs short documentary which featured Yoson An.

Her play Call of the Sparrows (The Herald Theatre, 2016) was part of the Auckland Diversity Project Fund. Huang will direct Like Sex, by award-winning Chinese-New Zealander Nathan Joe at The Basement this year.

Credits include The Mooncake and The Kumara (Auckland Art’s Festival and tour), Call of The Sparrows (Herald Theatre), Find Me a Māori BrideThe Last Man on Earth is Trapped in a Supermarket (Q Theatre) *

The Asian Actors/Practitioners Hui

In October this year, the New Zealand Film Commission will be holding a hui focused on Asian actors and practitioners in the New Zealand film industry – similar to the event they held 18 months ago for their engagement with Māori communities.

Raymond Suen, the Commission’s Asia Outreach Executive, says the prospect for Asian talent is looking very positive.

“It’s fantastic to have such visible representation [on screen]. It’s important just to have visibility, it shows that the diversity policy is working.”

Suen sees the cultural intelligence quota exponentially rising with Asian-New Zealanders bringing their knowledge to the global film industry.

“They have an existing understanding of Kiwi culture. Having hands-on experience is valuable and often overlooked.”

– Asia Media Centre

Tickets are LIVE for Tide Waits For No Man - Auckland Fringe!

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Tide Waits For No Man comes to the Auckland Fringe Festival this Feb

After a stellar debut season at BATS in Wellington, Nikita Tu-Bryant’s transformative puppetry, physical theatre and shadow play theatre show comes to the Basement this summer in collaboration with SPOOKY ANTICS and Proudly Asian Theatre.

Telling the story of one woman’s quest to reconcile cultural patriarchy in her grandfathers passing, this show is non verbal and is suitable for hearing impaired and non English speakers.

Get your tickets here!

Tide Waits For No Man

Feb 19th - 23rd

Basement Theatre, 6.30pm

Starring and director by Nikita Tu-Bryant,

with Marianne Infante and Chye-Ling Huang

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“Tide Waits for No Man: Episode Grace stands out for its inventive use of different forms of dance and movement, shadow puppets and three-dimensional puppets in combination...it’s a triumph of this production that the different modes are woven together so seamlessly and skilfully." - Theatreview

Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship announced - Chye-Ling Huang for two new drafts

“The next logical step, if you’re not seeing the work that you believe is valuable in the world, is to just make it yourself.”

Congratulation to PAT co-founder Chye-Ling Huang for receiving the 2019 Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship

This distinguished literary fellowship allows Chye-Ling and fellow recipient Chloe Honum to share an annual stipend of $20,000 and a four-month tenure each at the Sargeson Centre in Auckland.

Chye-Ling Huang directing Fresh off the Page. Photo: John Rata

Chye-Ling Huang directing Fresh off the Page. Photo: John Rata

"There are a number of Asian playwrights making incredible work, but there’s so few of us you can never be fully satisfied with the narratives you see. I’m hungry to see the kind of work that represents myself and people like me. The next logical step, if you’re not seeing the work that you believe is valuable in the world, is to just make it yourself,” says Chye-Ling.

“The work I do with my theatre company, Proudly Asian Theatre, is essentially to dismantle stereotypes by providing platforms which accurately represent Asian people in New Zealand. A natural part of that is creating works that show the nuances of the Asian experience, with the end goal of making our industry much more inclusive while also changing people’s mindsets.”

She aims to complete the final draft of her play Black Tree Bridge – which was shown at the 2016 Auckland Arts festival RAW season, and start the first draft of a new play titled The New Temple, which will be based on queer Asian experiences.


Read the NZBC’s write up here!


Orientation wins the Hackman Cup at the Auckland Theatre Awards!!

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We are supremely honoured and incredibly stoked as the The Auckland Theatre Awards were announced this arvo!


Our Q Matchbox production Orientation is the winner of the Hackman Cup for Most Original Production!!

And - our amazing SM, producer for Fresh off the Page, performer in Tide Waits For No Man and first time playwright or PINAY Marianne Infante, and our incredibly talented production designer, set designer and costume designer Micheal McCabe were BOTH awarded Outstanding Newcomer award for 2018!


Thank you to everyone who has supported PAT and the team over this incredible year. Your votes and support make it clear that the work we create is necessary - here's to continuing to challenge stereotypes, empowering marginalised voices and making hot messes in 2019!

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THE TEAM OF ORIENTATION:

Kelly GilbrideNahyeon LeeNatasha Anthea LayRuby Reihana-WilsonKhalid ParkarMicheal McCabeEmi PogoniMarianne InfanteAlistair KwunChye-Ling HuangAhi KarunaharanCindy JangNatasha BunkallMayen MehtaMarwin Maui SilerioKyle ChuenEugene YaoPaul LewisJacqueline DrewCalvin SangLindsay YeeSacha Stejko

And special thanks to those who participated in our development workshops.


Check out the rest of the awards here:

https://www.facebook.com/aktheatreawards/



"Complex, personal, beautifully executed" - Theatrereview for Tide Waits For No Man

Nikita Tu-Bryant

Nikita Tu-Bryant

Tide Waits For No Man opened to a packed Wellington audience for a PAT first!

Thanks to Tim Stevenson from Theatereview for our first review of the season, running til Saturday 8th.

Check it out here or below!

Tickets here


INVENTIVE USE OF DANCE, MOVEMENT AND PUPPETRY

Review by Tim Stevenson


Complex, personal, beautifully executed and drawing on a rich and diverse palette, Tide Waits for No Man: Episode Grace presents a narrative about a young Taiwanese artist raised in Aotearoa grappling with the conflicting calls of love, self-realisation and traditional cultural imperatives. 

The conflicts which Grace (Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant) must deal with are brought to a head by the death of her Ye-ye*, a patriarchal figure who will appear throughout the show in different guises - benign and protective, overbearing and hostile, even aggressive. We can guess that Grace’s Ye-ye also personifies the rule makers who lay down the expectations for women - ‘Clean’, ‘Silent’, ‘Calm’ - which break up the narrative into sections.

The complexity of the culture or cultures within which Grace is trying to live and grow is also mirrored in what we see on stage. What appear to be traditional Taiwanese/ Chinese elements come to the fore here, including the white costumes of the two mourners (Chye-Ling Huang, Marianne Infante) who also appear as part of the narrative, and the figure of Ye-ye himself. However, we are also shown contemporary/ traditional and old/ young divisions, and the show’s conclusion is expressed in part by Grace dressing in an outfit that integrates all elements.

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Tide Waits for No Man: Episode Grace uses a variety of theatrical modes to deliver its narrative, and it stands out for its inventive use of different forms of dance and movement, shadow puppets and three-dimensional puppets in combination. This approach means that the action on stage is constantly shifting in mode and also location, which makes for a more varied vocabulary but also places particular demands on the performers. It’s a triumph of this production that the different modes are woven together so seamlessly and skilfully.

This is a striking-looking show which demonstrates a keen sense of visual impact. The bridge / path projected on the backdrop in particular – like an image from a traditional Chinese silk painting – is both dramatically effective and beautiful. The first appearance of Ye-ye on stage (as opposed to on the backdrop) is a highlight.

The production has a very strong cast who have obviously worked hard and closely together to create a unified narrative out of so many moving parts.

Tu-Bryant’s performance is a tour de force: powerful, flexible, committed, expressive.

Huang and Infante display skill and versatility in their dual roles as mourner and puppeteer. Infante has also done the choreography, drawing on an impressive and eloquent range of styles.

Variety and cultural diversity are also a feature of the highly effective sound effects and musical accompaniment, designed by the versatile Tu-Bryant. 

Nikita Tu-Bryant, Chye-Ling Huang and Marianne Infante

Nikita Tu-Bryant, Chye-Ling Huang and Marianne Infante

The sound and lighting operators (Nic Cave-Lynch, lighting; Wendy Collings, sound) deserve the enthusiastic applause they receive at the end. A production like this, which switches modes so frequently, relies on technical effects being delivered dead on cue every time, and Cave-Lynch and Collings never drop a stitch. 
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*Google translates ‘Ye-ye’ as ‘grandpa’ in Mandarin. Your reviewer notes that Google doesn’t always get translations right and apologises for any offence given. 

Photo Credit: Kenneth Chapman

Mother tongues - Nikita Tu-Bryant's take on a bilingual upbringing

“How do you cross barriers, when words don’t exist in the other tongue?”

Artist, performer and first time director Nikita Tu-Bryant shares her story ahead of her debut non-dialogue show, Tide Waits For No man.

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Mandarin-Chinese was my mother tongue, and soon after English followed.
Growing up in a Taiwanese/Pakeha household, I witnessed the constant frustrations of trying to communicate clearly though English and Chinese translations.

It is hard enough communicating well with a common language. How do you cross barriers, when words don’t exist in the other tongue?

Recent years have seen me collaborate with many non-english speaking Asian Artists in Japan. There, we would have month-long workshops to create a full-length theatre piece, with our different Artistic skills combined - and no words.

This experience instilled hope in me, that despite cultural and language barriers, if given the space and time, we can all learn to communicate and connect with one another.

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Before captions for TV or film existed, I have memories of stop-starting English films and explaining the storyline to my mother. A decade later she is using words I don’t even know existed, but my habit of explaining storylines have remained - much to the annoyance of those who watch films with me.

My mother is the compass I have followed making this show. And though her English is well-beyond now, this is dedicated to all the mothers who are just beginning that journey.


Photos by Ankita Singh

Tide Waits For No Man performs at BATS Dec 4th - 8th.

Book here

Lights, Camera, Asians - NZCTA young associates forum

“Regardless of if we intend it, everything we create is political. The best thing we can do is to tell our stories truthfully and boldly and from the heart.”

The New Zealand China Trade Association hosted a forum for those keen to hear about how the everyday person can help ensure realistic representation of Asians in New Zealand media, and to see what young filmmakers are creating to represent themselves in NZ.

Nathan Joe, Chye-Ling Huang and Calvin Sang

Nathan Joe, Chye-Ling Huang and Calvin Sang

Calvin Sang and Mayen Mehta

Calvin Sang and Mayen Mehta

NZCTA Young Associates and Future Dragonz hosted panel discussion event "Lights, Camera, Asians!”, engaging in conversation with speakers Calvin Sang, Chye-Ling Huang, Mayen Mehta Nathan Joe and screening ‘The Han Chronicles’ and ‘Asian Men Talk About Sex’.

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Thank you to

the University of Auckland,

NZCTA Young associates

and Future Dragonz

CALLING ASIAN WRITERS! 2019 Fresh off the Page writers opportunity announced

A year of risk taking, creation and rising to the challenge

PINAY by Marianne Infante, the first FOTP commission in 2018

PINAY by Marianne Infante, the first FOTP commission in 2018


Proudly Asian Theatre is calling new, emerging and established Asian writers to submit your play ideas for our Fresh off the Page series in 2019!

Fresh off the Page launched in 2016 as an event to showcase Asian scripts, actors and directors in Aotearoa. For free and monthly at The Basement theatre, we pair emerging talent with experienced practitioners to connect, challenge and network, and put on a great night to celebrate  Asian work.

In 2019 we are dedicating the year to writers. Our ambitious programme will consist of 9 new theatre works - written by you!

Whether you have never written a script before, have a half finished idea or a dusty draft from years ago, we want to hear from you.

Chosen writers will be given a deadline to complete their play by (negotiated with writers), receive ongoing mentorship to complete the draft, and will have their script read aloud at public event Fresh off the Page with a team of actors and professional directors. Following the event, each writer will also receive a script assessment session with a dramaturg from Playmarket. 

Submit your idea, in whatever shape it’s in! Please include a short synopsis, a paragraph about why you want to make this work, your preferred month and your contact details.

Deadline for submissions: 

Due to a mis-print, our facebook release indicates deadlines were due on December 1st. We are happy to receive submissions for those who were misled on December 8th. Cheers!

Send to:

pattheatrecompany@gmail.com 


Proudly Supported by Playmarket

"I had to do it ready or not - you can't be afraid." - STUFF interview with Nikita Tu-Bryant

Thanks STUFF for the great interview!

Catch Tide Waits For No Man here!


Debut director explores cultural and identity

Matthew Tso for Stuff.co.nz

Photo: Ankita Singh

Photo: Ankita Singh

Grace director Nikita Tu-Bryant says the production explores a woman's grapple to reconcile different values from different parts of her life. The production also features Chye-Ling Huang and Marianne Infante.

Nikita Tu-Bryant's first foray into theatre directing started with a song.

Tide Waits for No Man: Grace comes five years after the Wellington based musician wrote and recorded a song about feelings she experienced following the death of a family member.

Tu-Bryant says the semi-autobiographical story explores cultural patriarchy and follows a Taiwanese-Kiwi, Grace, who grapples with her Yè-Ye's (Mandarin for grandfather) teachings in the face of her life in modern New Zealand.

While the story draws on distinctly Asian references, she believes it will strike a chord with a much wider audience.

People naturally discovered and adopted different values as their social circles expanded outside the family environment. Reconciling often conflicting sets of beliefs was not unique to any one set of people, Tu-Bryant said.

"It's a story about how we marry who we've become with where we've come from."

Tu-Bryant was relieved to be getting the production underway after years of writing and conceptualising the latest iteration of the story.

"Considering the time between the death of my family member and now ... with my music projects, I'm a real doer - I go out and do it straight away. 

Photo: Hayden Weal

Photo: Hayden Weal


"I turned 30 this year and had been writing for four years. I just knew as every year passed, I'd get more anxious. [Like the title says] 'Tide waits for no man,' I had to do it ready or not - you can't be afraid."

Working with the Auckland-based Proudly Asian Theatre, the production is being performed at Bats Theatre in Wellington in December.

It is the first of what Tu-Bryant hopes will be five instalments chronicling the grandfather's personality though the experience of different members of his family.

The production is "non-verbal" and will rely on choreographed movement, and shadow and object puppetry set to a backdrop of Tu-Bryant's music.

She did not want language to be a barrier for her audience. She wanted people like her mother, for whom English was her second language, to be able to understand the story. 

Tu-Bryant will be performing alongside Proudly Asian Theatre co-founders Chye-Ling Huang and Marianne Infante.

 Tide Waits for No Man: Grace will be performed at Bats Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Mount Victoria, Wellington, from December 4-8. Tickets are available from the Bats website.







Beyond the D-word - The Future of Asian Representation discussed

Diversity is hot - but now what?

“A panel on diversity is like a panel on world peace. It should be seeking a time when we no longer need such panels. It should be a panel actively working towards its own irrelevance. The fact that we’re still having them not only means that we continue to fail, but the false sense of accomplishment in simply having one is deceiving us into thinking that something was tried.” - Marlon James

PAT and Basement attempted to answer the question at Basement Theatre at their regular event Unseen: Unsaid. A future focused discussion prompted by Basement’s 10 year anniversary kicked off talking about Asian representation across the industry - how far we've come and what we can do now to move forward. OG Asians and millennial practitioners just hitting their stride chatted with non-Asian people in positions of casting to find out where the blocks are and how we can remove them together. 

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Panelists:

Hweiling Ow

Ahi Karunaharan

Amanda Rees

Ankita Singh

Roseanne Liang

and host, Julie Zhu

Check out some of Julie’s notes and quotes from the evening to kick off your own discussion!

Being confined to the diversity brand

“Why do our published works tend to rehash the same handful of themes and, in particular, the theme of inter-generational conflict set against the backdrop of culture clash? The answer is, in part, connected to the commodification of literature, whereby the writing of an ethnic group becomes a genre (like chick-lit, detective fiction, thriller), and its writers find themselves constrained within the bounds of a brand – a formulaic and ultimately oppressive expectation.” - Kavita Bhanot

- The current trope in many Asian diaspora storytelling is about our relationship to assimilation, to whiteness. Has that become a trope that we are over now? Or do we need to keep rehashing new and alternative interpretations of it?

- It also still centres white people, therefore making them more comfortable or feeling relevant?

Privileged assimilated voices, who gets to speak and be represented?

“To focus only on numbers, to talk only about the need for a greater ‘diversity’ of writers in terms of background, is a limited and misleading approach. The real problem is not simply a monoculture but a mono-ideology, a mono-perspective.” - Kavita Bhanot

Intersectionality.

- Westernised, educated, middle-class voices with believable NZ accents are promoted above others.

- Chinese and East Asian privilege within 'Asian' spaces.

- Assimilation and the model minority, we are always striving to not be like ‘them’, we’re Asian but not Asian Asian, distancing ourselves from our more overtly Other parents perhaps, so that we can more easily and confidently and stealthily fit into mainstream white spaces.

- CRA described as essentially a white story but happens to be played by Asian people and that that is great. Is that the highest goal we want to strive for?

Academia and the elitism of the diversity conversation

Who is left out of the diversity conversation? Who does not even have the language to talk about these issues? E.g. older generations not exposed to this type of discourse, those too busy trying to survive to be able to indulge in learning discourse.

Criticism and the precariousness of criticism

Where is the room for criticism of work in our own communities? If there is so little room for success, for representation, must we be grateful and celebrate every small morsel we are thrown?

Representation and that desire to see ourselves represented, where is the room for systemic change, not seeing the word for the trees

At the moment the conversation around diversity still centres white people as the sun which we all revolve around. Diversity upholds white supremacy, how do we dismantle that? Can we?

- Ghassan Hage talks about diversity being like a multicultural fair where all the stalls of migrant cultures are neatly on display to be consumed by white people, it is there to serve their enrichment. How do we ensure our interactions with other groups who are not our own are not tokenistic? How do we create authentic relationships?

- Why are we still fighting to be part of the mainstream, are we upholding white supremacy by constantly asking to be let into the system and structure that continues to oppress us, what does decolonisation mean to you?

- Systemic change versus individual change. (Individual change looks like one of us getting funding.)



“I realised our differences are to be celebrated. And where you come from, your culture and its history, are incredibly important." Nikita Tu-Bryant talks to STUFF

Embracing the ‘uncool’ - Nikita Tu-Bryant is taking back her roots through performance

Following the launch of Tide Waits for No Man, creative and theatre maker Nikita Tu-Bryant talks to STUFF about her musical journey as a Taiwanese kiwi.

Read the full interview below or follow the link here!

Nikita performing in her band FLITE.

Nikita performing in her band FLITE.

'Made in Taiwan' may be a label attached to most electronics but it's also a phrase one Wellington performing artist proudly associates with.

Nikita Tu-Bryant's melodious voice has a haunting timbre akin to Kiwi chart topper Bic Runga and acoustics which have heads swaying . She's heading south for three intimate shows, including a stop in Golden Bay with Christchurch based singer-songwriter, Monique Aiken.

Tu-Bryant's main aim with her music is to make people "feel", she said.

"People will interpret your music through whatever lens or experience that are going through at the time.  A song about travelling, could be interpreted as a break-up song.  I believe feeling all feelings are important, be it sadness or joy."

Tu-Bryant's most recent single release was with her band 'Flite', producing music she described as an "atmospheric-funk/electro-pop hybrid". She has also released an album and EP with folk band, Spooky, while producing music as a solo artist.

Born in Taiwan and raised in Auckland by her Kiwi dad and Taiwanese mum, Tu-Bryant has been immersed in everything music since she was five-years-old when she began playing the violin. She said being a "little Asian kid wanting to fit in", she couldn't relate to the violin's classical music. 

"It was, to me at the time, very uncool."

At 12-years-old, her father bought her a guitar which brought with it the inspiration to write songs.

Nikita performing with FLITE.

Nikita performing with FLITE.

"It was the cool thing I got to do growing up in a pretty strict environment."

From there, her thirst for performing grew. The guitar allowed her to play in shows and at 16, she was playing in bars, followed closely behind by her parents. It later led her to study music in Wellington. Tu-Bryant struggled with her cultural diversity growing up, wanting to be more like her "white friends", but she said, now she embraced her oriental background.

"It wasn't until my twenties that I started using my Mandarin-Chinese name in my performing life (雅涵 - pronounced Ya-Han), and it wasn't until then that I started to show interest in music from the Orient.

"I realised our differences are to be celebrated. And where you come from, your culture and its history, are incredibly important." 

Tu-Bryant is taking her music back on the road after a four-year break, but those years weren't spent far from her passion - collaborating and performing with other artists while travelling overseas.

This time her travels are taking her closer to home and with one of her biggest inspirations and supporters in tow - her dad. 

"He's responsible for all the good music I used to listen to as a teen."

She said people who go to her shows should expect an "intimate event" and talking between songs. And when she's not performing her music, she's taking her talents to the theatre. Tu-Bryant has an upcoming debut show which she wrote, directed and is acting in called, Tide Waits for No Man: Episode Grace. 

"I call myself a performing artist because I tend to do everything. I write music, I write stories, I write poetry, I act, I paint ..."

And in between her creative projects, she takes to the sea to surf.


Get tickets to Tide Waits for no Man here:

https://nz.patronbase.com/_BATS/Productions/TIDE/Performances

PAT Chats: PINAY Playwright Marianne Infante


”I want people to feel love, to be hurt, uplifted and inspired.”

Marianne Infante is on the edge of the new - the first bilingual Filipino play to be written in New Zealand, and her first full length work. PAT’s challenge to write for Fresh off the Page is part of a new initiative to support Asian writers to create new works and step outside their creative fields.

Marianne, who began as PAT’s producer for Fresh off the Page, is a proud Filipino who moved to Christchurch at age 11, before moving to Auckland in 2014. Marianne gained a Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts degree graduating from Unitec in 2016 and has since multiplied her skills in the creative industry. Her theatre experiences include the Auckland Summer Shakespeare 2017's As You Like It, Emotional Creature (The Others Club) and Rumination (Simple Truth Theatre). As a stage manager she worked on BOYS with Auckland Theatre Company and TEMPO Dance Festival in 2017/2018.

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PAT sat down with Marianne to talk about her experience before unleashing PINAY on the world.

Catch PINAY October 17th at The Basement Studio, 8.30pm!

What inspired you to write this play?

I don’t think I can pin it to one inspiration. Many things inspired and motivated me to write this play. It’s been brewing for 2 years and then when all the WHY-DO-I-WANT-TO-WRITE-THIS reasons stacked up together, I got to a point this year when I knew I just HAD to get it out of my chest. Those reasons being: personal lessons and conflicts, appreciation for my culture, for my family, my parents hard-work and love, PAT fighting for representation, sheer lack of Filipino voice in all sector of NZ Arts community, and the fact that I knew I had a genuine story I was so passionate to share and communicate.

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What were the challenges you faced during the process?

Expressing and forming feelings into words, specifically scenarios that are so close to home. Writing out the pains and mistakes and fully realising those on the pages of my script; I avoided writing the hardest scenes till I just knew I had to, to finish the script. Another challenge for me was trusting myself as a writer. Trusting myself that the truth and story I have to share mattered.

What do you think makes a good story?

A story of truths. A story that explores the ugly and the complex. A story that activates the space and the people within it and engages people to think, question, maybe challenge and wonder.

How do you want people to feel at the end of your play?

I want people to feel love, to be hurt, uplifted and inspired by it. I want people to feel and understand one’s *malasakit at pagmamahal sa kapwa’t pamilya*

*Loose translation- selflessness/sacrifice/devotion/concern and love for fellow people and family.

‘Who’ did you write your play for?

I wrote this for any young adult who is having to; re-identify with themselves, dissect their multi-layered culture and re-evaluate the real importance and value of ‘love’ and ‘family’. I wrote this for the person I was last year and the year before.

What character was the easiest to write?

Mama. I have so much gratitude for her complexities and immense capability to love that I really enjoyed exploring her energy and essence.

Can you explain the ‘theatrical’ ideas/concepts utilized in the play that you describe?

I wanted to explore and stretch my story past dialogue and I have delved into movement, sound and music. Featuring my awe for Kapa Haka, Tinikling and love for Filipinos karaoke culture. Movement gives me the freedom to express what words can’t hold and moulds together the 3 different languages the character Alex engages with; English, Tagalog and Te Reo. It’s hard to fully translate from one language to another and to actually keep the essence and actual definition of the word just like the word ‘malasakit’ in the question above.  Regarding the musicality of the piece, for me music and singing is used when the emotions being communicated surpasses the dialogue; speaking no longer suffices.

Life is Easy - new series focussed on Asian and Queer characters funded by NZOA

“They thought they were woke…until they woke up in each other’s bodies.”

Chye-Ling Huang, Cole Jenkins and Ruby Reihana Wilson

Chye-Ling Huang, Cole Jenkins and Ruby Reihana Wilson

Congratulations to Chye-Ling Huang and Cole Jenkins, who are part of a series of new funded shows that push the boundaries of storytelling in 2019. Life is Easy, written by the pair, will feature an inclusive cast and crew of POC and diverse sexualities.

The media release from funding body NZ On Air released the good news this week, saying:

Life Is Easy, comes from the TVNZ New Blood initiative to support new storytellers. This body-swap comedy/drama series explores ideas of race, privilege and sexuality and is aimed at millennials. The lead characters are an Asian female and a gay male, bringing more diversity to our screens.

Writers Cole Jenkins and Chye-Ling Huang say they created the work to talk about race, sexuality and gender in a light hearted way. “In a nutshell, she’s Chinese, straight and female; he’s white, gay and male. Though they always thought they shared everything, their ideas about race, privilege and sexuality are challenged as they find themselves living each other’s lives with no way to escape.”

8 x 15minute episodes are expected to come out in late 2019.

Read the full release here!


"Orientation is a hugely significant work: sexy, smart, and not putting up with your shit." - New reviews!

"This play could not have cared less about perfectly crafted impeccable representations. On the contrary, the use of cultural symbols is trivial and bleak, seeking to blow mono-dimensional representations into pieces.” - Hainamana

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Thanks to Theatrescenes, Hainamana and Appetite for the Arts for their sizzling reviews of Orientation. Check em out below!


Theatrescenes:

http://www.theatrescenes.co.nz/scene-by-james-stars-sex-scares-and-sisters-auckland-does-nz-theatre-month/

Hainamana

http://www.hainamana.com/a-review-of-orientation-by-proudly-asian-theatre/

Appetite for the Arts

https://appetiteforthearts.com/2018/09/12/proudly-asian-theatre-orientation/


Orientation is on for two more nights at Q Theatre. Don’t miss it!

"Brash, sensual work a landmark for NZ stage" - two reviews for Orientation

"In the words of Orientation’s Thomas Pang, Asians are like vampires, their representations are never reflected in the media. However with the increasing visibility of Asian representation in the media right now, aided by projects such as Orientation, there really is no better time than now that you should be proud to be Asian."

Kyle Chuen in Orientation

Kyle Chuen in Orientation

Thank to the NZ Herald and Craccum for the first killer reviews of Orientation!

Check them out here:

NZ Herald

Craccum

Orientation is on this week until September 15th at Q Theatre.

 

Kickarts podcast - a poet, a playwright and a musician talk process and presentation

'We don't have to fight the fight, we're just telling a story” 

Dan Goodwin, Zoe Larsen Cumming, Chye-Ling Huang and host Richard Green

Dan Goodwin, Zoe Larsen Cumming, Chye-Ling Huang and host Richard Green

Musician and actor Zoe Larsen Cumming, poet and playwright Dan Goodwin and PAT's Chye-Ling Huang chat with Richard Green from Kickarts podcast about their art-making inspirations and process. Have a listen to the arty gossip here!

 

 

"You can’t expect every person of colour to be your spiritual guide." - VICE interview with Chye-Ling Huang

VICE chatted to Chye-Ling Huang about creating Orientation, a bombastic show about sex, race and love. 

Check out the full interview here or below!


Kiwi Playwright Chye-Ling Huang Lets Her Asian Characters Be Problematic

Chye-Ling Huang wants you to think about Asians and sex. Or, more accurately, to think about how you think about Asians and sex. The writer and director, whose documentary Asian Men Talk About Sex confronted sexual stereotypes surrounding Asian men, was sitting over a pot of tea in the lobby of Q Theatre, where her latest play, Orientation, opens tonight. It follows Mei, a Chinese-Pākehā woman, as she embarks on a psychosexual journey to deconstruct her sexual-racial prejudices. “To do this and to find love, she sets out on a quest to bang as many Asian men as she can to get a new perspective,” Huang says.

Natasha Daniel and Eugene Yao in Orientation

Natasha Daniel and Eugene Yao in Orientation

Huang was full of opening-night energy as she talked about the play, her nerves about the reactions it might provoke, and broader observations on the state of Asian representation in contemporary culture. And whether, as the play’s tagline asks, it's possible to root yourself back to your roots.

VICE: Hi Chye-Ling. Does Mei’s journey have resonance with your own? 
Chye-Ling Huang: Mei is like a villainess version of myself, like an extremely problematic past version of me. Kind of mashed together with extremely problematic people that I encountered at the time. These two factors coming together creates this lovely mash of an extremely flawed character. There’s definitely a large element of truth in the show, in terms of my experience of moving through the world. A more fun, un-woke version of me.

You’ve spoken before about how Pākehā audiences might find this play confronting. 
I realised what I’d been doing to mitigate that, and to try and make non-Asian people feel comfortable enough to come to the show. Like, man, I’m doing so much work around this, when has Auckland Theatre Company ever like reached out to me and been like, ‘Hey I know we’re doing a show that’s like a white American classic with like no people of colour in it, but it’s safe for you to come, you’re not going to be attacked and just because there’s no [people of colour] in it doesn’t mean we’re anti-people of colour’? No one has ever done that work for me as an audience member, so why I am trying so hard for white people especially?

 

It’s not enough for me to just exist as an artist and make work, it’s kind of like I’m constantly reminded of all those other political layers, like who I am as a person, my identity is political. Anything I do is like a ‘move’, as opposed to just existing as an artist.

But in the show Mei is also really flawed?
When people are writing for characters of colour, they want to get it right and they don’t want to offend, so obviously they’re going to be writing these characters that are often kind of like the benchmark of racial awareness and social awareness around race. But that’s so often not the case. When you’re the only person of colour in a room you’re supposed to be that person, and you feel the pressure to carry the flag and be the example for all the white people. But I mean we’re all on our own journeys and 90 percent of the time I have no idea what’s right or wrong, it’s just opinion. There are so many problematic attitudes—heaps of internalised racism and just socialised bullshit that you can’t expect every person of colour to be your spiritual guide in the realm of how to act or think or do in dating, or any aspect of life really. And we don’t get the freedom to be messy and problematic because we’re fighting against so much already that if you’re not there, you’re just fucked. It’s just hard.

Is this work a continuation of your earlier work on Asian sexuality?
Asian Men Talk About Sex presented more questions than it did answers really… It came down to three minutes. We kind of have plans to make more of that project, but definitely a lot of it informed this work.

How so?
Often Asian narratives can get condensed down to one thing or two things, the accepted or the understood narrative that often white people are perpetrating and it’s easy to tell those stories based on tropes and stereotypes. Asian Men Talk About Sex was very much an ensemble piece to try and show the diversity within diversity, so I used the same structure for the play.

Are you aiming to do the same things for Asian women in this play?
I think that’s a part of the play that I don’t actually think about a lot. But it’s inherent in the structure of it. Mei is on a mission to tap'n'gap as many people as possible, but it’s never really part of the discussion of the way she’s going about what she’s doing. She’s using sex as a vessel for her learning, essentially. It’s never really deconstructed, it just is, which I think is quite powerful when you just do something without commenting on how different or how interesting it is. That’s my life, that’s how I operate. I’m very in control of my own sexual life and open about my sexuality so I guess in that way it’s the part of it I question the least. I’m in a polyamourous open relationship. I’m also pansexual so, like, just everything.

 

Why was it important to have an all-Asian cast?
When I’ve worked with all-Asian casts in the past something happened in that process that I was super mind-blown by. It was like an invisible wall disappeared and we were on the same page. Even though we were all children of diaspora in different ways—a South African Indian guy, a Singaporean dude, a Taiwanese Kiwi and then me, Pākehā-Chinese—all from different levels of assimilation and backgrounds but we all had that diaspora Asian-ness in common and it just made the work so easy to slip into. There’s no sense of apology to anything you’re doing in the room. In this piece, unearthing things around sex and stereotypes and how those exist together, it’s a very personal realm to dive into to confront your own internalised racism around sex and dating and to confront the way people have been treating you. It’s not really what you want to be doing, scanning over the past week how many sexualised comments have been thrown at me because of my Asian-ness, or not, vice versa, with men—how many dates I got turned down for because I’m Asian. It just makes it a safer space to have an all-Asian cast and I knew that if we had a white person in the room it would be hard for them and it’d be hard for us.

Much has been made of Crazy Rich Asians as a turning point in Asian representation in popular culture. Does it feel like that? 
Over the past five years running Proudly Asian Theatre I’ve definitely seen a rise in Asian works that weren’t just me. When I came out into the industry, honestly I could look at the New Zealand works that were on display and just see nothing. There was just nothing that wasn’t problematic. Since then I’ve definitely seen a rise, and it’s definitely our generation. No one is changing at the top level. I do think it is getting better but I don’t think it’s happening as fast as maybe Crazy Rich Asians is suggesting.

Would the next step be casting more Asians in roles where their Asian-ness isn’t necessarily the point of their inclusion?
I live in a Facebook bubble, you know. Like everyone I’m friends with are liberal arts people and then I just see on my timeline popping up another web series with an all-white cast, another web series with an all-white cast, another theatre show with an all-white cast. If you know me, why does this not matter to you? You’re the right demographic to care about this right now, but outside of that, personally, you know me. And you know that I have a database of like hundreds of Asian people waiting for these opportunities. Like, where are you? It’s so gutting. That’s another big veil-lift moment. Just because white people are your friends, it doesn’t mean they care or they get it or that they are true allies in the sense that what they do matters. I just want to shake all my white friends, like do better: you know me, and you have no excuse.

And finally, is it possible to root yourself back to your roots?
I don’t know. It’s a really funny question that I’ve never considered seriously until now. Um, I would say no. I would say no, but it might help.

Orientation, the third work in Q Theatre's MATCHBOX 2018 season, opens tonight at Q's Loft and runs until September 15.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

 

Loose Cannons feature with Chye-Ling Huang

"The reason I make work with Asian casts is to continue giving myself and others their Mulan moment."

Check out theatre maker Chye-Ling Huang's feature in Loose Cannons, Pantograph Punch's feature on artists and what drives them. Read more here or below!


Loose Canons: Chye-Ling Huang

By Chye-Ling Huang

Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.

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Chye-Ling Huang is a Chinese-Pākehā director, writer and actress, and co-founder (in 2013 with James Roque) of Proudly Asian Theatre Company (PAT), which is dedicated to showcasing and empowering Asian storytellers in Aotearoa New Zealand. PAT’s productions include LanternRoots, the New Zealand premiere of FOB, and her own original scripts Call of the Sparrows and Orientation ­– the latter of which she is also directing for a season at Q Theatre (5-15 September).

Chye-Ling is the director of Asian Men Talk About Sex, a Loading Docs short documentary, as well as Like Sex, Nathan Joe’s award-winning B425 play. Through PAT, she runs a series of monthly play readings called Fresh off the Page which showcases Asian scripts, directors and actors, and provides mentorship with the NZ Film Commission.

Chye-Ling created The Han Chronicles, a two-episode TVNZ webseries based on her immigrant father in 70s New Zealand, and continues to work as an actor in theatre and film. Her recent acting credits include Te Waka HuiaWar Stories and Ao-terror-oa’s Road Trip.

 

Disney's Mulan

Disney's Mulan

Mulan

I was nine years old when Mulan graced us with her gender-bending presence. Mulan was the first Asian woman I’d ever seen on screen. She spoke English, she wasn’t a damsel in distress, and I was in love. I think Mulan counts for 80 percent of my personality and informs at least 50 percent of my artistic choices. I played with a Mulan figurine from McDonalds with my sisters for years, which is probably why I’m into puppetry. Mulan allowed me to embrace being a tomboy, made me love being Chinese and probably turned me gay. There’s a lot of Mulan in everything I am and do. Representation matters. It matters that she was my true heroine for way too many years. I should have had more options than Mulan, more characters I could connect with who reflected how I looked and who my family was. The reason I make work with Asian casts is to continue giving myself and others their Mulan moment.

Poster for Like Sex by Nathan joe, which Chye-Ling directed

Poster for Like Sex by Nathan joe, which Chye-Ling directed

Sex

Weirdly, my first work was devoid of sex or relationships. It was a deliberate play-against, as I had a female protagonist and didn’t want the thematic waters muddied. But since, I’ve directed and created works mostly about sex and sexual politics. I’m in an non-monogamous relationship and I’m pansexual. I get to connect with and see perspectives from multiple people from many backgrounds, genders, expressions. I’m fascinated with how sex is used and how we are used by it, and especially how the New Zealand psyche makes us prudish but clueless at the same time. Taboos around sex exist in both my cultures, Kiwi and Chinese. There’s a lot to deal with if you’re a Chinese Kiwi woman who likes sex, and the politics of sex are endlessly interesting to me.

 

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James Roque and PAT

James Roque was in my very first audition for drama school in 2008. We both share the middle child syndrome, crammed in a bunch of three sisters. We both liked lame jokes and dumb gags. We both equally annoyed and inspired each other. And we were both the Asian kids in the class – along with Saraid De Silva and Jason Wu. We formed PAT to survive when there was no apparent career path for two Asian actors graduating drama school. We kept PAT going when we realised that this was bigger than us, and that our community was our biggest strength. I’m constantly inspired and humbled by the Asian theatre and film community and its resilience, generosity and downright talent. James is becoming famous as a comedian, and I’ve taken leadership of PAT now, but we still tight as bros that made something beautiful together that we could never have made happen alone.

 

0501 by The Finger Players

0501 by The Finger Players

Singaporean theatre

When I was 19 I saw a show called Temple, by the Singaporean company Cake Theatrical Productions. It had punk rock, a live band of school kids that swarmed onto the stage, and the most terrifying SFX and projection I’ve ever seen. Having been back to Singapore and worked with The Finger Players, the coolest contemporary puppetry-based theatre company, I felt a strange sense of belonging. Asian actors performing in English and sometimes Malay and Chinese, surtitles (subtitles in the theatre) on everything, and puppetry and wild dramatic themes playing out within an hour felt like the Eastern and Western elements of my influences combining seamlessly in front of me. Though we are worlds apart there is a huge affinity with Singapore that I found as a diaspora Chinese maker. And simply seeing Asian faces for the first time on stage as full casts and layered characters was enough to make me enamored with Singaporean theatre forever. My fav plays of theirs are The Book of Living and DyingPoop!Roots and Furthest North Deepest South.  

Left: Still from The Han Chronicles, Chye-Ling's two-part webseries about her dad in the 1970s.

Left: Still from The Han Chronicles, Chye-Ling's two-part webseries about her dad in the 1970s.

A Chinese Pākehā love affair

My parents, my family, my universe really. Everything I am and make is somehow connected to being biracial. I come from two supremely loving, wild, loud and dramatic families who are culturally so different but share so much. My Chinese dad from Malaysia taught us the food culture, acceptance of others and badminton, but never taught us the language. My Pākehā mum from Christchurch made traditional Chinese recipes using pasta, had craft skills for days and kept the name Huang even after they seperated, to maintain a connection to her Chinese kids and experiences. The juxtaposing histories of my two families will never not be wonderful and fascinating to me.

 

 

"You're pretty hot...for an Asian" - NZ Herald interviews the cast for Theatre Week

Check out Natasha Daniel and Mayen Mehta from the cast of Orientation talk about the twists and turns of dating as diaspora with director Chye-Ling Huang and Dionne Christian from The Herald.

Redefining what are our stories

Dionne Christian talks to theatremakers about their contributions to NZ Theatre Month and how the stories we tell are changing

  • Weekend Herald
  • 1 Sep 2018
Mayen Mehta, actor

Mayen Mehta, actor

Today marks the start of the first New Zealand Theatre Month, started by playwright Roger Hall to “celebrate and elevate” local plays and playwriting. It sees some 600 performances and 100 events staged by more than 70 organisations, including professional theatre companies, community theatre groups and schools.

‘YOU'RE PRETTY HOT — FOR AN ASIAN.’

It was a first date and drinks were going well — until Chye-Ling Huang's date uttered those six words loaded with generations of social conditioning, racist attitudes and pre-conceived ideas.

Huang, who co-founded Auckland-based Proudly Asian Theatre with comedian James Roque, admits to feeling confused.

After all, the person blurting out the backhanded compliment was herself bi-racial with Asian heritage but had just said she only ever dated white people.

“I said, ‘If you were white, I probably would have thrown my drink at you and just left,' '' Huang says.

“It would have been game over but, because they were Chinese, I was so conflicted because I've been there with this internalised racism toward your own people.

“I just felt a huge empathy toward her because I know that, as diaspora, you do grow up learning that white people are the goal, white people are the prize. I stayed to talk about what she said but, in the end, I decided I didn't have time to be anyone's learning curve.''

The timing of the experience was uncanny given Huang has written and is directing the play Orientation. It's a social satire that follows a young Chinese-Pa¯ keha¯ woman, Mei, in a brazen “sexploration” of Asian love and sexuality in contemporary New Zealand.

With an all-Asian cast, Orientation digs deep at social attitudes towards Asian people as lovers and considers what part race plays in decisions made around love and sex. Natasha Bunkall plays Mei, the young woman working through some identity issues.

“She feels that she's only ever dated white men in the past; she's working out why that is, her personal and identity issues around being biracial, so she's decided to date Asian men and see how she goes to get to a point that she's not seeing race.''

Natasha Daniel, Kiwi-Asian actress

Natasha Daniel, Kiwi-Asian actress

Huang says many of us think attraction is inherently biological but she believes it comes down to socialisation too: “If you're raised to think white people are better than your own race . . . and let's not forget there are white men who fetishise Asian women. No one is born thinking like that.''

Huang and Proudly Asian Theatre's work centres around identity politics but she acknowledges its last play, Call of the Sparrows, was far removed from modern-day New Zealand. She says Orientation is “close to the bone” because it's set in the here and now and she wanted it to reflect the Auckland diaspora experience in 2018.

Ask Bunkall and fellow actor Mayen Mehta if Huang's script rings true and they'll tell you they recognise the characters and the situations they find themselves in. They're both familiar with the term “no rice, no spice” on dating websites, which indicates no one Asian or Indian should bother “swiping right”.

They're quick to add that it's only one Asian story in a region teeming with tales waiting to be told, but they're pleased Huang and PAT are challenging stereotypes and moving Asian voices into the mainstream.

‘I DON'T WANT TO BE PIGEON-HOLED.’

Playwright Albert Belz, who's written about everything from life in a village at the foot of the Urewera Ranges, a Ma¯ ori showband touring during the Vietnam War and Jack the Ripper, is reflecting on his latest play.

Called Cradle Songs, it's produced by Te Re¯ hia Theatre and will continue re-defining what we think of as “New Zealand plays”, in particular work by Ma¯ ori playwrights. Belz won the 2018 Adam Award for Best Play by a Ma¯ ori Playwright for the story, which is set in the southwest of Ireland in 1999, at a nunnery near the fictitious village of Sibeal (County Kerry). Here, two young women — one Ma¯ ori, one Australian — are on their big OE when they come face-to-face with the supernatural force of Briar Faith.

Belz says it's a horror that follows Yours Truly, his thriller about Jack the Ripper. Partly inspired by seeing the production Horror at last year's Auckland Arts Festival, he and Cradle Songs’ director Tainui Tukiwaho have taken some of the tricks and tropes they saw to create a story about a vengeful spirit seeking utu.

“Getting to explore the horror and thriller genres of this show on the stage is something I'm really looking forward to,'' says Belz. “I want to put up a damn good ghost story that is both intriguing in the real-world setting and has real moments of fear and tension for our audiences.''

The story has its genesis in a real-life tragedy. Belz was so saddened and angry when he found out about Ireland’s Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway, that he wanted to write about it.

The home, run by Roman Catholic nuns, ran from 1925-61 ostensibly to care for unmarried mothers and their children. It offered anything but care. In 2012, it was revealed that up to 1000 children had, without their mothers' consent, been illegally adopted and sent to the United States and amateur historians published evidence about widespread infanticide at Bon Secours. The Irish Government responded by setting up the ongoing Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation. It's now believed at least 800 babies and toddlers died there.

“I think any sane person who's heard about this will feel angry,'' says Belz. “I think there's something very human about wanting to take

those emotions and tell a story. Although I want my story to be entertaining, I don’t want to step on anybody’s dignity when I do that. It’s about acknowledging that these things happened and starting to tell the stories.”

He says Cradle Songs asks questions about blame and responsibility and reckons it would be extremely boring and limiting if, as a Ma¯ ori playwright, he was expected to stick to the script of telling stories set in New Zealand, of New Zealand and about New Zealand.

The production itself is led by a Ma¯ ori theatre company, director and writer who are dedicated to embedding tikanga Ma¯ ori into the way they work.

“The diversity of the voices that the man [Belz] puts out there is good for New Zealand writers but also for audiences to see the breadth of some of the story-telling,” says Tukiwaho, who believes Cradle Songs will break new ground in our thriller and horror theatre.

It’s the first premiere of the year for Belz, who also debuts Astroman this year with simultaneous productions by the Melbourne Theatre Company and The Court Theatre, featuring full indigenous casts on both sides of the Tasman.

The Cradle Songs cast includes sisters Donogh and Amanda Rees, Nicol Munro, Briar Collard, Anna-Maree Thomas and newcomer Ariana Osborne. Belz says getting the tone of his story right, devising the special effects and starting rehearsals went well but the most challenging aspect was finding a young Ma¯ ori actress to play one of the lead roles.

“They were all busy. Everyone had something else on, which is a great thing because it shows there’s work out there.”

Cradle Songs is presented in association with Ko¯ anga Festival and Going West at Corban Estate Arts Centre from Tuesday, Sept 5 to Saturday, Sept 8, and in collaboration with Q Theatre from Tuesday, Sept 18 to Saturday, Sept 22. Te Pou Theatre’s Ko¯ anga Festival is a fortnight-long celebration that also marks the theatre’s move to the Corban Estate Arts Centre. As its contribution to NZ Theatre Month, Te Pou continues its focus on works in development.