PAT Chats: Janna Tay's take on friendship, home and her first play

“My family doesn’t love me for me. They love me for whatever vision they want me to fulfil for them. I don’t get to be free. That’s not really love.”

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Three women, one house. Three lives, one friendship. While trying to decide whether to renew their lease, three best friends try to navigate events that change their lives and force them to question their relationships. A coming-of-age story for women of colour in their 20s, and for their bond more serious than romantic love: friendship.

Janna Tay’s coming-of-age experience didn’t come with the bells and whistles of classic US films. “There’s always a house party, an underwater pool scene, a concerned yet distant parent, and an odd amount of curfew-breaking and freedom. Hardly any of these things happened to us in high school — our relative freedom came later and with a different set of baggage and expectations.” Born in east Malaysia but having lived most of her life in east Auckland, the poet and writer wanted to embrace the move from childhood to adulthood with the nuance of a woman of colour from a diaspora experience.

Having never written a full length play, Tay took up Fresh off the Page’s challenge under mentor Men-Lin Te-Puea Hansen to complete a first draft for the series of new plays across 2019. A published writer in other mediums, Tay’s poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The Pantograph Punch, Starling, Craccum, and Ghost City Press, as well as winning second prize in Landfall’s 2018 Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition. She is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Oscen Magazine and was a Summer Fling Writer for The Pantograph Punch in 2019. 

Catch the live reading of Homecoming:


Wednesday 7th August

8.30pm, Basement Theatre, Auckland

Register and book your free seat: bit.ly/FOTP_Aug

We chat to Janna about her process, friendship and how she tackled this iconic theme.

Photos: John Rata

Photos: John Rata

What inspired you to write this play?

The gap between my friends’ experiences as women of colour and the wave of coming-of-age films lately about young white women coming to grips with their identity in their teens. There’s always a house party, an underwater pool scene, a concerned yet distant parent, and an odd amount of curfew-breaking and freedom. Hardly any of these things happened to us in high school — our relative freedom came later and with a different set of baggage and expectations. These coming-of-age questions are timeless. I wanted to answer them from my own perspective. 

What were the challenges you faced during the process?

I’ve never written for theatre! I primarily write poetry and creative non-fiction, and they exist on such different levels of storytelling. Where poetry and essays tend to be more insular, theatre mainly occurs in the interactions between people. I had to figure out how to build and convey character without relying on description or inner monologues. It was also so personal that it became difficult to confront at times. I’m eternally grateful to my mentor, Mei-Lin Te Puea Hansen, for guiding me through the process both technically and emotionally. 


What do you think makes a good story?

Believable characters and memorable action – when you remember the characters for what they did because you’ve become invested in the ways they think and the choices they make. Plot, to me, is only ever as good as the characters who are in the middle of it. 

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

I want those to whom it relates to feel seen and heard, and I want the play to prompt the audience to reflect on what home and family mean to them. And to feel hopeful about both no matter how fragmented or painful the answer. 


‘Who’ did you write your play for? 

Women of colour coming of age in their 20s, as inspired by and for my friends. We’re all of a particular age and demographic trying to navigate questions of deciding who we want to be and how we want to live our lives. And so, it feels selfish but at the same time I don’t think it’s a story that’s been told. The questions we’re asking can’t be answered without acknowledging the cultural and societal aspects from which we arise, which I haven’t seen fully explored when it comes to race, gender, sexuality. Sometimes you need to tell a story that is specific enough to furnish a universal truth. While I’m not trying to reach everyone, I hope I’ve been able to incorporate my experiences in a way that takes the story beyond them. 

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What character was the easiest to write? Why?

Rather than there being one specific character, I found different aspects of each character easier to write than others. I knew early on the broad personalities of each of them but once I started placing them in situations that challenged their development, I found it hard to know how to have them react. 

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

Throughout the play, there’s a half-built IKEA-type table that the characters interact with, which acts as a motif that mirrors where they are in their friendship with one another. They start out trying to build it, then they accidentally break it, and try to repair it. It also occasionally draws the battle lines between arguments and acts sometimes as a barrier, sometimes as a way to bring them together. 

I also tried to move away from a more traditional structure of having an exposition, complication, and resolution because nothing is ever really resolved, and that’s okay. I wanted instead to make sure that I explored each character and the one-on-one relationships within the larger friend group. And I was more interested in holding tension and having events ebb and flow rather than being cathartic or final. 


Thanks to Creative New Zealand, Playmarket New Zealand, Basement Theatre, Equity New Zealand and Unitec Department of Performing & Screen Arts.





PAT Chats: Renee Liang on bullying in the medical profession and her new work The Doctor Monologues

“Medicine's moment is coming - it's already happening overseas, with high profile media stories in both the UK and Australia of young women who had been bullied and harassed. I realised I had the right mix of skills to do what I hadn't been brave enough to do - call it out.”

Images: John Rata

Images: John Rata

Doctors are perfect and kind, right? Wrong. Lauded playwright and poet Renee Liang is embarking on a new project, The Doctor Monologues, that peels back the dark underbelly of bullying and harassment in the medical profession. Mentored by dramaturg Eleanor Bishop under Proudly Asian Theatre’s ‘Fresh off the Page’ new play initiative, Liang has collated stories across 4 countries to expose and question the often toxic practices that occur in her other job.

A second-generation Chinese Kiwi, Liang is a poet, playwright, paediatrician, medical researcher and fiction writer, having written in many genres including short and long fiction, poetry, theatre, non fiction, blogging and arts journalism.  

Among many other achievements, Liang organises community arts events such as New Kiwi Women Write, a writing workshop series for migrant women in association with Auckland Council. She is a regular contributor to The Big Idea, a website linking NZ's arts community. Renee has written, produced and nationally toured seven award-winning plays, published eight anthologies of migrant women's writing and has been published and anthologised as a poet.

We chat to Renee about her process, and what fired her to create a new play for the series.

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What inspired you to write this play?

I was bullied as a medical student. I was bullied as a house surgeon. I was bullied all the way through my training, and now I'm a specialist, you'd think it doesn't happen, but the bullies just come from a different place.  We're just like the other professions, and our rates of poor mental health, burnout and depression speak for themselves.

It was because of bullying that I turned my back on medicine. I guess I have my bullies to thank for my career as a playwright. I'm glad to be a writer, but I wish that it hadn't happened that way.

Then #MeToo happened. And the recent exposure of bullying and sexual harassment in the legal profession. Medicine's moment is coming - it's already happening overseas, with high profile media stories in both the UK and Australia of young women who had been bullied and harassed. I realised I had the right mix of skills to do what I hadn't been brave enough to do - call it out. 

What were the challenges you faced during the process?

Bullying and sexual/mental and physical harassment is rarely reported in my profession. There's a hierarchical structure - limited training places, the fact that the people at the top select their trainees, report on them and decide who to progress. The victims are at every stage of this hierarchy, but most bullies are in positions of power. The system is invested in supporting the status quo - in my interviews, the most common response by hospital management to complaints of bullying was to try to shush it up, and in some cases, punish the victim. There's also the idea that you are not being professional if you rock the boat, and admitting anxiety or depression is a sign of weakness. I lost count of the number of times a well-meaning mentor told me 'you'll be able to grow a thick skin after this.'

Because of this, I knew I would have a hard time getting people to trust me with their story. I reached out using word of mouth, knowing there would be low trust of anything endorsed by our various professional organisations (who are often, either by being conservative or through inaction, part of the problem.) I created an anonymous survey form and people from the UK, Australia and India found it as well as many from NZ - so my work has now become international.

Creatively, I've been working with my dramaturg Eleanor Bishop to explore the performative aspects, thinking about how to touch these topics safely but boldly. Eleanor has great experience working in this field and we both believe in the power of performance to bring people together to talk about the big issues - so this has become the central aim of my piece.

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What do you think makes a good story?

I've learnt over the years that truth makes a good story. An audience instinctively tastes truth. They have a blood lust - I remember the first time I had a play read in public and every line my actors read felt like I was being stripped naked in front of the audience.  Fiction can be more truthful than the facts. It's the writer's job to cut through all the information and present emotion in its raw form.  

My plays have all been heavy on narrative, but this one is different - that's why I'm not calling it a play, more a performance piece.  But I hope that it too will carry people with them, pull apart the issues, dissect them, turn them inside out.

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

 It's a heavy topic but I hope there's enough lightness and playfulness there to let people out at the end ready to talk.  I am writing this with the intention of creating a safe space to talk afterwards.

‘Who’ did you write your play for? 

I wrote it for anyone who has been bullied, but especially my fellow doctors and medical students.


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

I'd rather not explain - they are in there to be experienced and responded to.

Catch the live reading:

Wednesday, 8:30 PM
July 24th, 2019
TAPAC (The Auckland Performing Arts Centre)

Register your attendance here: http://bit.ly/FOTP_July
This FREE event work on a first-come-first-serve basis, so register for your seats now!


Interview by Marianne Infante.

PAT and PASC launch web-based screenwriting initiative for Asian practitioners

Big news!

We are excited to launch our brand new initiative for Asian screenwriters - Page to Pitch! 

Proudly Asian Theatre has teamed up with the Pan-Asian Screen Collective to find and foster explosive new ideas from inception to pitch.

We are looking for motivated, aspiring Asian and Pan-Asian screenwriters to take part in a mentorship programme, where we help you write, package and pitch a webseries-flexible idea to commissioners, programmers and producers. Mentoring takes place over 6 months, beginning end of August and concluding in January, and is based in Auckland. We are looking for ongoing, 2 part or more stories, episodes etc, to be released on a web-based platform. We are not looking for one off short films, rather stories that have ongoing components. Pitches could include VR/AR, interactive elements, series with a connecting theme, character, tone etc, 2 or 3 part mini-series or anything else you can dream up!

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Aside from no short films, there is no limit to form, style or length. We are looking for innovative stories in content and/or form. We do not have requirements or expectations to deliver ‘cultural’ themes, and no previous experience is necessary. 

Page to Pitch is made possible thanks to generous support from the New Zealand Film Commission.

Fill out the form and submit your draft by 9th August, 5pm to pattheatrecompany@gmail.com.

Email us with any questions!

Submission form:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eWAajlS68bclN5nP51ulCWm14mS40rIY/view?usp=sharing

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PINAY tickets are Live!!

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Firecracker Outstanding newcomer award’ (Auckland Theatre Awards 2018) winner Marianne Infante makes her professional debut Pinay with signature Filipino flair. The first bilingual Filipino Kiwi play, Pinay amalgamates personal experiences of assimilation and migration with the geological occurrences of Philippines’ Mt Pinatubo volcanic eruption and the Christchurch earthquakes to collide the binaries of race, culture, relationships and religion to tell a story of the in-between.

Pinay follows Filipinas Mariella and Alex, a loving mother-daughter duo whose conflict comes to a head when Alex moves in with her Pakeha boyfriend Seth. Pinay is a moving, challenging and often hilarious play that explores the pains of navigating a difference of core values with our loved ones.

PINAY live development reading 2018. Photo: John Rata

PINAY live development reading 2018. Photo: John Rata

With a unique performance style, Pinay integrates traditional Filipino elements of dance, karaoke and contemporary movement sequences to reflect the kaleidoscopic identity inherent in many New Zealanders today.

Directed by James Roque, written (and starring) Marianne Infante with an ensemble cast featuring Donna Dacuno, Richard Perillo, Lucas Haugh, Marwin Maui Silerio and Matiu Hamuera.

13 AUG - 24 AUG  

8:00PM

Basement Theatre

Book tickets HERE

PAT Chats: Bala Murali Shingade - what do we choose to reveal?

“What’s wrong with it?" 
“We have to make it more... Indian.”

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Bala Murali Shingade has a lot of questions.

Having graduated from the University of Auckland with an MA in Screen Production last year, Bala has been working as a freelance writer, director and actor in Auckland both on stage and for screen. His theatre credits include Dara, First World Problems and A Fine Balance with Prayas Theatre Company. Recent screen credits include writing and directing Brown Boy Lies, his MA thesis film, and 800 Lunches, one of the six Someday Stories short films funded by the Outlook for Someday.

Taking up the challenge to write a full length play as part of PAT’s Fresh off the Page series, the filmmaker and storyteller asks his characters and the audience how they present themselves in different situations, and why;

“The central question of the story is about why people become different people in different contexts. What makes a person who they are? What is identity? This play will explore what exactly it is to be ‘Indian’ or ‘New Zealander’ in the 21st century, from 3 different generations. What makes you who you are? Just because you speak English well, does that make you more of a New Zealander? Just because you don’t go to the temple, does that make you less Indian?”

'What Have You Become?' is his response - an ensemble family dramedy that hopes to explore questions around identity and culture in the context of contemporary Auckland.

The surprise arrival of their grandparents forces a dysfunctional Indian New Zealand family to front an image painted by expectation - that of a normal, happy Indian family. In the ensuing weekend chaos, secrets are spilled, relationships are broken and true identities are revealed.

PAT chats to Bala about his first play below.

Catch the reading on June 5th at The basement, 8.30pm!

Free tickets available here

Photos: John Rata

Photos: John Rata

What inspired you to write this play?

The people around me inspired me to write this play. It’s interesting to watch how people change the way they present themselves in different situations, with different people. I wanted to explore how and why people do this. I grew up watching the epic family drama films of late 90s/early 2000s Bollywood cinema, which were an influence on this piece. I also really enjoy ensemble stories with intertwining storylines and that seemed like a perfect way to explore a group of characters all in conflict with each other.

What were the challenges you faced during the process?

Making all the characters distinct, with their own storylines, their own ways of speaking and their own personalities was a huge challenge. It was also challenging to write a full-length piece – everything I’ve written previously has been short theatre or short screenplays.

What do you think makes a good story?

Compelling characters that we are made to empathise with, in conflict with each other trying to make difficult decisions is always interesting to watch/read about. I love pieces that are comedic but with a bit of serious drama in them too.

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

First and foremost, I want people to feel entertained. It would be a bonus for people to feel pleased at seeing characters like their own friends and whanau on stage. Hopefully, if they are satisfied with the story, it will make people reflect on themselves and the people in their lives, maybe question the way they interact with each other.

‘Who’ did you write your play for?

I wrote this play for the community – there is a growing collection of talented, passionate, eager Desi artists in Aotearoa New Zealand that need their own stories to tell that are specific to them and their experiences – stories that resonate with them and their own circles.

What character was the easiest to write? Why?

Rani (the grandma) was probably the easiest to write because she is the closest to being a caricature – everyone knows an aunty or grandma like her in our communities. So I had fun coming up with crazy stuff for her to do/say.

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

Not sure if there’s an official ‘theatrical’ concept for this, but the entire play takes place in the dining room and kitchen of the Kumar household. The characters all enter and exit at various times and an entire party takes place in the other parts of the house but we only ever see this space and the interactions between our characters that take place there.







PAT Chats: Hweiling Ow on being 'Not Woman Enough'

“You know you’re trespassing right? You are an unwanted flatmate. And this is an eviction notice. For fuck sake, cant you see - you dumbass, if you take down your host, where will you go? You kill me, you kill you. The only option is to starve you. Me.”  

Photos: John Rata

Photos: John Rata

Defining womanhood is a big task. First time playwright Hweiling Ow dives in the deep end with her debut work ‘Not Woman Enough’, a full length monologue play chronicling three woman’s journeys with their unique bodies, and how they connect to womanhood with the tangle of pressures they face.

As a prolific actor and producer, Hweiling’s own journey has taken her into writing and directing. A familiar face on shows like Shortland Street and Agent Anna and various theatre shows, she also currently has a short horror film called Vaspy in post production funded by NZ Film Com and has produced and acted in two webseries - Ao-terror-oa and AFK that are both NZ On Air funded, amongst other projects in the works.

Mentored by playwright Meilin Te Puea-Hansen, Not Woman Enough is part of PAT’s playreading series Fresh off the Page, where this year’s focus is the creation of new Asian works in NZ. Hweiling is the third of 10 writers who will debut new plays this year.

We ask Hweiling about her process and inspiration before her play is read to a live audience this month.

Catch the reading at 8.30pm at TAPAC, 100 Motions Road, May 22nd!

What inspired you to write this play?

I’ve never written a play before. So I thought I’d give it a go. I've always had an idea floating around; either for a short film or a play called Small Vagina. It didn't go anywhere further than the first scene in my head. There are some personally inspired stuff, but I've also heighten the character to places that isnt me. I was also hanging out with two diff friends who were going through the IVF process to get pregnant and really feel strongly about their journey through it.

The first things that came to mind was about these 3 women and the different things they have to face in life because they are ‘women’.

This play is also collection of thoughts, reading the media; and experiences from people I know as well as stuff I am drawing up from my own life. I spent a lot of time figuring out my existence, who I am, my role in society - expectations around being female in a Malaysian Chinese context.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the expectations around women, particularly women’s body parts - and the pressures and objectification we are put through. The amount of responsibility that has been put on us by patriarcal, cultural and society structures are incredibly unfair but yet we take it. A lot of the times its disguise in nuances or passive aggressive statements.

What were the challenges you faced during the process?

I'm always fighting for time to write.

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What do you think makes a good story?

New perspectives that people haven't seen before. Thinking outside the box of how a story can be presented. And of course, authenticity.

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

HAHAHAHA - never thought about that in any great detail. I can’t control how anyone feels, and everyone will feel something different from each other. I guess if they don’t walk out, and they come away feeling something, that’s all I can hope for.

‘Who’ did you write your play for?

Myself. It is an uninterrupted conversation from me to whomever.

What character was the easiest to write? Why?

They are all currently quite easy. I am the characters in some shape or form, and the characters are me - in an augmentation of certain behaviour.

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

To come!  This is probably the biggest thing I am struggling with.




PAT Chats: Natasha Lay's legacy as the next Great White Man

“As I set to put pen to paper, I felt something creep up behind me. I turned around to be greeted by a blinding light, and a giant, cavernous black void in the middle of the light. I stared into the abyss to find my 14-year-old self staring back at me - one hand on the microscope I was under, one hand holding a scalpel. “

Photo: John Rata

Photo: John Rata

"Let's face it, Tash - You’re Cio-Cio San, you’re Miss Saigon, you’re the go-go dancer in Bangkok who giggles at white dudes twice your age butchering your language."
 

14-year-old Natasha had an ambition -  to leave a legacy like the white men in history books. She also made a vow - to never sleep with, let alone date, a cisgender, heterosexual white man.  After being Shortlisted for Playmarket's 2018 Playwrights B4 25 award for the clever and heart wrenching Maniac (On The Dance Floor), Natasha Lay presents her sharp new play 'How to be a Great White Man'; a romp through issues of identity, reflecting on the ways we look at ourselves and others, and an attempt at measuring the space between our past and future selves.

We chat with Lay about why and how she’s unleashing this narrative on the world, as part of our Fresh off the Page new writer’s season.

Catch the debut reading of How To Be A Great White Man this April!

When: Wednesday, April 17th, 8:30pm
Where: Basement Theatre, Studio
Free Event - R16 - Open to all

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What inspired you to write this play?

I was a really strange, isolated, nerdy kid. When I was about 14, I got obsessed with the idea of being One of the Greats and leaving a legacy, and for some reason, I ended up with a pantheon of Great White Men as my role models. Ironically, this was around the same time I was learning about feminism, and how the personal is political and whatnot, and I made a vow with myself to never, ever date a cishet white dude. I've always thought this was a hilarious chapter of my life and something worth writing about.


What were the challenges you faced during the process?

I came into the process wanting to really push myself, but I still found myself asking questions like, "Will this make my audience too uncomfortable?", "Is this just plain self-indulgent?" and "Is this too confusing?" Really letting myself explore those boundaries both in form and in content has been a HUGE challenge!


What do you think makes a good story?

A good gimmick - whether that's a unique hook, good craftsmanship, or interesting execution.


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

Exhausted, but wanting to pick up a torch and pitchfork regardless.


‘Who’ did you write your play for?

For my 14-year-old self, for everyone who has ever felt like a bad person, and for everyone who's afraid of dying.

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What character was the easiest to write? Why?

Not quite a character, but definitely the self-critical parts of the chorus. I'm a lot better at tearing down my arguments than I am at supporting them.


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

I wanted to see a chorus divided - the chorus as both a group and a collection of individuals, fighting with itself. On a lighter note, I also thought it would be fun to utilise actors of identities different to me (non-Asians, non-female, etc.) as mouthpieces for the rather personal side of this story about identity politics.







PAT CHATS: Shriya Bhagwat Chitale and ripping up the Kamasutra


“Well, the Kamasutra or love is not for the faint hearted or the sane, really. But that’s just my opinion.”

Images: John Rata

Images: John Rata

Shriya Bhagwat Chitale tears up the legendary sexual self-help book in her new play ‘Kamasutra Chronicles’, challenging ancient and contemporary myths around sex and relationships.

The explosive first play in Proudly Asian Theatre’s new series, where Asian playwrights debut their new works each month of the year, Shriya gives some insight about why she’s flipping the script on the ancient text in her debut work as a playwright.

Catch the debut reading of The Kamasutra Chronicles this March:

When: Wednesday, March 20, 8:30pm
Where: Basement Theatre, Studio
Free Event - R16 - Open to all

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What inspired you to write this play?

A feeling of solitude that I got more and more comfortable with during the process of writing the play inspired me to continue. Initially, it was curiosity about the Kamasutra and if it held anything more than just sexual poses. When I read the translations (and I read more than one), I found it to be a fascinating window into how people lived, dated and socialised all those years ago.

What were the challenges you faced during the process?
Making space for writing this with competing priorities of adult life heaped with self-doubt and being tremendously shy of calling myself a writer.

What do you think makes a good story?
I think that this is a good story because it takes the mundane domesticity of everyday life and turns it into something magical and full of possibilities. Also the problems faced by the couple in the play are at once specific and universal.  

How do you want people to feel at the end of your play?
I want people to feel good about themselves, thoughtful and more than anything else, hopeful.

Who did you write your play for? 
I wrote this play first and foremost for myself. Then it is a play for anyone who has sex, wants to have sex or thinks about sex. It’s for people like you and me and of course people who love theatre.

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What character was the easiest to write? Why?
The muse, the mighty Vasant Sena was the most interesting and the easiest to write. I think this was because she is asking the questions that many of us may ask ourselves in the privacy of our own heads.

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

Ishita’s direct address would be a theatrical concept I’ve used in the play. She will create a very special relationship with the audience and co-opt them into the funk she finds herself in.  










Review for TIDE WAITS by Theatre Scenes

“Tide Waits For No Man: Episode Grace is exciting theatre, pushing the boundaries and redefining what Asian, and Aotearoa New Zealand theatre, can be.”

Photos: John Rata

Photos: John Rata

Thanks Theatre Scenes for the review of Tide Waits For No Man, our Fringe show and second season in collaboration with SPOOKY ANTICS. Chronicling the journey of a Chinese Kiwi woman through shadow, movement and puppetry, this non-dialogue show premiered in Wellington at BATS last year and performed to much success in the Auckland Fringe.

“A beautiful and meditative piece of work, the cast compellingly compose and perform a series of striking images to tell Grace’s story.”  

- Rand T. Hazou

Check out the rest of the review here!

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“The play offers a series of meditations on Chinese patriarchal gender constructions in a physical and non-verbal performance that incorporates shadow, puppetry and movement. This performance is part of a wave of Chinese Kiwi theatre sweeping Auckland stages over the last few years generated in part by the impressive talents behind Proudly Asian Theatre (PAT), a company dedicated to producing, empowering and enabling theatre and film by Asian talent in New Zealand.”



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“This confident production elides the primacy of logocentrism and the written word. Instead of words we have images, and instead of challenging white orientalist notions of Chinese femininity, we have a production that interrogates traditional Chinese gender constructions stemming from Tu-Bryant’s own Taiwanese heritage. Instead of focusing on white inscriptions of ‘the other’, the production uses the metaphor of Chinese calligraphy to  interrogate the imprints of cultural traditions and the processes of cultural transmissions that continue to mark subsequent generations.

Tide Waits For No Man: Episode Grace is exciting theatre, pushing the boundaries and redefining what Asian, and Aotearoa New Zealand theatre, can be.”












Tide Waits For No Man - in Auckland and on the radio

Asian women speak up about patriarchy in non-dialogue show

Image: Janna Tay

Image: Janna Tay

” … it’s literally just a big Asian wāhine collaboration, and it’s been so delicious and good.”
Marianne Infante

” … it’s not just a theatre show—it’s non-dialogue, it’s movement and puppetry and shadow puppetry with music throughout the whole thing.”
Chye-Ling Huang

“And I really believe in truth, so when people die, whether or not they live their lives really well or did really bad things, sometimes people can be glorified when they die, and I want the full picture of a human being, not just all their good things.”
Nikita Tu-Bryant


Tide Waits For No Man, PAT’s collar with Spooky Antics, is on at the Auckland Fringe this week. Check out these interviews with the three women who perform in the show, and director Nikita Tu-Bryant!

Image: Janna Tay

Image: Janna Tay

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.