I’ve never read Fear & Loathing, I just think those are the two emotions I feel most strongly right now.
This is a manifesto for myself.
Maybe this is a follow up to what I call “the incident”. Maybe it’s just me figuring out where I am right now….
I haven’t had the time to process a lot of things. I stepped out of theatre class—I didn’t even graduate—and all of a sudden I was getting attention. See, I don’t even know how to phrase it without sounding egotistical, because I don’t have the language for this experience. People knew what I wrote and what I thought. It became an onslaught of me talking through it, explaining and clarifying, and challenged. It’s not a bad thing; I just feel that my answers were insufficient. I didn’t have the time to actually sit down and ask myself what Dorcas Chiu thought about it. So this is me, sitting down and thinking about it.
A professor once told me that I was too smart to be an actor. I laughed because I know a lot of actors and they are all smarter than me. I think what she meant was that I was too egotistical, opinionated, and stubborn to be an actor. In short, I am a tragic hero with a tragic flaw. (Side note: I do look forward to my demise one day, I think that will finally give me the catharsis I desperately crave.)
Another professor told me that I talked too much to be an actor, that’s why he gave me a part with very few lines. It was meant to be a challenge. It taught me how to say fuck off with just a glance.
I’m a hypocrite. I’m opinionated. I’m too passionate. I’m a workaholic.
And I’m a critic, because I learnt at an early age: don’t trust the white men.
I don’t mind being branded the Angry Asian lady. That’s not what I’m angry about.
It’s the fact that I’ve been exoticized, racialized, and colonized. And every so often, I’ve been viewed as a dancing monkey, entertainment for the powerful. I’m the jester in a court held by white men. Not even the fool, because fuck, they don’t care about my opinions. I don’t know enough Western Medieval history to know if it’s a good analogy. My only hope is that like King Lear they will die with a broken heart one day.
Okay that’s a little harsh.
But right now, as I write this, sitting in the lobby of Soulpepper, I am fearless.
Yep. I said it.
Mainly because I know that I’ll be leaving Toronto soon, so the theatre industry is teaching me how to live life, how to look at the world, and what kind of person I want to be. Not because I need it to feed myself, literally. This is a luxury that many don’t have.
Fear of speaking out or speaking up comes in two waves.
First wave: the shunning. Like, the Shining but there’s no Jack Nicolson. “I’m going to be even more other-ed. I can’t speak up for myself because my opportunities will be taken away from me. My career will go down the toilet. I will never work in this town again.”
Silence was never my strong suit.
There are no opportunities already, so why am I so afraid to fight for more?
Dear future Dorcas, get your head out of your own ass. What do you want right now? Money to feed the family? To put a roof over your head? Or, to be inspired? To feel so fucking happy and grateful that you thought you could fly? And here comes the cheesy part. Don’t you want to be proud of yourself?
I was put down. Called unprofessional, young, ignorant, and naïve. I felt very very very small. But I did not cry. I forced him to witness my value. Because when he started to call me all these things, I realized that he was scared too.
He was scared of me.
And that’s what you’re going to remember, future Dorcas.
You’re going to remember biking in the rain after The Death of the King and feeling like that ache in your heart will lift off and you will fly.
You’re going to remember the incomprehension after watching Norman Yeung’s Theory and being so absolutely lost in how to wrestle with such difficult and important subject matters on an academic and emotional level that your brain will slowly melt into a smile because that’s all you got.
You’re going to remember the ASMs locking the entire cast of Paper Series in the dressing room and presenting all of you with photo collages because they are family. And you will cry because you found it, you found home!!!!!!!
I’m very privileged to be able to say these things. Or maybe just really dumb. But I don’t care! I really can’t give a shit anymore because my wants, desires, and happy moments are more important than him, than them!
I want to fight.
I want a mutiny.
There’s a rift in the theatre community. People are always scared of pissing off the powerful. But I grew up in the age of Internet trolls as well as the age of OCCUPY. Hell, we all grew up in the age of revolution, so why are we scared?
Give me more opportunities.
No, give us all more opportunities.
You don’t get a please. You don’t get a thank you.
Let’s boycott plays that don’t have people of color, or people with disabilities, or queer folks in them. Let’s boycott racist productions. Let’s boycott theatre companies that appropriate our stories.
We need to look at the importance of the way we tell our stories, more so than what the stories are about.
“It’s about empathy and understanding for every human being’s inherent worth.”
I’m being demanding because it’s the only way to get what I want. Being passive no longer flies. Being safe doesn’t mean you get the job. Posting on Facebook was me declaring from the virtual rooftop that they crossed a line.
This line. This boundary. This stage. This fourth wall that they are using to map out the spatial geography of racial separation.
(Yeah! I can be fancy. I go to the U of fucking T.)
This never-ending cycle of being appropriated. I’m sick and tired of it. That’s why I posted.
Wave number 2, I haven’t done enough art for people to value my opinion.
The work is the work is the work. Right now, there is no language to criticize the work without being personal. I used to believe that there’s an objective way to speak about theatre, but after feeling like a crushed ant so many times, I realized that there isn’t.
But there’s a language for accepting criticism, whether it’s useful or not, whether you deem it constructive or destructive. It’s all about the ability to process, which is something that I’m trying to learn.
I don’t think I’m egotistical or selfish for thinking this way or for trying to push people to start using conjuring up these terms. No matter who you are or where you are in your career, don’t you want to do better?
It baffles me—actually baffles me—that people don’t want to listen.
And it’s not just about speaking up about the work; it’s the system, the thoughts, and the ideals.
It’s how we organize ourselves in a hierarchy based on meaningless “political correctness” levels.
That’s why when people insult me for being a communist, I’m like first I’m not politically savvy enough to be a communist, second why is this a bad thing?
Talk is talk until you set it into motion.
I petition to keep figuring out why I like and dislike things.
I will let myself have that time to process and learn.
I refuse to be made into a caricature.
I will not make excuses.
I will constantly remind myself of my age (you’re 21 not 100), you don’t need to have it all together.
I must constantly question why theatre, because if I don’t, I might as well not make theatre at all.