by: Annie Jang on
We asked this year's MSG playwrights how they came to write their first play – here is what they divulged to us:
Sangeeta Wylie – “I've considered writing a full-length play for a while. I'd written a few, what I call 'teaser' scripts – unfinished stories I wanted to write. A few years ago I had co-written with a friend, a one-act comedy, when I was living in Toronto. We staged it as a workshop, and it was received well. Having dusted off the cobwebs from my writer's pen, I wanted to do it again. Only I wasn't sure what that next play should be – it needed to matter, and to be meaningful. I knew I wasn't ready to write my own story yet. In the fall of 2016 I met Donna Yamamoto. We had a conversation about VACT and what the word “Asian” encompassed, in terms of ethnic groups. My ethnic background was from India: was I Asian? I wanted to get involved with this world: sharing stories which went beyond the veneer of being Canadian, because I wasn't seeing enough representation. Donna and I concurred that maybe it was time that the boundaries be reconsidered to include people like me, and that one way to start would be with submitting something to the MSG lab, the play development arm of VACT. A few months later, Donna called me personally, encouraging me to apply. Donna's belief in me meant a lot, and I decided I should submit something, but I was stumped as to what that would be. And then, another bit of serendipity struck. Our neighbours invited my husband and I over for a barbeque, and while eating her homemade Vietnamese spring rolls, we learned about her family's journey from Vietnam to Canada. It was an incredible tale, and I immediately thought that it needed to be preserved. So strong was my feeling of conviction that it felt like fate. Here was a story that felt perfect for VACT, with its roots in Asia, reaching into Vancouver, presenting itself to me just as I was looking for something meaningful to write about. I felt like I had been called upon. And so, it began.”
Yumi Ogawa – “Back in 2006, I wanted to create something based on my experience growing up in Canada, with immigrated parents from Japan. But I didn't know what that was yet. One time, I was on the bus with my friends, and standing next to me was a man covered in tattoos who had an angry resting face. I told my friends a story about the time my mom got me my first library card. Under the category "Sex", she marked down "M". She thought "M" stood for mother, and "F" stood for father. My friends start laughing, and the man standing next to me cracks a smile and laughs with us. At that moment, I knew I had something.
So, I started writing out every story that I could remember from my childhood. Two and a half years later, with the help of some of my actor/writer friends, my first semi-autobiographical solo show, Japanglish was born. Sharing my personal experiences and performing my own work was a way for me to find my voice, and to establish myself as an artist.
Now that I have a 5 year-old daughter, I have more stories to tell. Stay tuned for Japanglish 2 (working title)....”
Gary Mok – “As a creative writing exercise, my professor had me write a letter to apologize to someone. I wrote to my mother to say sorry for the usual things: not calling often enough, taking her love for granted, and for forgetting that a fortune teller had predicted she would pass away at age 60. This letter turned into Mum, a one-person show and my first play. It helped me grow closer to my mother and better understand how to deal with death. At the end of the play, the fortune teller character asks the audience: if you could learn your death date, would you? I would. What about you?”