by: Annie Jang on
We are so excited to introduce you to our 2017 MSG Lab Playwrights! Here's a little bit about each of them and how they started writing their play.
Manami Hara - With Courage and Humility
How I started writing the piece.
Jane Heyman, a dear friend, colleague and mentor said to me 4 years ago "I have a project I want to do with you" and told me about this Japanese consulate general in Lithuania during WW2. She continued on quietly "Because of him my brother and I are alive". I was immediately intrigued by her personal story. Mr. Sugihara issued transit visas against his country's order to save the lives of Jewish people. And Jane's parents were one of 5000 people who got the transit visas, fled Nazi occupied Europe and survived the Holocaust.
Jane heard about a production "Sempo Sugihara" written in Japanese. My Journey with this project began by translating and adapting the play into English. For 3 years it rested and lingered in my brain and heart. At times I was discouraged that the journey was over but believed that it was waiting to be reborn with a renewed vision and purpose. Well here I am now burring myself deep into these beautiful, complex, extraordinary characters again. I'm terrified and thrilled for the journey ahead.
Leslie Lum - Geomancer
I started Geomancer many years ago focusing on Qian Xuesen, the Chinese silkworm missile scientist, who was deported to China during McCarthyism, and his Jewish Hungarian mentor Theodore Von Karman, considered the father of aerodynamics, who came to America because of Nazism. It was just recently that Iris Chang (Qian's biographer) who also wrote the Rape of Nanking and fought to disclose its cover-up in Japan, became central to the piece.
My short fiction and poetry was published in Canadian Literature, Wascana Review, Asian Week, The Antigonish Review, Into the Fire, and Asian Pacific American Journal and anthologized in The Map is the Heart, Canadian Short Fiction, Pomegrante and the Wascana Review Thirty Year Retrospective. I am currently also working on a novel entitled Cat Country.
Loretta Seto - The Ones We Leave Behind
Although I've been writing stories since I can remember, my foray into playwriting began in 2007 when, acting on an impulse to broaden my writer's repertoire, I applied and was accepted into PTC's Block M (for monologue) workshop. Although having written prose and screenplays for years, I quickly learned that playwriting was a humbling endeavour that, to this day 9 years later, still keeps me fascinated with its unique intricacies and challenges. Now having written and produced two plays (Why Weight? and Dirty Old Woman), I'm working on another piece with the incredible support of VACT's MSG Lab and the dramaturgical assistance of PTC's Kathleen Flaherty.
The Ones We Leave Behind (working title) tells the story of Abby Chung, a recent hire at the Public Trustee who has been tasked with finding next-of-kin for people who have passed away seemingly without any family or relatives. Her first field assignment brings her to Beatrice, an elderly woman who has died alone with no one coming forward to claim her. As Abby uncovers more about Beatrice's solitary life, she begins to question her place in the world, her own relationship with her isolated elderly mother, Sylvia, and what it really means to be alive in the face of one's own mortality. Exploring themes of death and family legacy, the play ultimately offers a message of hope in finding connection to others, while reminding us of our human fragility.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to work with VACT once again (VACT co-produced Dirty Old Woman which had a sold-out run at The Cultch this past April) and am excited to be able to present my work at a staged reading next February. Thank you to Donna Yamamoto, Bahareh Shigematsu, and everyone else at VACT for supporting Asian-Canadian theatre artists and bringing their stories to the stage!