For my senior thesis, I had decided to write and perform in my own one woman show. It was an autobiographical piece, one that combined elements of spoken word, poetry, and other theatrical elements I had learned from my four years in college.
It focused on culture, specifically the Corean culture, and how it played itself on the body, that is my female body. What does it mean to be an Asian-American woman, a hyphenated individual living in a dual environment? Adaptation is necessary in one culture, almost required, while preservation of ethnic identity is demanded.
The content of the show was difficult in itself. The artistic challenge of preparing for it and actually doing it was another challenge. It was draining. I hadn’t anticipated being exhausted from being on stage by myself for a whole 40 minutes. I thought, “Sure. It’ll be fine. I’m just up there talking. No bigs.”
I got my reality check real fast.
Being on stage for 40 minutes, by yourself, doing a number of quick costume changes, gauging the audience’s reaction to my lines, all of that …. It left me breathless and too tired to move after each show.
In addition, there were logistical and technical things that I needed to take care of by myself. Which was expected as this was the nature of the show. I was doing an independent piece, and the “independent” part, which gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted, was also biting me in the butt because I was solely responsible for getting my costumes together, arranging the set, getting permission for equipment, etc.
So when my professor approached me to ask me what I had learned from the experience, it was the last thing I wanted to think about. In fact, I didn’t want to think until next semester.
But in the back of my mind, his question nagged at me. What did I take away from this experience?
I don’t think it was so much what I gained, but what I had left.
What this performance had allowed me to leave my insecurities on stage. All the grievances I had ever felt growing up and into my skin as I battled with my many different selves were relieved. It was okay now. I was okay. To let go.
And for the first time, I felt empowered and in control. By letting go.
I had always asked why as a child. Why? Whyy?? WHY?!
Why was I stuck with horrible Asian parents who never let me do anything? Why couldn’t I go play outside with the other kids? Why did I have to practice the piano for two hours every day? Why didn’t I have cool white parents who let me do whatever I want and grounded me for punishment?
When I was old enough to be aware that it had to do with my heritage and my parents’ desire for me to excel, I became angry and confused and frustrated. Why couldn’t they just let me do my own thing? Why did I have to do all this volunteer work? Why should I care about subject matters that bored me? I wasn’t any good at them.
But with this performance, it was okay. Somehow, I felt liberated. This was all a part of my experience, as a hyphenated American. There was no escaping it, no matter how hard I fought it. I didn’t have to be okay with it, but there was no use in trying to deny myself of myself. This was all a part of what I had to deal with and demanding to know why wasn’t going to change what had happened, what was happening, or what would happen.
And the only
Things to Remember
Everyone feels like everyone else, just not at the same time
People are unpredictable
Letting go is better than maintaining control
Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.
Because we are all lopsided stars.
(from my program)