Article courtesy of Simpatico Theatre Project, and their blog What’s in the Wings. See the original article, the third in a series of pieces written by artists participating in their SoLow Incubator, here.
When you hear the word “bilingual” what do you picture in your mind? International, business-y personnel? Or one of those lucky kids who happened to have parents who speak different languages? Or growing up in a different country? Well, I’m don’t fit in any of those scenarios, except being international, sure, but that’s about it. None of my family speaks English. I learned it in school because I had to, and was awful at it. I hated the subject throughout the years of forced education. But then life turns in a strange way, and somehow I ended up in this city with an unpronounceable name for almost a decade now. My every day life is in English. I ask myself over and over again: “What am I doing here?”
See, the thing is, I fell in love with this beautiful, agonizing, absolutely fulfilling and frustrating world of theater and storytelling, which are not so common in my country. Yes, Kabuki is famous and has long tradition and fantastic etc., etc., but other than that, theater is not considered as important. It’s not rooted in our culture. So even though I had stories I wanted to tell, but I was afraid to raise my voice, thinking it’s not worth telling, so people will diminish it. Also, there is always the risk of personal attack because of my ancestry.
The inspiration of BI(?!)LINGUAL has been sitting in my head for a while. Originally I was gonna write funny episodes about my confusions with language, and life in a foreign country. But I kept putting it off because if I wanted to put that on stage, I would have to write that thing myself. Psst, heck no! I am not writing anything in English. At least not until I get much better at this. But then I saw the posting Simpatico’s incubator solo artists, my mind kept on bugging me; “Asaki, now is the time…” “Alright alright I’ll send a proposal, and if they pick it up, I’ll do it!!” And they did. Crap, now I gotta write this thing for real! Writing is scary enough, I have to write in English, and write the story about my life? Why didn’t I choose something else?!
The monthly meeting among Incubator Artists and showing each others’ work is, of course, another terrifying moment. Because everyone else is better then me! Meredith, who I knew from our previous work, surprised me with her characterization of three completely different characters. Sarah’s intense dialogue captivates the audience. Eric is a powerful storyteller and the loudest audience in the group, which is very encouraging to me. R. Eric’s story goes right and left like a wacky roller coaster, but somehow manages to come back to the original idea from an unexpected direction. I cannot tell if it’s scripted or not even though Chris has a script in his hand as he presents his piece. Our den father, Jarrod, always smiling, keeps neutral, and makes me wonder if it’s possible to make this man dance with joy with your performance. So you work extra hard. As much as I was unsure of what I was doing, their work inspired and taught me well. Their advise gave me different perspectives and kept me objective of my piece. Gradually but surely BI(?!)LINGUAL became a play. Without their positive attitude and faith in me and my story, I would have threw my pen (or PC in this case) across the room with me yelling, ‘screw this!’ long time ago.
Speaking of bilingualism, can I say I am entering to be another kind of bilingualism? Acting is my first language in theater and writing is second. Wait, I have done wardrobe, construction, stage management and house management, producing and administration. So I am a multilingual of theater!! Hooray! Whatever it takes to tell the story that is worthwhile to be told, I’ll get there.
See the first entry in Simpatico’s NOTES from the INCUBATOR here.
See the second entry in Simpatico’s NOTES from the INCUBATOR here.