Meet the Theatre: Ma-Yi

♪ (jazzy music) ♪ Ma-Yi is the leading incubator of
new Asian-American plays in the country. We host the largest assembly of
professional Asian-American playwrights ever in the history of recorded time. The Writers Lab is the largest
collection of Asian-American playwrights ever assembled in
the history of recorded time. In those terms, Ma-Yi sort of
leads this dialogue about diversity, representation in terms of
Asians in the United States, and also this idea of sort
of challenging perceptions about what culturally specific theatre should be, or ethnically specific theatre should be. All the Labbies are Asian-American,
but they choose their topic. So if they choose to write a piece
that has no Asian characters in it, that’s fine, as long as it’s good. We don’t do exotica.
That’s exactly what we do not do. We don’t do pagodas and cheongsams. Just recently, or last year, Rey’s play was criticized for
not being “Filipino enough”. It wasn’t enough that
his characters were Filipino. They had to behave, act, and be
surrounded by artifacts of that ethnicity to qualify as Filipino. So that’s what we’re out to challenge. As an Asian-American playwright,
it’s very liberating to be at a theatre where your ethnicity is one of
a million things about your work that is taken into consideration. The last production that I saw,
we are human beings, we are funny, we are just plain human beings like you. That’s the whole thing. I mean it’s contemporary, it
doesn’t have to talk about, as you said, Imperial China or whatever. That’s what makes it
available to everybody. My children have grown up with this,
as you pointed out. And they come to everything. And they understand —
of course I have only one Asian child — but they are all relating to it. (performers clap and speak on stage) Their stories don’t have
to deal with China or Japan, or imperial kingdoms of Thailand. They deal with contemporary United States. There was like the space baby play,
and it just, everything is so different, like you know, some deal with history,
some deal with contemporary life, the styles, you know some
of them are devised pieces. There’s something about mushrooms. (laughter) A mushroom hunting play with
a gigantic morel that dances on stage. We encourage in the Lab,
for people to identify their own voice. And ultimately,
with the number of Labbies, the many countries
around the world that they’re from, or the places within
America that they’re from, those voices are all very, very different. I think we’ve been successful
in that many of our playwrights, including Rey Pamatmat
and so many others, are now being done around the nation. Pollinating the U.S.
with these kinds of ideas is certainly the next step
to eventual world domination. (laughter) ♪

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