Friday, August 29, 2003

once through so many semesters of theatre rice, it's hard to remember or recognize what theatre rice is anymore.

without a doubt, we, the members of past and present, are theatre rice. we is the body, constantly moving, our artistic direction is always on the grow. we dare to collaborate for change, "to meet, develop, and perform showcases that reflect a modern Asian-American theatre."

and we make choices, some are radical, some are conservative, but all relentlessly shape the direction theatre rice goes in. our committee, representatives elected by the theatre rice constituency of the precious semester, is ultimately responsible for these choices.

last night, our committee chose to keep our mid-semester show to the dual combination of a comedy troupe and improv, and to not allow a play to appear in addition to it. i do not argue with this decision. but i am frightened by it.

before i talk my fears, i would like to say first and foremost that i do agree that certain submissions must meet certain levels of quality before gaining acceptance into our shows. the debate about the quality of this piece may be limitless but is of not much concern to what i want to bring up (but on a side-note: "regret," "flight of the penguins," and "story time with joyce" all needed to be developed but were nonetheless admitted into their respective showcases.)

this piece didn't lose because the committee had serious issues with the quality of the piece (some really did, some really didn't, but to each their own.)

the reason why the piece didn't get in is much more simple and, to me, much more frightening: the committee didn't want to put a highly political and serious play alongside comedy troupe and improv. the juxtaposition of seriousness and comedy would apparently be too strange for our audience.

i go into a few questions to address this:
- doesn't this thought process imply that comedy troupe is not capable of serious issues in their skits, that a skit can not be of comedy but still be of quality?
- is it resourceful to have a short mid-semester show (which will run for three days) while trying to cram in all of our submissions into our showcase (which will run for two days)?
- doesn't all comedy in our mid-semester show create the expectation for more shows like those - an expectation that may be responsible for an audience backlash in the face of anything non-comedy? isn't theatre rice stereotyped to being simply funny? that may not be a bad thing, but isn't that against our purpose of being? is asian american theatre only made of comedy? are our stories only told through caricatures, exaggerations, and satires?

i'm afraid that we, the committee, might not be able to step up to change when change calls. this is a beautiful time to be in theatre rice. it's an incredibly creative time marked by a dramatic rise of the number of creative projects individual members are pushing forth on their own. our submissions are going to grow and more and more. we are faced with the possibilty of evolving with this growth naturally, or restrict it to what we know and what we think can do (opposed to what we really can do.)

no matter how sensational the privilege of our education promises, it promises nothing in the realm of theatre, film, and performing arts for not only asian americans, but all ethnic groups. for a tremendous amount of people, theatre rice is the sole venue for artists to realize their dreams. dreams that we, as committee members, must always respect and consider, which is why we must always real all submissions that we receive (i'm afraid that not all of us actually read the mid-semester submission.) when we don't read our submissions, we not only wrong the artists who submit, we also wrong the theatre rice who chose us as representatives and weavers of our growing artistic thread.

i do not share because i want us to re-consider last night's decision. i share this because i am disheartened and truly worried. i share this because i trust theatre rice, who has always been of the open nature, to always share and listen with our own. this is not an attack on anyone but simply a loved criticism. please, do not be offended.

i would like to end this with words from the author of the mid-semester show submission. we typically always read out loud every submission author's "reasons why..." before deciding on their vote, but we failed to do so at last night meeting. here is a part of it.

"explain why you think this should be a theatre rice production"

"because theatre rice all too often dwells on abstract asian american identity politics when there are urgent issues concerning real Asian Americans in the present.
because no one knows about it.
because NOW is always the time that theatre rice is ready to tackle ANY issue affecting Asian Americans.
because Theatre Rice needs to be respected as a THEATRE group and needs to break away from it�s popular perception as a comedy group.
because the mid semester show sets the tone on how Theatre Rice is viewed in the public eye, especially since it�s free.
because the term �Asian American� is a political term.
because art is about revision.
because an art piece is never ever finished."

we are never finished. i understand that theatre rice is never anything concrete, never like a bird but rather like its shadow, always a blur, a changing beauty, never to be grasped or held down. this is the beginning of a new year. let's see what fire and freshness awaits us all.

ps: the fact of the matter is: i'm fucking pissed and i'll use all my pretty bird, blur, beauty metaphors to express it, thank you very much.