Saturday, November 18, 2006
Qui, The People
The People, Qui.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with the charming playwright and fight-choreographer Qui Nguyen about his loves (football, comic books, chasing tail) and his hates (racists, Ibsen and… Mike Lew?).
You mentioned being Vietnamese and growing up in Arkansas. Was that difficult in any way?
Not really. I fight good.
Was there any type of Vietnamese community there, or were you all alone?
Besides my immediate family, nope.
Did that sort of thing matter to you when you were a kid?
Honestly, no. As a kid, I just figured beating up racist assholes was part of the deal. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that getting into daily brawls wasn’t quite normal. Luckily, I have a talent at being punchy so I didn’t mind. Besides that, I was much more preoccupied with things like girls, comic books, football, and hanging out with my friends than thinking about my racial identity. Shit of that nature didn’t mean much to me in those days. In a lot of ways, it still doesn’t. I’d still rather be chasing tail.
Has that informed your playwriting?
I'm really excited about joining Youngblood, but I doubt it can be all it's cracked up to be. Tell me something that really fucking sucks about it.
I'd like to hear about your theater company. How did it get started?
My buddy Robert Ross Parker and I started Vampire Cowboys in graduate school as a reaction to seeing our younger undergraduate peers doing plays like Hedda Gabler, Doll’s House, Three Sisters, etc. We saw how thoroughly bored they were with the whole thing. And the sad part was, they really seemed to believe this was what theatre was suppose to be – that it wasn’t something that they could connect to, that could be about them and for them. They were being trained that theater was always these bad productions of old dusty plays. With this in mind, Robert and I got fired up and created what would become our our first piece together, Vampire Cowboy Trilogy. The reaction we received was overwhelming. After that, we kept making shows together, moved to NYC, and kept it going here with always the same thought in mind – to make shows that were fucking fun to watch yet bold enough to kick you in your crotch (metaphorically speaking, of course) when you least expect it.
What's its mission?
To create and produce new works with an emphasis on stage violence and dark comedy with a comic book edge. To actively pursue the mating of different genres (Film noir, Teenage Comedies, Horror, Sci-Fi, etc.) and conventions (Musicals, Dance, Puppetry, etc.) to create an eclectic structure to tell its stories.
What the hell is a Vampire Cowboy?
A cowboy bitten by a vampire.
You're also a fight choreographer. How did you get involved in that?
I went to Louisiana Tech University for undergrad which has one of the most intensive stage combat programs in America. My instructor, Mark Guinn, saw that I had a talent at this stuff, so he encouraged me to pursue being a fight director. Years later, I’m still doing it. It's fun.
Do you write plays with a lot of fighting in them?
Have you ever staged or been involved in a fight-choregraphic fiasco?
In undergrad, I played a werewolf in a “Haunted Trail” that was hosted by my theatre department. My job was to attack the tour guides as they led their groups through the grounds. All the guides were trained actor/combatants which meant the attack was a pretty elaborate choreographed fight . A really fun bit to watch. However, due to back-up and a huge surplus in demand, a last minute tour guide was added into the mix to help bring more people through the trail at a greater frequency. The new guide was not taught the fight and no on bothered to radio me about the change, so when I jumped out of the bushes to attack, the new guide freaked and actually slugged me in the head with a mag light (a metal flashlight for those who don't know). It was the first and only time I have ever been knocked out. That shit hurt.
You say you're a fan of both football and comic books. On a purely stereotypical level those things seem diametrically opposed. In high school, did your 'football self' ever try to beat up your 'comic book self?
My comic book self is also a ninja. So . . . no.
How old were you when you wrote your first play?
What was it about?
The apocalyse, God, dinosaurs, and one really horny angel of death.
What is your next play about?
It’s called MEN OF STEEL. It’s about superheroes, luchadores, and an indestructible drag queen out to save the world. It goes up at CENTER STAGE, NY in MARCH 2007. It’ll be awesome. For more info, goto www.vampirecowboys.com
- Qui Nguyen as interviewed by Matt Schatz, 11/2006