Sunday, January 06, 2013

An Interview with Zhu Yi

Relatively new Youngblood member Cory Finley interviews relatively new Youngblood member Zhu Yi.

(As a documented alien, Zhu Yi never remembers to carry her passport around. That's why she always ends up drinking orange juice while everyone else is having adult beverage.)

CF: I know you write in (at least) two different languages -- do you find you write differently in different languages? Have you translated your own work?

ZY: I've been speaking/writing/dreaming in Chinese through my life but in English only for 4 years. Of course I write much more smoothly in my first language, but sometimes skillful writing can distract a writer's mind and cover the deeper truths. Since I have nowhere to hide in English, because I don't know how to gift-wrap my plays with beautiful (or correct) language (all I can hope is making less grammatical mistakes every time), I have no choice but to focus more on the structures, stories, images, themes, etc.. I become more honest when I write in English. And I find the great power in the simplest words.

More specifically, the difference between writing in Chinese and English is like the difference between - this is going to be inappropriate - making love with the lights on and off.

I write in both languages.

CF: Do you write on a computer? On paper? What are the day-to-day mechanics of your writing process like?

ZY: Firstly, I randomly put words on a piece of paper. And somehow I know what to write about by staring at it. Then I write on my laptop with the help of e-dictionary and food.

CF: COMBO-QUESTION: What is your favorite food, who is your favorite writer, and what do you think that writer would think of that food? Or, alternately, what do you think that food would think of that writer?

ZY: My favorite food is Sichuan food. It's super spicy but subtle because it's well balanced by different kinds of spices. My favorite writer is Charles Mee. His plays are “ broken, jagged, filled with sharp edges, filled with things that take sudden turns, careen into each other, smash up, veer off in sickening turns.” And that sounds exactly like Sichuan food to me – stimulating, fierce, heated and well-balanced.

(a typical Sichuan dish)

CF: What is your most irrational fear?

ZY: That no one loves me.

CF: Why theater, rather than any other art form?

ZY: Among all the art forms, I like the ones that are practical and associated with daily life. That's why I prefer design to fine art, architecture to sculpture, and storytelling to academic writing. They make me feel alive. However, even with the practical ones, the magic would only happen when you take a leap of imagination and dare to be less “useful”. So I choose theater, an art form can swing between practical and impractical, earth and heaven.

CF: I've been considering whether I should create a profile on an online dating website. Do you have any thoughts on online dating? On dating in general? On the internet?

ZY: I tried online dating once, and I could never artfully or truthfully answer the question “So how did you guys meet?” Neither could my boyfriend at that time.

But I think you totally should create a profile. You know, more and more undocumented immigrants are fostering the improvement of immigration laws by self-exposure; more and more gay people are advocating for gay rights by coming out. I believe if more and more people try online dating, one day it will be no longer awkward to answer “so how did you guys meet”. Plus a tall handsome smart young Yale playwright will bring an increase in the overall level to the online dating pool. So dooo it for the world, Cory.

My thoughts on dating in general... I was amazed by how many terms Americans have invented for dating: hang out, casual date, exclusive date, booty call, friends with benefits, take a break, open relationship, open marriage, etc. It's been a pain in the ass for me to adapt to such a system, but lately I've realized when it's not The one, cultural background, timing, distance, language, or anything would make it complicated; but when it's right, it's just two human beings wanting to be together. Nothing is simpler than that.

(I do cheesy things.)

CF: Any upcoming productions you'd like to promote?

ZY: My new play HOLY CRAB! will have a workshop presentation at New York Theatre Workshop in March 2013. It's a dark comedy looking at American immigration history through the metaphor of Chinese Mitten Crabs in Hudson River.

Another play of mine I AM A MOON will have a staged reading at IATI Theater on March 27th, 2013.

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