In all silliness, they play Oprah, media mogul Rupert Murdock, Ann Curry, Mel Gibson, and an Irish guy because it only sounds charming in America. This is a bit of the silliness in the fringe play YBW: Yellow Brick Wall Angry White Men Player do By Two Happy Asian Girls.
Siho Ellsmore and Marisa Marquez leave no topic untouched from the sensationalism of asian of age books with the use of word tiger and rice and luck in the title and even how to be a Wall Street mogul = marry an Asian woman.
Artsy Fartsy Show interviewed the actresses who also wrote YWB which is now in the 16th Annual International Fringe Festival in New York City mounted at HereArts.
Tell me about how YBW was developed at the Leviathan Lab and how was it more instrumental than developing it at another lab like Playwrights it Dramatist?
Leviathan Lab was very instrumental because we wouldn’t have met if they didn’t form the Asian American Women’s Writing Group. We were at an initial meeting for the group and since we were all women they needed people to read the guy parts. They kept handing us the male roles. That’s where we first got the idea to do the show. To be honest, Siho just started to get into writing and Marisa had found it very difficult to get into other writing labs in the city. Leviathan’s doors were open with Ariel (Executive Director of Leviathan) encouraging us every step of the way.
You put a lot of current pop culture references and jokes, is the development and writing ongoing or improv?
Both. When Ann Curry was let go, the scene had to be re-written. It made it better, funnier and current. We like that there is possibility for improv, even though our director Danny Williams comes from an improv background he doesn’t want us to go to off the cuff. There is a script and there are a few moments where we have written in the chance to improv. In the development of the Danny encourages we do improv and claim it so it becomes part of the show. One of our favorite lines in the show was something Siho improved and Danny said keep it but own it.
What did you find most exciting about putting Asian stereotypes on stage and are you afraid a mostly white audience would agree with some of the rhetoric. For example, New York Magazine in 2010 made the story about Asian student population at Stuyvesant HS was causing a panic of white parents to enroll their children in private schools. YBW even brings this topic to stage. (I was surprised that an audience member did give a grumble of approval to your Rush Limbaugh lines).
It was so much fun to skewer the stereotypes and put in things that personally may have hurt us in the past that we could now claim as our own. Satomi, our producer from 4Hawk Productions, is also Asian and she has been told on numerous occasions how great her English is. We live in a melting pot, but why is it that an Asian face means foreign and not American. If anyone should stereotype and objectify Asians it should be us. It lifts the mirror for other Asian to laugh and for others to see that there is still an issue.
With that said, you leave no taboo untouched and everything is fair game. What do you want your audiences to walk away knowing about the pop culture exploitation of Asians?
We actually had a barometer in rehearsal – if we said “oh, that’s offensive” we put it in the show. We wanted Asian Americans to be empowered and proud to be Asian and we want people to see that we have come along way but we have a long way to go. The issue with the casting in The Nightingale at the La Jolla Playhouse is a prime example of the situation we make fun of in one of our scenes and casting issues we have faced personally. It looks like its ok for everyone to play Asian but Asians can’t play anyone…even Asian.
Siho and Marisa are a fabulous duo, do you plan to work together again and on what?
This is a partnership here to stay. We actually have list of shows…well maybe just titles that we think are funny that we would enjoy making into shows.
When you look forward to your next project, what do you hope to bring from this experience to your next performance?
Just to have fun and trust that if something goes wrong enjoy it and make it part of the experience because it is live theater. I think some people take acting and performing super serious, us included, but with a show like this we can let loose and enjoy the fact that we are entertainers.
For more information visit ybwproductions.com