What animal do you think you are, and what animal would people think you most resemble?
Staceyann Chin, writer and performer in her solo piece, Motherstruck!, came to my theater class on Tuesday, September 20, and asked the room of theater majors to introduce ourselves by answering this seemingly innocent ice breaker. And yet, this way of thinking of ourselves in the eyes of others is pervasive to her work. Describing herself as a lesbian, Jamaican immigrant, she spoke about how the way others see and define her affects and alters her art.
Staceyann is first and foremost an activist. She speaks candidly about her opinions and tells us to take our lives in our own hands. As someone considering entering the tumultuous world that is the theater industry, I find it inspiring to speak to someone who is making a living performing something she is passionate about. Staceyann uses the stage as a vehicle for the things she knows to be important, and is changing the world one audience at a time. Her writing and performing comes from this passion and the desire to right the world. If the world was a utopia, she wouldn’t know what to do with herself. If she is to be remembered at all, she said, she wants to be remembered for being on the right side of history.
Like Staceyann, I look at theater as a place where I can make a difference. The stage is not just a place where I can transform, it is a world where I can show a different perspective, and have people leave with a fresh outlook, thinking more critically about their own opinions. Good theater, in my opinion, leaves you with more questions than answers. You apply the thoughts explored in the piece to your own life, and learn from the theatrical experience. Staceyann speaks about good theater in a similar way, saying that, to her, the best theater makes her connect to characters or to an idea: the best theater is about the human experience.
In our class, Staceyann had us contemplate what it means to be an American. It turned out that most of the students in my class, myself included, were confronted with our own American identity when we studied abroad. We became “the other”; being American separated us from the norm. I believe this ties back into the opening question she posed to us: once again Staceyann had us think about our own identities through the eyes of others the same way she does when writing her pieces. Motherstruck!, the solo piece she is performing tonight, September 21, at the Hop, is about her struggle toward motherhood, and how different and difficult her path to having a baby was, as a lesbian, Jamaican immigrant in New York. It is truly about the human experience; you will laugh, you might cry and I believe you will leave the theater with a new perspective on motherhood and your own life.