“My grandmother always equated acting to porn, so she was worried when I started taking theater seriously,” laughs Meiyin Wang ’02, a theater and political science double major who has been involved in theater throughout her life.
After last summer, Wang’s family is finally coming to terms with her passion. And they are not the only ones recognizing Wang’s talent.
When Wang’s plans did not work out last summer, she returned home to Singapore and decided to put up a play. “Postcards from Persephone,” the product of her unexpected summer, has recently won her nominations for Best Director and Best Original Script in Singapore’s Life! Theater Awards, the first annual theater competition sponsored by Singapore’s newspapers.
Wang wrote, produced, directed, and acted along with a friend in “Postcards for Persephone.” The performance went up in an experimental, black box theater where she had staged another play the summer before coming to Yale.
“It was fun because it was just the two students working on the play,” Wang said. The two actresses played 18 different roles in the cabaret-structured play involving the retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone. Wang experimented with how many times the narrative of the same story can change while preserving the theme of the mother-daughter relationship. The characters vary from Persephone and her mother, Demeter, to an alien disguised as a British rock star, to a Japanese woman who lost her baby in the war, and to a stripper with a feminist cause.
“My new interest is in the adaptation of myths,” Wang said. She doesn’t like to restrict herself to the same theme, however.
“I don’t say, ‘I am Asian, I am a woman, I am a student.’ I like to step out of these categories and explore. When else are you ever going to have the opportunity to produce so many plays?”
Wang feels the same way about her Singapore-based production company, Livid Room Productions, which she launched this summer to support “Postcards from Persephone.” The company gained publicity as the first feminist theater in Singapore, but Wang hopes to slowly move away from that image.
“I would like the company to deal with social issues,” she said. “But I hope to ease the public into the fact that it’s not restricted to being a feminist theater.”
Livid Room Productions is not currently producing any shows since Wang is in the states and would rather oversee the company now that it is off to a good start. At the ceremony of the Life! Theater Awards on February 26, some people, having noticed the company’s potential, came up to her partner to show interest in sponsoring the company.
Even though the awards were given to older directors and playwrights, these offers and prospects for the future keep Wang optimistic.
“It was cool to be nominated,” Wang says. “Because I am young, it’ll give both the company and myself more credibility.” While she modestly notes that the Singapore theater scene is a small competition pool to be chosen from, she hopes that the nomination will facilitate her transition from being a student writer to a professional writer.
At Yale, she has acted and directed in many Dramat shows. Although “Postcards from Persephone” will probably not be coming to Yale because of its Singaporean quality, “Trojan Women,” a Dramat experimental show that Wang is directing, will be going up after spring break.
As for after Yale, she is still deciding between pursuing her interest in theater or political science. If she chooses a career in theater, she said she would be interested in directing.
There is, of course, also the possibility of pursuing the juncture between theater and politics. The award ceremony for Life! Theater Awards, although Wang did not attend it, was interesting for her in that it took on a political stance against the censorship of the arts in Singapore. While she has no intention of infusing her plays with political meaning, they have already had an impact in Singapore, both in social and artistic terms.
While Wang does not know whether she will choose a career in political science or theater, she has already, in a sense, fused the two disciplines. “Postcards to Persephone” has already succeeded engaging with society as much as political science can.
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