Amelia Roper DRA ’13 is an award-winning Australian playwright and first-year Yale School of Drama student. Her latest play, “Hong Kong Dinosaur: A Real Aussie Love Story,” which won her an Emerging Artist Commission at the Melbourne Theatre Company, opens Thursday night at the Yale Cabaret. The News sat down with her at the Cabaret Monday night to discuss her play about cross-cultural love and dinosaurs.
Q Tell me about the play.
A A couple of the characters are Australians and one is an old Tibetan paleontologist. One of the central characters is from Hong Kong and moves to Australia to be with an Australian boy that she meets in Hong Kong. That’s the central story. And then there’s an earlier time period story about some first generation Irish people at the top of the 20th century in Australia who are going through the First World War. So it’s mostly about Australia, but each of the characters embodies different national identities or idea about nations.
There is a lot of stuff about journeys, about the homes that you leave and then the homes you end up in. Specifically the countries you leave and the countries you end up in and how you change. But also it’s a non-naturalistic play, so there are characters that are representative of ideas or times or politics in a way that makes them much bigger than just their character.
Q What inspired you to write the play?
A Well, I first wrote the play in Australia. I’m an Australian playwright and a first year at the Yale School of Drama. I moved over here six months ago. This play was written as a state company commission so Melbourne did a company commission when I was working as a playwright in Australia. I wanted to write a play that was entertaining and accessible and came from a long tradition of styles of theater that Australia has done for the last, maybe, 48 years but with a couple of changes of things that I felt that we were not doing enough of in Australia. I was feeling like a lot of Australian literature and a lot of Australian plays were too white and too masculine, and that there was a celebration of a militaristic ideal that was brought back particularly in the 10 years that we had our Prime Minister John Howard — which was similar years to the years that you had with George Bush ’68. They were friends and there was a definitely revival of the military and the army as a national identity, which bothers me.
Q Are there any characters in the play that are reflections of yourself?
A They all are elements of me trying to work out who I was as a white Australian theater maker. It really was about me trying to work out where I had come from, which was convict stock, and what I could do to be part of that conversation. As with all of my plays, there are elements of stories or elements of characters that are either myself or people I know but I don’t tend to write from my own personal events, and I don’t tend to write from exact historical events. I tend to make things up that are representative of ideas. I think it gives you more freedom.
Q There are dinosaurs featured in this play. How do they fit into this play?
A When you are talking about ideas of nations, and even ideas of humans and who was somewhere first and how long has someone else been there before them, if you look at that on a timeline and if you then include dinosaurs on that timeline, what you realize is that what we take for granted in terms of country lines, like the sea lines on different nations, not even they are definite. They are moving and shifting and changing.
Q What do you want people to take away from this play? If there is any message that you want people to come away with, what would it be?
A I hope that there will be different ones for different people. But I do think that we make conscious decisions to take part in a national activity or country and we have the power to change those things if we [want] to. And isn’t it amusing that we are all similar, that people in every country are similar and that we all act out of fear in some ways and that we all act out of love in other ways and that this human experience is so similar? And particularly during the production of this play, which is an Australian play written originally for an Australian audience, for us to realize it is just as relevant in another country.
“Hong Kong Dinosaur: A Real Aussie Love Story” will show at the Yale Cabaret on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., with late showings on Friday and Saturday night at 11 p.m.