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Posts tagged ‘Fu-Gen Theatre’

In Conversation with Nina Lee Aquino on Directing “acquiesce” & 15 Years of Collaborating with Playwright/Actor David Yee

Interview by Bailey Green

acquiesce, directed by Nina Lee Aquino and written by David Yee, kicked off Factory Theatre’s 2016/17 season “Beyond the Great White North”. The play marks Yee and Aquino’s 15 year anniversary of collaboration. Yee wrote acquiesce 15 years ago as part of the playwrights lab at Factory. Aquino was invited to a private reading of the play with dramaturge Brian Quirt. “In our hearts of hearts we knew we would come back [to acquiesce],” Aquino says. “But other works were getting first in line. Looking back there was a good reason for that, I don’t think David could have finished it before and I don’t think I could have directed it, being the director I was then.” acquiesce was rediscovered when dramaturge Iris Turcott found a draft tucked behind a filing cabinet at Factory. Turcott called Yee, gave him two notes and told him it was time to work on the play again. “It has always been one of my favourite unfinished plays of David’s,” Aquino says.

Photo of David Yee by Dahlia Katz

Photo of David Yee by Dahlia Katz

acquiesce tells the story of Sin Hwang, a novelist who receives news that his father has died. As per his father’s instructions, he embarks on a journey to bury his father. “He discovers secrets about himself, about his father and family history that have been brewing underneath,” Aquino says. “He gets to confront that grief and rage and not get to forgiveness but an acceptance of knowing one can correct the cycle of violence and let go of that baggage.”

Photo of David Yee by Dahlia Katz

Photo of David Yee by Dahlia Katz

Aquino and Yee’s shared values have been a core element to their artistic partnership. Aquino has been director and dramaturge for all of Yee’s plays. “We’re here to fight, to say something, to give hope,” Aquino says. “We are despairing of the world at times but through theatre we feel like we’re doing something about it. The kinds of plays I tackle as a director reflect that.”

Photo of David Yee by Dahlia Katz

Photo of David Yee by Dahlia Katz

Aquino speaks of how individual growth as artists has brought herself and Yee to the right time and place to tackle acquiesce. The more personal David gets with his work, the more personal I get with mine,” Aquino says. “It makes it more harrowing. Now being a mom and AD of this company is very different and I bring that experience to the table.” In 2015, Yee won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama with his play carried away on the crest of a wave (directed and dramaturged by Aquino). Aquino was the Founding Artistic Director of fu-gen theatre in 2002 (Yee is the current Artistic Director) and Artistic Director of Cahoots Theatre in 2009. In June 2012, Aquino became co-artistic director of Factory Theatre with Nigel Shawn Williams, and in the Fall of 2014, Aquino was appointed sole Artistic Director of Factory Theatre.

When asked about how working on acquiesce compares to working on Yee’s other plays, Aquino says that acquiesce has been a very personal process. “An Aquino/Yee work has a social justice to it, an activist voice in it, a revolutionary,” Aquino says. “But [with acquiesce] the social justice is subtle, the angle is different. It’s in a very personal container, which is family, where the heart of an activist is born. It is the hardest Yee work that I have tackled because it is quite personal. acquiesce comes in whispers, the complexity comes in quiet ways.”

Photo of John Ng & David Yee by Dahlia Katz

Photo of John Ng & David Yee by Dahlia Katz

The mutual respect and admiration that Aquino and Yee share is evident, as Aquino calls Yee her “most favourite playwright in the universe.” Aquino says working with Yee always challenges her as a director to grow and discover how to bring the play to life. “I never take his work for granted,” Aquino says. “He challenges me through his work, so what world do I build around the world he has built and how will that coalesce. David writes plays that are yummy for a director, if you’re the kind of director that thrives on imagination. David is magic, so how do you put the magic on stage?”

Photo of Rosie Simon & David Yee by Dahlia Katz

Photo of Rosie Simon & David Yee by Dahlia Katz

Yee takes the stage in acquiesce to play the role of Sin Hwang. Yee hasn’t acted in his own work since Paper SERIES at Summerworks in 2012. “This is the first time he’s accepted to play a role in his own play,” Aquino says. “I’ve depended on him for so much as a playwright in the past. During tech he’s a second eye, so this year will be a bit lonely! On opening who is the one person who will sit beside me? I won’t be able to crush his hand, because he’ll be onstage! There are things about it that I miss, but I don’t see anyone else playing that role.”


by David Yee


Written by David Yee
Directed by Nina Lee Aquino
Co-produced with fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre Company
For full cast & creative team, visit the Factory Theatre website.

Plagued by the success of his first book and haunted by his past, Sin Hwang arrives in Hong Kong with some unusual cargo and a lot of emotional baggage. Featuring a surreal cast of characters, from a foul-mouthed Paddington Bear to a wisecracking Buddhist monk, this sharply comedic and heartbreakingly poignant tale of self, familial and spiritual discovery reflects the cycles from which we must all break free as we find our way.

Factory Theatre Mainspace
125 Bathurst Street

November 3-27, 2016


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In Conversation with David Yee about “Walk the Walk”, fu-Gen’s National Festival of Asian Canadian Women

by Bailey Green

During a fu-GEN theatre planning meeting in 2010, former general manager Carin Lowerison remarked on the lack of plays produced by the company that were written by Asian women. It was an off the cuff comment but the weight behind the statement hit home. “I really wanted to do something,” says fu-GEN artistic director David Yee. “Stats were coming out about the percentages of women directors and writers across the country, and reality is a fraction of those [directors and writers] are women of colour. Theatres were called out and they would say that they believe in women and women of colour, but they just don’t know any, or everyone’s busy, or we don’t have access. And then the initiatives by theatre companies weren’t about engaging with communities or putting a focus on the work.”

Walk the Walk is a national festival presented by fu-GEN theatre and six partner theatres from across the country. The format for the festival was inspired by a conference the company had mounted in 2010 called GENesis. The conference had staged readings, panels and paper presentations from academics in the field of Asian Canadian theatre. It was fu-GEN’s first foray into something large scale and was a week geared towards meshing art and academia. But with Walk the Walk the focus will be on new work by Asian Canadian women from across the country.

“The plan with Walk the Walk was to partner with organizations who had historically not done very well supporting women of colour, even if that was now taking an upswing,” Yee says of the new festival. “We sent out our offer to a lot of theatres. Some of them just didn’t respond, some responded that they didn’t have the time or the money, but some of them really engaged with us. Manitoba Theatre Centre really engaged with us and worked to find a candidate, and to make up the money they were missing from their budget. We found six theatre companies who would go the distance and were invested in changing the landscape.” Yee mentions 2B theatre and Theatre New Brunswick who searched tirelessly to find a candidate. fu-GEN held on for a month before they had to move on. At a national panel at GENesis in 2010, there was an empty chair to represent Atlantic Canada.

The goal of Walk the Walk is to connect artists with theatre companies that may not have had the opportunity to engage with their work. Walk the Walk seeks to create routes of access for women of colour. Mel Hague is facilitating the KXIII this year and the playwright unit is comprised of four emerging Asian Canadian women. “We’re partnering them with the more established creators in the main event for mentorship opportunities and celebrating the work that is out there,” say Yee, “ and it’s exceptional work.”

The week includes four new play readings, a panel, a cabaret and the annual Potluck Festival.

The festival opens with the funny and touching Burning Mom. Written by Mieko Ouchi from Edmonton, Burning Mom tells the true story of the author’s mother and her decision to go to Burning Man after the death of her husband. Tuesday night presents Chinoiserie by Marjorie Chan, “Marjorie engages with history in such an intersting way,” says Yee. “She deals with epic, complex human emotions and roots them in these sort of grand mysteries.” Wednesday night is a panel on the link between nostalgia and colonization, and the friction between them. The panel is facilitated by cognitive psychologist, neurologist and artist Dr Shanti Ganesh from the Netherlands.

Thursday night is Da Jia by Sophie Gee from Montreal. Da Jia is an Asian Canadian meditation on Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and is a multilingual play told in English, Mandarin and Cantonese (with surtitles.) And Friday night is Chinese Vaginies, a performance installation presented by Natalie Gan (one third of Vancouver group Hong Kong Exile). Yee doesn’t reveal the content of the piece, but shares that it is an interactive one on one, that somehow Drake’s involved and that the performance is an investigation of food, labour, racism, violence and the human body. The weekend closes the festival with a cabaret and the Potluck Festival and KXIII.

“It’s stunning, exciting work,” Yee says. “These communities have been under-served for so long and the strength of the theatre community has always been determined by its women. All of the mentors I have had in building fu-GEN were women and women of colour. So when I compare it to my personal history, I find it so strange that that isn’t the work that is celebrated or lauded nationally. They have been the ones driving artistic innovation to a greater degree than anyone.”


When: June 13th – 29th

Where: Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street


For the full festival schedule and more information, visit: