Every culture the world over has some form of fairytale, originally created to teach children important lessons on how to or not to behave. They are one of the most basic ways parents have passed down society’s values for generations. Growing up here in America, who hasn’t ever heard of Cinderella or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty? But have we ever taken a moment to think about what these stories really mean? Especially if you’re a young Asian American girl?
For any girl, these stories are pretty hard to live up to since they basically teach us that you have to be pretty in order to attract the attention of a Prince and only then will we get married and live happily ever after. These tales seem to indicate that your whole goal in life should be to marry a Prince (since the Stepsisters don’t, they’re miserable for the rest of their lives). And none of these title characters even do anything themselves to earn the love of their Princes. Plus, why are all the mother characters so mean or depicted as witches? It’s like saying old women might have power, but they’re evil.
And for little girls who aren’t white, we’re not even pictured in the story to begin with, so that’s a huge problem in itself. Even when large theatre companies around the country, or even Hollywood, do plays or films that are inspired by Asian-themed tales, they often don’t cast the roles with Asian Americans, so, all too often, Asians have been white-washed out.
So what’s an Asian American woman to do? After the election and especially during the Womxn’s March, as I looked around at the sea of faces of little girls, mothers, grandmothers, and other allies, I realized that maybe one place to start was for us to create our own stories—stories that didn’t create impossible standards to live up to, that centered on women taking control of our own lives, and provided more realistic role models.
SIS Productions, an Asian American women-run theatre company, invited a number of women to adapt traditional Asian tales or imagine their own new ones. With complete freedom to create whatever they wanted, all the playwrights ended up writing scripts that all had a feminist flair, that included humor and poignancy, and overwhelmingly featured multi-generations of women. Single moms, strong grandmothers, sibling rivalry, inter-generational bonding, and female solidarity are featured themes. But the most powerful revelation through all of them are female characters finding and choosing their own paths in life. This collection of six new 10-minute plays, all written by women and directed by Asian American women, are a fabulous opportunity for parents to share with their kids, and women along with their male allies, to enjoy more authentic representations of women.
This is also an opportunity for local audiences to see 18 Asian American actors performing together on a single stage, which is all too rare anywhere in this country. And perhaps that’s one of the most powerful aspects of this festival—for Asian Americans and, in particular, women to see ourselves reflected on stage. We are not invisible. We are the story.
LAAFF Fest runs June 17–25, playing Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. on Mercer Island in partnership with Youth Theatre Northwest, and Sundays at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. in Seattle at 18th & Union. For more information and tickets, visit: https://celebr8women.