In 2010, Taipei was my first stop on a solo, three-country tour of Asia. The moment I got off the plane, I was overwhelmed by the genuine kindness and generosity that I experienced from strangers. This feeling was instantly transformative, and so contagious that I felt as though I was the best version of myself for the entirety of my stay. Before leaving, I promised myself that I would return for a longer period of time to see what more I could learn from Taiwan and its people.
I have spent the last year and a half fleshing out my plan and getting the pieces together.
My plan: I will live in Taipei from December 11, 2012 to mid-October 2013, and study Mandarin Chinese at National Taiwan University. I have been accepted into NTU's International Chinese Language Program, where I will study Chinese full time from January-August.
My goal: Write a bi-lingual one-person play that communicates how this culture of kindness has been cultivated and maintained in a country that is constantly striving to keep its peaceful “status quo” with China.
The play will be experience-based: a year in the life of a New Yorker in Taiwan. It will be a one-woman, multi-character show, in the style of Anna Deavere Smith’s work. Characters other than me will be based on interviews that I will conduct with people in Taiwan of all ages and occupations. The play’s story will stem from my interviewees’ perspectives about Taiwan’s political status with China and the rest of the world, and the ways in which such delicate politics manifest in everyday interactions between individuals.
Through my physical performance, I will exhibit elements of Taiwanese live performance and storytelling that I observe at live theatre and dance performances and rehearsals. I plan to attend at least one fee-based live dance and theatre performance a week, and see as many free cultural events as I can. I will also train in traditional Chinese dance and martial arts, taking at least two classes a week. The piece will be strongly movement based, so training in these techniques will be essential.
In terms of story, I cannot say what my play will be about until I have immersed myself in Taiwan's culture and spoken with my interviewees. There are many stories to tell, and I will need time to find the right one.
My ultimate purpose is to create a play which broadens my audiences’ understanding of Taiwan as an important global entity, while passing on the warmth and generosity that I was surrounded with during my initial visit to Taipei.
So, I have my project. Now I need to find the money necessary to make many important aspects of my research possible. While American student loans do not apply to study abroad, I have a received a 3-month Huayu Enrichment Scholarship from the Ministry of Education in Taiwan for one quarter of my Mandarin studies at NTU. I will not be allowed to work while in Taiwan due to visa and scholarship restrictions, and have applied for all of the grants that I have been able to find that I am eligible for. Unfortunately, my project and credentials make me ineligible for most of the applicable grants that I have been able to find.
I need to come up with about $15,000 more than I have been able to save so far in order to thoroughly complete all aspects of my research within the 10 months that I have in Taiwan. I have continued to look into loans and apply for grants, but the only way that I will be able to do this is with your support. I will use the $3,000+ raised with Kickstarter to pay for the following aspects of my research:
- Ten months of dance and martial arts classes: these range $10-15 per class in Taipei, even with the discount received from buying multiple-class cards. As my plan is to take 2 classes per week, I will spend at least $100 per month towards this movement research component.
- Ten months of live theatre and dance patronage: I plan to see at least one fee-based live performance of theatre or dance each week, as well as attending as many free cultural events as I can. I anticipate spending $100 each month on tickets for such events.
- Travel in Taiwan and to Mainland China: I plan to attend deity and ghost festivals throughout Taiwan as a means to explore the island, and learn about various Aboriginal communities. I also hope to make a trip to Mainland China to explore Taiwan's Chinese roots, and the ways Chinese culture has changed on the Mainland.
Since graduating from Syracuse University in 2008, I have worked hard to build my career as a professional actress and playwright. In 2010, I completed my first one-woman show, Lillian Smith: Being Heard, about the American writer Lillian Smith (1897-1966). Lillian, who lived in China from 1922-1925, devoted her writing career to fighting against segregation, racism, and sexism in America. My piece asks the audience to consider who they choose to segregate themselves from. It concludes that while we have come a long way toward creating a world of acceptance, we still have a long way to go.
My goal in life is to become the most compassionate person that I can be. I believe that I can achieve this by remaining open to new ideas and by constantly seeking knowledge. I aim to change the world through my art by opening my audiences’ eyes to ways in which they can be compassionate, critically thinking people. I look forward to creating a play that presents the rich culture and history that Taiwan has to offer, and that shares my experiences with Taiwanese people, known for their inherent kindness and compassion, with audiences around the world.
If you can't wait for the finished project (and who could blame you!), I will be blogging about my experiences as they happen. Follow me at applesandazaleas.
Thank you so much for your time and contribution.
Risks and challenges
I anticipate MANY challenges in completing this project. Yet, as they say, where there is a will, there is a way!
My biggest challenge will be learning the language. Mandarin is not an easy language to learn! I know that I will face many obstacles in communication during my time in Taiwan. While this will surely be frustrating in the moment, I anticipate that such encounters will make for humorous elements of my play's story.
I also anticipate having a hard time finding Taiwanese citizens to interview who will feel comfortable sharing their views on politics and ethnicity with me. There is a very specific etiquette system in Chinese and Taiwanese culture regarding topics that are and are not polite to ask about. My interview questions will definitely involve such taboo topics.
I have faith that I will be able to win the confidence of my interviewees because I am genuinely interested in learning from them and sharing their voices with the world. I am hopeful that my professors at NTU will be very helpful in explaining social rules that I might be unaware of and helping me find ways around them.
Whatever twists I may encounter during my 10 months in Taiwan, I am confident that I will find constructive ways to handle them and, perhaps, weave them into the story of my play.
Again, thank you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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