... a blog to make sense of the world through writing and acts of creativity, to reflect on and respond to the crazy world in which we live. Can beauty, creativity, compassion, and activism emerge from this tension?
The premise of my class is that you write plays about what you are passionate about. It doesn't mean that every play you write is autobiographical, but that there is something in everything you write that is about you, in one way or another. I do have a pet peeve when people who have seen or read my plays say, oh now I understand you, without engaging me in conversation about it. They could have pulled something that was antithetical to who I am. Here, I may be saying something very obvious, but I say it anyway. In order to write, you have to know yourself, or be in the process of knowing yourself. Therefore, I have an assignment that the students do a character study of self. I am modeling it for them here.
Though performance is pervasive in all cultures, the form of "written drama" in the Pacific, is relatively recent. According to Diana Looser in her book, Remaking Pacific Pasts: History, Memory, and Identity in Contemporary Theater from Oceania, it emerged in the 1960s, a time of decolonization and self-determination movements.
All across the Pacific, there are different histories, but basically it follows a pattern of autonomy, colonization, and decolonization as the indigenous people strive towards self-determination. As Pacific peoples emerged from colonization, art was used as means of exploring and expressing ideas about politics, identity and culture.
I am writing this blog piece as a way of preparing for a class that I will be teaching at the University of Guam.
I had a sense of myself as a writer probably in 8th grade when I got pleasure from writing poems, letters, and stories, both in and out of school. When I was in college, I shied away from an English major because I was intimidated by their reading list. But I did take all the Creative Writing classes I could, and wrote my first play in an Asian American Literature class.
That play became my first play, Wind Dances. Like most first plays, it was an "identity" play. Who was I as a Japanese-American creative woman, who couldn't break from from the expectations put on her by her rigid father? This play eventually was produced at an Asian American theatre company, the East West Players.
It's so hard to resume writing again after not doing it for so long. Everything in my mind, heart and soul is telling me to start again, to use my "talents," the resources and skills I have been blessed with to contribute to the conversation about the state of the world today.
I know I've said this before. Never mind. Doesn't matter that I've tried, and perhaps failed to stay committed to the project. What matters is that I pick up, try again. And if I drop out again? I will have to have faith that something I write will matter to someone, anyone, and then it will be worthwhile.
Not sure where I will go on this journey in 2017, not a physical journey, but a mental one. I hope it is with as much passion as Nina Simone.
The 2016 version of Festpac was such a beautiful testament to what makes live theatre so wonderful. The energy, commitment, and care for the "ensemble" that those involved put into it to make it happen was a thrill to experience. About two weeks before Festpac, we were told that it was too far from being ready, so it was to be cancelled. The actors, choreographers, and other backstage people (including myself) were very disappointed, to say the least. And with the advocacy of our musical director, Dr. Colleen Jennings, the agreement was that we could do a staged reading instead. In the background though, we told them to take it as far as they could in the time we had left. One of the actors, a very talented Joyce Torres, became the director. She was amazing as she pushed the actors forward. She only had a week as director. It was tough going, and even two rehearsals before our first performance, we weren't sure they would be ready. But when we had the dress rehearsal, it was clear that they were ready. We had three performances and they were very well-received. One of the best compliments was getting a wonderful hug from a delegate from the Tonga delegation, who saw the first performance. This was the first time Pulani was performed by adults in all the main roles. Most of the actors were experienced actors at the University of Guam, and they seemed to have lots of fun with the characters. Yes, there were a lot of shouldas (shoulda had costumes, shoulda had sets) but it was charming in its minimalist style. And the acting really took center stage. It had to. And it worked! So thank you all for your hard work and commitment. You came through with your talent, ntegrity, and pizzazz!
This past weekend, I saw as many of the films at the University of Guam Film Festival that I could manage. There's something about passion projects that is so contagious as far as creative urges go. In this creative phase of my life, I seem to be excavating those urges I had in the past. In this case, I had a stint exploring film in college. (Someday, I'll upload those films on youtube.)
This I seemed to have adopted into my lifestyle: a daily walk lasting about an hour, usually at the beach and a goal to capture an image for a daily Instagram post. As I wrote in a recent blog, this started out as a way to express gratitude. It sort of merged into metaphor captures as well. That is, most of the time, the grateful image is ALSO a metaphor for, I call it, a message from the Universe.
Though it's been a long time since I have been an active playwright in the Hawaii theater scene, I still got an invitation to participate in the One Minute Theatre Festival. Last year was the first time that it came to Hawaii, and it'll be back again this year.
This year, 2016, inspired, I decided to participate in the #365grateful project where you commit to taking a photograph of something you are grateful for every day of the year. At the same time, I had become interested in what Instagram was about, mainly through my daughter @hellodanz. So, Instagram became a way to do the 365grateful.
Because of my new passion for songwriting as my creative outlet, I followed this link provided by a writer/artist I follow - Austin Kleon, a New Yorker article on how songwriters are being shafted in the age of streaming. Another example of corporations doing what they can to get "theirs" at the expense of the creators that make it all possible. As I write this, I am enjoying Apple Music, taking advantage of a 4-month free trial. I enjoy it, but not 9.99 a month worth, and not after reading this article.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.