Thinking through and writing about issues that rouse
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.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.