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.
This MAY explain why there hasn't emerged YET a strong body of plays in Guam and Micronesia. Guam is still a colony, and the American-affiliated Pacific also has a complex history that doesn't lend easily to challenging the status quo. The establishment of Chamorro Immersion schools, as has been done in New Zealand and Hawaii, is a good sign towards cultural pride and preservation. There is also more work being done related to self-determination. Can anything occur on Guam that will inspire art with the aim to be part of a "movement"?
There are many reasons to write a play, if one is compelled to do so. Tracing my reason back to the beginning, I remember being very impressed with live theatre. In high school, I was thrilled seeing a production of The Wizard of Oz when I visited my cousins in the summer in Kona. I was blown away by the Pirates of Penzance in college. I think I would have liked to have written for film or television, as that was what I was familiar with, but it was a struggle that I wasn't willing to go all in on. It seemed more "realistic" to get a play done, than a film. (Both are difficult). So I started to write plays. And kept doing it. Learning more. Mostly it was self-expression. Exploring an idea, trying to figure out who I was as I worked out who those characters were.
But somewhere along the way, it became about more than just me. As I wrote, I realized that I do not live in a vacuum, that what I care about as an individual is connected to what I care about as a person in a community, in a society, in a larger context. I do struggle with "does it really make a difference", but I also believe in planting seeds. A seed planter may never see the mature tree, but if she hadn't planted the seed, it would be nothing.
In 2017, it is time. Time to challenge the status quo. Time to use art as a means of understanding yourself, and as a means of understanding the world in which we live. Then to take that understanding and put it in the direction where you think it will (or may) have impact. I hope this class that I am teaching is a fertile seed, the start of many plays to be written as the people of Guam explore ideas, take stands, and propose a direction.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.