Artist Profile: Playwright Eva MeiLing Pollitt
The Planet Connections Festivity is a socially-conscious arts festival in its tenth year. Each show highlights a cause close to the artist, raising awareness for an organization/topic of their own selection.
In partnership with the Planet Connections, Hapa Mag is highlighting some of the mixed-race artists of Asian descent participating in this year's Festivity.
Artist Profile: Planet Connections 2018
Playwright: Eva MeiLing Pollitt
Show Dates: Wednesday July 11th - Friday August 3rd
What makes you Hapa? How do you feel about the word? Is it how you identify?
My grandmother was born in China and I'm a quarter-Chinese. I'm on vacation in Hawaii right now actually and saw the word on a bag of mixed rice I do identify as mixed—part-Asian—and therefore HAPA.
What was it like for you growing up half-Asian? Are you first- or second-generation American? Do you think this has had any sort of influence on your identity?
My grandmother (we call her Naina) and her sisters were always around while I was growing up. All of them have struggled a lot in their lives. They were raised in China by a distant military general and an abusive stepmother.The American men they married, who brought them to the states, were all abusive. The heartbreaking stories they tell have been a part of my childhood and adolescence. I think they've had a hand in developing my empathy for people in pain, especially immigrants and refugees; especially women and children suffering from abuse.
I don't really look like I'm part-Asian, and people are always surprised when I tell them I'm part-Chinese. I've even been in some situations where people around me have made jokes or said racist things about Asian people or Chinese people—things they would likely not have said in my presence if they knew who my grandmother was. All of it has made me prouder of my heritage, and more intent on debunking stereotypes around Chinese-Americans and their culture.
Do you feel being a mixed-race artist has shaped the way you approach theatre?
Yes, and no. One of my current projects is a screenplay based on my grandmother's life in China and her struggle to integrate into life in the states—but this is the first piece I've ever made that's associated with my heritage. It's hard to say what exactly inspires each work I make: it could be a recent break-up, a museum I visited, a dream I had, or a mixture of all three. I don't want to limit myself to only telling stories associated with my race/heritage, however, I also feel the power in the stories that my family has carried here, and I want to bring these for others to witness.
What you made decide to get into the theatre arts/film?
I was a very dramatic, talkative, and attention-demanding child, and my mom signed me up for a drama camp when I was four. It was a perfect fit, and my passion for storytelling has only grown with each passing year.
You’ve traveled all over the world. Where is your favorite place and why?
Oh, France. It is the place (outside of the States) that I've spent the most time in, having worked and studied there. All of France! The incredible Alps, the sparkling Mediterranean, the bread (the bread!!!), the wine, the adventurous theater and film scene, and most of all the poetry that is innate in the language and the people. The deepness and importance of relationships that I experienced and witnessed with the French people I met are something I don't see as frequently in the States.
I am moving to China in September to teach English for fifteen months, and I'm really excited to travel around China and other parts of Asia!
Tell us more about your play Éléphant?
I wrote this play while living in France - it was inspired by a mix of dreams (one where I gave birth to an elephant), documentaries about prostitution, paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec. It follows the journey of a thirteen-year-old growing up in a late 19th-century Parisian brothel as she has her first experiences with sex and love - and as she clings onto a dream to help her survive some brutal realities. It will go up with the Planet Connections Festival this summer and a portion of all proceeds will benefit the Polaris Project - an organization that works to combat modern-day human trafficking.