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BWW Blog: When a Hapa Girl Finds Her Community and Her Strength at Tisch

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BWW Blog: When a Hapa Girl Finds Her Community and Her Strength at Tisch

In my very first blog post, I had described my first two years of training and briefly mentioned my time at the Experimental Theatre Wing (or ETW) Transfer Track. As we all sit in quarantine, and the likelihood of me returning to the city becomes less likely in the near future, I have been reminiscing about that semester-a semester that will always be close to my heart.

During my first week at ETW, I remember being absolutely terrified. I hadn't found a solid group of friends or an ensemble that made me feel completely at home in my past studio, nor was I used to following my own impulses at full force, which is what we were being trained to do... But that's exactly why I chose ETW, to push me out of my comfort zone. Nervous and excited, in the first class, we did something I had never experienced before: we looked at each one of our ensemble members, noticing them and acknowledging their presence in silence, going through each person one by one, almost studying them. We then went around the circle, and were told to say whatever was on our mind for however long we wanted. Some cried. I can't remember if I was one of them or not, but I remember it was then that one of my future best friends (though I didn't know it at the time) put her hand on my shoulder, as if to say "I'll be here for you. It's ok".

There was something about ETW, and the community that encouraged you to be completely yourself and dive deeper into whoever you are, that allowed me to feel the most confident I had ever been.

This confidence was something I took with me for auditions and it helped me in having the confidence to pursue a role I really wanted. At Tisch, though it's rare to be cast in the mainstage productions, there are SO many student productions, and the student productions at Playwrights Horizons are some of the most creative and beautiful pieces I have seen. I was lucky enough to be cast in a show as a strong Asian character, speaking out on idealization, objectification, and sexualization in our society. Not only was this the first time someone else had cast me as an Asian character, affirming my insecure Asian identity, but this was the first time I had ever been in a show where I truly loved the story so much, and most of all, I loved everyone in the cast and team. I often look back on our time fondly, we would have game nights together, playing Super Smash Bros until 3am, and then sleepy eyed, head back to our own dorms and apartments.

I can tell you that I found my community in this specific semester. It almost felt like everything I imagined college in NYC to be, was happening. Finally, after 2 years of school, I felt safe among my ensemble and felt like I had found a "squad" at ETW (We called ourselves the Asian Squad). I had made friends with my other Asian classmates, and we bonded, talking about classes and life while eating noodles and dumplings during our lunch breaks. We went out at night in New York, going out to restaurants, and then wandering around arm and arm until midnight, talking and laughing. We spent a lot of money that semester on food, but... I am so glad we had all those adventures since it seems we're deprived of all that now.

BWW Blog: When a Hapa Girl Finds Her Community and Her Strength at TischI think this is the semester where I truly grew into my Hapa (half Asian) identity, talking about it with more pride than ever. Not only from the show I was in and my friend group that accepted and loved me with open arms, but also because I was the secretary of Tisch Drama's first All Asian Arts Alliance. We created a community for Asian artists, and the ability to connect with other Asians and also other Hapas, who also felt insecure in their identity, was truly special.

My best friend, who I mentioned earlier, was also in our little Asian Squad. She and I were cast in the same student show, so we'd go out for food before rehearsals. Among our many cherished moments, one was when we did a staged reading together (which had an All Asian cast!) and then had made plans to go to a party with all of ETW transfer track. We slowly made our way out of Shetler Studios, then immediately wandered back in to use the bathroom as we ate some chips out of a bag, giggling and talking. When we finally left, we went to take the subway, and managed to get lost because we were so absorbed in our own conversation. First accidentally going all the way to Brooklyn, then too far uptown. We eventually made it to the party 2 hours late after getting out at the wrong subway stop, dodging a subway rat, and succumbing to taking an Uber. We danced on the rooftop of that party, staring at the NYC skyline, knowing that this would be our last few days together as an ensemble.

These memories are like framed pictures hung on the walls of mind. I like to take all of these down and stare at them sometimes, and I smile. To remind myself that I have love in my life, that I can be strong, and that my identity is valid.

...And to anyone reading this, that also struggles with their identity, and also feels insecure, please know that your identity and experiences are valid. You are valid.


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