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BWW Interview: Nancy Ma Vividly Illustrates HOME Is Where Her Heart Is

Morgan-Wixson Theatre presents the perfect show to commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Nancy Ma’s solo piece HOME.

BWW Interview: Nancy Ma Vividly Illustrates HOME Is Where Her Heart Is

Morgan-Wixson Theatre presents the perfect show to commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Nancy Ma's solo piece HOME. Streaming on May 15, 2021; HOME is directed by Geoffrey Rivas. Nancy squeezed some time in to answer a few of my queries before her opening.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Nancy!

Thank you, Gil!

What would your three-line pitch for HOME be?

HOME is a story about a girl from Chinatown, New York with wild dreams, and an even wilder family that never stops reminding her of where she comes from. Laugh with Chet, hope with Joyce, cry with Mama, rage with Baba and hard stare with Ah Geen. Let's make our way back home.

You last performed HOME live on The Los Angeles Theater Center stage just before COVID-lockdown. What were the first thoughts that ran through your mind when you heard of theatres closing?

"This sucks. This really sucks. But, am I allowed to be bummed about theaters closing when the world is dying!? Have some perspective, Nancy!! This sucks. I'm sad. I'm scared. Why did I choose this career?! Is this the life I'm supposed to lead?!!"

This past year with so much on pause, I had to reflect hard on why I act and write, and if this was worth it to keep pursuing. For better or worse, I'm still landing on yes. I believe in us. We do matter. It's no small feat to make another person laugh or cry or dream or be transported to a new land. It's magic to vibe off an audience. I can't wait for all of us to be back in the theaters.

Is your May 15th performance being streamed live? Or has it already been taped?

We taped it last month. Thank you, Mirai! Thank you, Bill! Thank you, Dean! Thank you, Niko! Thank you, Geoff! But the talkback will be 100% live.

Did you have to make any tweaks between this virtual performance and your last live outing?

Yes, yes, most definitely! The DNA of the piece will always be around belonging, acceptance, family and growing up. But because this show is based on my life and my reflections, as I change and grow, the story also shifts. When I first performed HOME in 2019, some of my characters were more one-dimensional. Some of my explanations were a bit too surface-y. Some of my themes were not as lived in yet. Getting to revisit the show now for the virtual performance allowed me to imbue all that I've learned and experienced from the last two years. For example, I like my parents a lot more now than I used to, and I think that helped with how I played them for this performance.

How did you originally connect with Geoffrey Rivas to direct both your LATC and Morgan-Wixson Theatre productions?

I was performing an earlier version of this show in Burbank. The audience was predominately white, and I had this overwhelming feeling wash over me like I was this doll on display being observed. I wanted to quit doing this show and put it to rest. Of course, guess who was in the audience, hidden in the back? Geoffrey Rivas! We connected. I was super resistant. He was patient. I challenged him a lot. He was extra patient. Geoff pushed me to get deeper, to be more vulnerable, to trust that I had something to share. He is a godsend.

What cosmic forces brought you together with Morgan-Wixson?

BWW Interview: Nancy Ma Vividly Illustrates HOME Is Where Her Heart Is There's this pattern in my life. I fall deep into pits, and it is the love of others that pull me up to air. So cheesy, and I don't care. During the pandemic, when I was crashing at my family's house, like sleeping on a mattress at the foot of my mother's bed, Michael, the president of Morgan-Wixson, called me and asked if I would do a Zoom reading for his company members. He had seen the show with his husband, Dre, who's a friend of mine, when I performed at LATC. I questioned why he would want my show. He pushed back with love. Deep down, I'm always game if I'm coaxed with love. I did the reading last October, and then they asked me to be part of their Solo Series.

How long has the gestation period of HOME been?

Jeez. I started writing bits for it in 2014.

You morph into about twenty different characters in HOME. Which is the most challenging character for you to portray during the show?

Me. It's so uncomfortable to go back to the versions of yourself that are developing, messy, and mean. I look back at how I spoke to my parents; I was an angry, ungrateful, proud kid. I look back at my romantic relationships; I traded self-worth, so I wouldn't physically be alone. Similar to how I look back at my family, I was doing the best I could with what I knew. I forgive myself. Besides, a messy, angry, sad and complicated me is way more fun to watch.

If you were to submit your main character of HOME (yourself?) for a dating site, what qualities would you list?

Are we doing spiffy Tinder bios?

Scorpio sun, cancer rising, cap moon.

Enneagram 3.

My bar is on the floor.

What character flaws would you omit?

This is a trap, no? I say this at the end of my show... "I'm difficult, too. I hate asking for help. I often want to run far, far away. And all that love, grace and forgiveness stuff irritate me." However, love, grace and forgiveness irritate me because I so desperately need them always.

Are you a first generation Chinese-American?

I was the first in my family to be born in America, so yes.

When did you settle in New York City?

Since day one, baby!!

Did you experience much systemic racism growing up in New York City Chinatown?

That's a question! What would you consider this - a family of five living in a studio apartment with roaches and rats, a mother who works for pennies at a sweat shop, a father who works ten hours in a kitchen making less than minimum wage, a park and a library that was eh, good enough, for the folks in the neighborhood - is that systemic racism? A system allowed for this to exist right next to other more known New York City neighborhoods. Or is this about economics? Or is this about immigration? I don't know. Did I go around telling myself, people are racist and sexist? I don't remember. I don't know. What I do remember is knowing from young, this world wasn't fair to all. What I do remember as a kid was my dream of making this world better, especially a world that would honor my ancestors and family. I would never trade my upbringing in Chinatown for anywhere else.

BWW Interview: Nancy Ma Vividly Illustrates HOME Is Where Her Heart Is What is the latest with your podcast Hustle in Color?

Bianca (Lopez) and I only did one season. I started focusing on HOME, and developing a show about Grace Lee Boggs and James Boggs. And Bianca? She is a booking queen, and I feel like every other commercial or show has her face in it! She also started doing stand-up, and started the fun-nest project last year - a baby! I love her.

What's in the near future for Nancy Ma?

Hugs and lots of hugs, and standing too close. Can I say it here and hope it manifests?! I'm going to book work that will bring me to New York City! I've also been writing a show about Grace Lee Boggs and James Boggs, my heroes, my obsessions. They have evolved my ideas around partnership, place and purpose. Look them up and be inspired too!!

Thank you again, Nancy! I look forward to meeting your 20 characters in HOME on May 15th.

For virtual viewing tickets for HOME May 15, 2021 @ 8pm PST; log onto www.morgan-wixson.org or https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe.c/10636261


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