BWW Review: Ann Starbuck Shares Her Personal Journey as TIANANMEN ANNIE
When I heard about TIANANMEN ANNIE at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, I knew I had to see it since I visited Tiananmen Square in 2008 just prior to the Beijing Olympics and knew the immense emotional power of the place. As a college student and member of the Baby Boom generation, examining our society and working toward social revolution via protesting was always important to me. And as such, I admired all the Chinese students who stood up for their rights against all the odds in Tiananmen.
So when I went to China, I took along my I Love Tweety tee-shirt so I could take a picture of myself proudly wearing an American icon when I was standing in the middle of the place where students were willing to speak up and even die to take a stand against oppression, creating a worldwide revolution in the process. After all, the Berlin Wall fell just five months later. And tonight when I attended the show, I wore what I now call my Tiananmen Tweety tee-shirt to hear Tiananmen Annie speak of her experiences there when the protests and following massacre occurred.
In June 1989, Ann Starbuck was an American student on a year's sojourn in China where she was also working as a production assistant for CNN. When pro-democracy demonstrations broke out in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, she suddenly found herself swept up in the middle of historic events while assisting camera crews; escorting a dissident to a news interview; making forbidden friendships. She was there and now shares her story to remind us how important it is to speak up for human rights.
But her solo one-act is more than just that. It's the story of a young American woman who fell in love with China, and of the friendships she made there that would impact her life forever. Starbuck shares her stories by inhabiting all of the people who crossed her path, from her first Chinese friend Mei Mei who taught her how and where to exchange money, her many friends and co-workers, protestors, to her favorite college professor whose only English word was "Anyone?" after asking long-winded questions in Chinese. Starbuck speaks Chinese, adding a touch of authenticity and lots of humor to many of her characters.
TIANANMEN ANNIE is all the more moving because it is true. It's a one-of-a-kind personal narrative, making for a unique and emotionally moving entertainment.
Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038. One more performance on Saturday, June 27 at 3pm. Starbuck has plans to take it to other Fringe Festivals as well. Tickets are $15. RESERVATIONS: (323) 455-4585. ONLINE TICKETING: www.Plays411.com/TiananmenAnnie or www.hollywoodfringe.org
Photos of Ann Starbuck in "Tiananmen Annie" by Annie Lesser.