By Mirae Lee
Belonging is an all too familiar topic in our community, and we constantly find ourselves questioning, struggling, and scrambling with it to not only define where we “fit in,” but also to better understand who we are.
Two artists, Adrienne Wong and Julie Tamiko Manning, takes “belonging” further into complication through their play, Mixie and the Halfbreeds which makes a Toronto premiere with fu-GEN Theatre at the Scotiabank Studio Theatre, Pia Bouman School, from April 3-15.
“An optimistic tale for a remixed nation,” Mixie and the Halfbreeds unpacks the complexities of mixing, and the feeling of living on shifting territory through a playful exploration of being mixed race in Canada. Following the first production in 2009 which premiered in Vancouver, Adrienne and Julie made significant rewrites of the original play for the Toronto premiere, incorporating the experiences of two new performers, Zoe Doyle as Mixie and Vanessa Trenton as Trixie.
Leading up to next week’s opening, I had the chance to squeeze some time from the team’s busy rehearsals to ask them about the play. Check out my interview with Vanessa below as she shares her personal tale and her experience working with the script!
Mirae: How does “The Extraordinary Tale of Two Half Asians and A Bag of Rice” relate to your own personal tale? Would you say you’re similar to your character?
Vanessa: My own personal tale has been quite different (and less magical) than the tale we’re telling on stage. But being half-Asian and navigating those murky waters of being comfortable with who you are and how others perceive you is definitely relatable.
I wouldn’t say I’m similar to Trixie as we see the world quite differently but I have a lot of empathy for her. I can relate to her interest in personal development and her desire to help others. Also, yoga’s pretty great.
The play is about, quoting Adrienne, how “you can belong in some circles, but in others you just don’t fit in.” How do you define the feeling of belonging? How has the definition of “belonging” changed, particularly for someone who identifies as Asian mixed race, from when you were a child growing up in Canada to now (or did it change at all)?
My elementary school was extremely multicultural and while I do recall other kids assuming my Filipino grandmother was my nanny (and feeling confused and hurt by that), I don’t feel like my struggles with fitting in were really due to my ethnicity. I was teased for being good at school. And I felt older than I was. I just always felt separate.
When I went into the part-time Gifted program in Grade 4, I started becoming more aware of race, class, and privilege because I would spend one day a week in a setting that was, if I may be so frank, more white and wealthy. I felt new ways of not belonging. As I grew older and my social circles widened, I began realizing the complexities of perception and the accompanying effects of racial biases.
To me, belonging means feeling accepted. Over the years, I’ve learned that accepting yourself has to be the key priority.
How has your journey been working with Julie and Adrienne’s script?
It has been an honour to be able to work on a new piece and have contact with the playwrights. Julie and Adrienne graciously took our feedback into consideration so the overall process has been thrilling to be a part of. Also, to have my own ethnic mix included in the script is a very special experience.
What do you wish the audience will take away from this play?
I hope the various themes in the play resonate with the audience. I hope it encourages further discussions around being mixed race. I hope people are entertained and feel an emotional connection to something they see or hear.
What’s your dream for your creative career? Or which dream do you think is next?
My dream for my career is to be consistently working creatively.
Mixies & the Halfbreeds
April 3-15, 2018
Scotiabank Studio Theatre, Pia Bouman School (6 Noble Street, Toronto)
Tuesday to Saturday 8 pm | Saturday & Sunday 2 pm
Tickets can be purchased online HERE.
Mirae Lee is the Community Director at Project 40 Collective who currently defines herself as an emerging cultural producer and anthropologist. She recently discovered the beauty of theatre, and hopes to learn more about the amazing BIPOC theatre community in Canada. You can learn more about her at miraelxx.com.