Q&A: Single Asian Female

Q&A: Single Asian Female

posted in: Big Brains Events, Blog, Q&A | 1

Hot Chicks with Big Brains are incredibly excited to be partnering with La Boîte Theatre Company for the duration of their 2017 season. This year’s performances promise to be as engaging as they are diverse, with a whole bunch of incredible women helping to ensure their success.

Kicking off the season, and setting the bar high, is Michelle Law‘s Single Asian Female. We spoke to three of the play’s leading ladies, Hsiao-Ling Tang; Courtney Stewart; and Alexandra Lee, to find out what we can expect on preview night.

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Anna Apuli (Crapuli)

What’s the main reason you decided you wanted to be part of the Single Asian Female cast?

Hsiao-Ling Tang: There were many reasons I decided to be a part of this play, but the main reason was I felt the characters of this play were strong intelligent women’s voices that needed to be heard.

It showcases different stages in life, generational gaps, family domestic struggles and, finally, portrays real women from a culturally diverse background.

The way Michelle has written the women is so funny and tragic all at the same time, but it’s the truth in their words and experiences that I wanted to bring to light for all audiences in Brisbane.

Courtney Stewart: I’m a huge fan of new Australian work, and jump at any chance I have to be a part of its development. Three very powerful female characters drive the story, so that’s also really exciting.

Michelle Law, the writer, is an absolute trailblazer and her work is provocative, hilarious and honest; this story represents the very real relationships we all have in our lives.

Alexandra Lee: As soon as I read the script I wanted to be involved. Hell, to be honest, as soon as I saw the title and that it was written by the wonderful Michelle Law I was pretty keen. We have so much incredible theatre in this country, but I have never seen a play that represents the contemporary experience of Asian women in Australia.

It’s smart, funny, and quietly revolutionary.

In what ways are you similar to the character you play? In what ways are you completely different?  

Hsiao-Ling Tang: I’m also a mother of two daughters (although mine are much younger).  My character, Pearl, is a woman struggling between her family commitments and her own pursuits, which I relate with looking after my young kids and being able to perform in a play and pursue my passion. I’ve thankfully never suffered physical or emotional abuse from anyone, let alone a spouse, as Pearl has. I don’t speak with an accent, and I’m of a different generation.

Courtney Stewart: I think I have a similar quick and high energy to Mei. I also think we’re both very cheeky! But we’re still very different; especially when it comes to the relationship Mei has with her older sister, Zoe. In real life, I’m the eldest, and my younger sister and I don’t fight the same way that Mei and Zoe fight. My sister Amy and I are each other’s biggest fans.

Alexandra Lee: I totally relate to Zoe on the social anxiety front! I’m much more comfortable on stage than talking to people I don’t know. She’s also a bit of a walking disaster, which is very me. But she is much more highly-strung than I am, and suffers from severe panic attacks – something I’ve been very lucky not to have experienced.

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Hsiao-Ling Tang (Image via Facebook)  

What’s been the most challenging moment you’ve faced while working on Single Asian Female?

Hsiao-Ling Tang: The most challenging thing is being forced to work with these incredibly funny, intelligent, talented women supported by some of the most genuinely delightful men and cracking up everyday at how funny and silly we can be, then coming home to my partner and children and convincing them how tired Mummy is and how hard I’m working.

Courtney Stewart: The biggest challenge about working on this play has been how closely I identify with the characters. I say “challenge” because working with characters and relationships that closely resemble those in real life can be taxing emotionally.

This show is a real watershed moment for me, because I have never seen faces or stories like mine represented on stage before. It’s a huge deal!

Alexandra Lee: Probably trying to get a handle on my character’s mental illness. So many people live with anxiety, and I think it’s really important that there is an accurate portrayal of that on stage.

Describe the funniest moment you’ve had on set?  

Hsiao-Ling Tang: Oh gosh, there’s been so many.  It’s whenever we are improvising dialogue as background filler for scenes.  That’s when some classic gold comes out. But I can’t reveal specifics, as it’ll be a spoiler.  Oh, but wait until you see the “sex scene”.  Haha!  I’m not in it, but the outtakes could make a really hilarious web series.

Courtney Stewart: You know what? That’s very hard to answer, because every single person involved in this show, the creatives and the cast, are all hugely funny.

But if I had to pick one moment in particular where we were all finding it hard to breathe because of our laughter, it would have been during a rehearsal where we were all throwing out ideas to re-work an insult line in the script.

Hearing our stage manager, the incredible and proficient Peter Sutherland, read out possible configurations of insults gave me asthma because I was laughing so much.

Alexandra Lee: We’re cracking up uncontrollably over something every day, but it’s been a lot of fun with Patrick Jhanur and our director, Claire, trying to come up with the most awkward sex scene we can think of!

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Courtney Stewart (Image via Facebook)

What has given you the greatest sense of achievement as a member of the Single Asian Female cast?

Hsiao-Ling Tang: Two things: the achievement of being able to pursue my passion of performing in a play while juggling being a mum to my two girls and a loving partner to John, AND being able to bring a voice to this magical, amazing character, Pearl.

Courtney Stewart: I feel a huge sense of ownership over this show because our powerhouse director, Claire Christian, has this amazing ability to encourage us as artists to use our own cultural contexts and personal, historical narratives to collaborate to bring this work to life.

Alexandra Lee: Come back to me once we’ve done a performance!

I just feel so proud to work with and learn from these amazing women I share a stage with.

What are you most excited about when the show starts on February 11th?  

Hsiao-Ling Tang: Being able to relax into my character even more, to really own her and to play with the other new character… the audience.  That’s the best bit about live theatre.  Oh and also spending a bit more time with my babies, too.

Courtney Stewart: I’m really excited to be a part of sharing this story with everyone who comes to see it. It’s such a beautiful show, and the run is going to be over far too soon.

Alexandra Lee: I really hope that there are young women with an Asian background out there who can see this show and see themselves in it, and feel like their experiences in Australia are valid and real and that theirs is a story worth telling.

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Alexandra Lee (Image via Facebook)

What’s next for you, career-wise?  

Hsiao-Ling Tang: I get a little break, and then in May I start rehearsals for Queensland Theatre/Griffin Theatre’s production of “Rice”, which will tour Sydney and Albury Wodonga after it’s Brisbane season.

Courtney Stewart: Later this year, I’m going to take on the role of Assistant Director to Paige Rattray on another new Australian work for Sydney Theatre Company called Australian Graffiti by Disapol Savetsila. I’m also a core member of a collective of over 20 Asian Australian artists that are working on a number of multi-artist devised projects to be work shopped and presented in Sydney later in the year.

Alexandra Lee: I’ll go back to Sydney to work on the ABC’s consumer affairs show, The Checkout, where I’m a writer and presenter.

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Single Asian Female runs at Brisbane’s La Boîte Theatre Company  from 11th February to 4th March. Fancy a discount AND the opportunity to rub shoulders with playwright Michelle Law on Tuesday 13th February? Grab your ticket to the Hot Chicks with Big Brains’ Special Preview Night right here!


Answers by Hsiao-Ling Tang, Courtney Stewart and Alexandra Lee

Featured Image and Illustration by Anna Apuli

Questions and Edits by Emma Kate Lewis

One Response

  1. […] here for Friday or Saturday, quick!) and there is huge demand for the show to tour nationally. We interviewed the stars of the show before opening night, and now here’s a chat with the Director, Claire […]

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