Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries….
May 15th, 2007 → Leave a comment
This week I’m working largely towards my show this Friday and Saturday! I’m excited because the reservation lists are more than half full which means the shows should be packed to full capacity! What a great homecoming show it will be! Nurit, my director for the show here, has really helped me find some new stuff for in the show that I had not found before and it’s keeping the show fresh and alive for me.
There’s so much to do by the end of this month. As soon as the show closes I will be slammed with work towards my 4 show NYC run. I still need to find a place to stay in NYC all of June. I have to do my press and outreach for that show too.
Here’s the info on the show. Please come!
May 18-19, 8pm
Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in Los Angeles!
2100 Square Feet Theater
5615 San Vicente Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Group Tickets (10 or more) $15
I was at Vince’s last night scanning pictures. It’s so much fun at his place because he has cable AND Tivo. Neither of which I have myself. I can only hand one remote control. I always break his TV when I try to turn it on. I watched To Catch a Predator. I think next to Charm School, it’s my favorite show ever. I was jumping up and down everytime the cops took down a pedophile and screaming at the TV.
“Perverted Justice Biatch!!!”
Now onto me talking about stuff I’m learning as an artist….
So I was talking to Daisy yesterday, a documentary filmmaker who has followed my work for the last few years, about how much resentment and trauma I still have from the post show Q&A discussions after my first Bay Area shows in December. And Q&As seem to continue to leave a weird taste in my mouth.
Daisy was there at my show in San Jose and said, “I just wanted to hug you after your show in San Jose.”
I needed it, I was a mess.
I feel it time to come out and say it.
I really felt abused during the Q&As in my Bay Area shows and am in the process of healing from them. I think because the shows all ran 2 hours long and I was exhausted. I really felt a lot of the audience questions were inappropriately invasive.
For my last show Free? I felt questions were really inappropriately invasive, but something about this particular show has really invited a lot of questions that I think are downright mean.
There’s nothing worse than the feeling of doing a very emotionally exhausting 2 hour show only to get a barrage of questions from the audience that seem to not acknowledge the hard work I just did.
I guess what was so upsetting about the Bay Area Q&As was that:
1. People would start asking me very personal questions that I felt were irrelevant to the show and were very invasive questions that you shouldn’t even ask of a friend. I felt that people could not separate me from the persona I portrayed on stage. While the two are closely linked, I don’t think they are the same person. Ironically, one of these questions came from one of my family members during the first show Q&A (“So were you really in therapy?”).
What did any of these questions have to do with the show? Is this all you got out of the two hours I spent with you? License to invade my personal life?! It was very hard to say, “I don’t want to answer that.” Because that would have sounded just as guilty as trying to answer it. And a lot of these loaded questions would really take hours to answer honestly.
2. People asking questions of me like I am the spokeswoman and scientific expert of mental illness. These were the questions I am not equipped to answer. I also don’t like being put in the position of offering cut and dried answers like some kind of “cultural expert.”
“So why is this suicide thing happening?”
“Where is the pressure on Asian Americans coming from?”
“What do you think we can do to stop this?”
“In your research, what were the numbers of Chinese women to other races?”
I so badly wanted to scream out: “I DON’T KNOW!! DON’T YOU THINK IF I HAD THE MAGIC ANSWER, I WOULD HAVE TOLD YOU IN THE 2 HOUR SHOW?!”
3. People who were experiencing or recovering from depression or psychological trauma feeling it necessary to “unload” onto me after a show when I felt it had been made clear during and after the show that I was not the best person to share such information with and I was visibly exhausted after.
Maybe what I’m struggling with is how to be the listener. Or the fact that by default, this show makes me the listener, and I just have to step up and be that person. I’d rather a person unload on me, than kill themselves, but I’ve not been in much shape lately, especially after a long show, to hear these stories. That, and I’m emotionally exhausted by stories of depression to take any more on. I am always moved when people feel close enough to me to share things they’ve not told anyone else but I wish people would understand, it’s really hard on me.
Especially after the shows in the Bay Area, I was so emotionally bankrupt, to have to listen to more stories as some kind of healer, was too much for me.
I guess I could take this as a testament to the show’s success. That it brings people to dialogue. I just wish that it didn’t feel like pressure on me to be some kind of savior.
4. To have worked for over a year on the show, poured my blood and sweat into it, to have obsessed over the tiniest details… only to hear that the audience’s most burning concern is: “So, how do you make money?”
I want so badly to ask back: “And do you want to see my tax returns too?! Was the show that bad and that unmoving that all you care about is how I could possibly make a living by making crappy shows?”
I acknowledge by taking on this topic as a show and by having a public persona that seems (to some) to be very gregarious and personable, that I’ve invited some of these questions to come up, but it’s really painful for me.
And it’s making me resent my audience. Not good.
I feel like I really set out to address impossible questions about depression and suicide as exactly that… impossible. But they keep flooding forward anyway.
Daisy’s suggestion is that I scrap the Q&As altogether. I like that idea. But I also feel left in the dark when everybody just goes home after. I’d like some structured contact with them to know what they thought. I guess what bothers me is when I hear some of the questions, I feel like I disappointed them.
Since those Q&A s in the Bay Area I’ve made adjustments to the post-show that make me feel more comfortable and emotionally protected. I am sharing these adjustments on my blog for other artists who read my blog who also do Q&As. I hear artists often say that they never feel satisfied with how their Q&As have gone. So maybe this will help us all.
Changes I’ve been adapting….
1. I change out of my costume and wash my face for the Q&A. Changing out of costumes gives the audience a way to distinguish me from the “persona” (also named “Kristina Wong”) that I play in the show and understand that the questions they are asking me are directed towards me as the artist and creator. And that there is a difference between the “Kristina Wong” that they watched for an hour and the one who created the show.
I also ask for a chair and some water. In San Jose, I could barely stand and started to cry because I was so exhausted, and the parade of invasive and strange questions made it even worse. They did ask me if I needed a break, but I refused it because I felt guilty about making the audience wait longer. This was a mistake to cave into my guilt. I should have asked them for this break. I should have also requested after my show in Berkeley to not be filmed for an interview on my experience working with the theater as I could barely stand upright and was in no place to talk longer.
2. I now ask that the Q&A session to be moderated by someone who is familiar with me or the show, or at least, by a person who is prefaced beforehand on how to guide the tone of the questions. I ask that they kick off the session with a question focused around the development and craft of the piece and not my personal life or personal finances or anything that is irrelevant. I ask the moderator to kick the Q&A off as a discussion. I also ask that we set a time limit for the Q&A.
What I’m going to start doing, that I have not done before is to ask the moderator to step in when there is an invasive question and ask the questioner to reframe their question around the development of the show.
3. Engaging practitioners from the mental health field to be present at Q&A sessions. If there are questions that require knowledge of statistics or psychological science, those should be directed towards these practitioners. I’m not equipped to answer these questions and should not be answering them.
Things I am still learning:
1. How to refuse to answer questions that I do not care to answer or do not have the body of knowledge to answer without creating an awkward or confrontational moment.
2. How to not be so defensive about my artistic vision. And to be ok with the fact that every audience member will never step away with the show I intended for them to see. That every audience members’ individual experience will inform their take on the show and it will never be exactly what I intended.
3. How to acknowledge in a non-snobby way that “Dammit! I’m an artist, not a scientist! Not an anthropologist! Not a spokeswoman!” when I am asked questions that imply that I am those things.
4. How to maintain control over the Q&A session. How to let the moderator know when I am tired and out of brain space and that it should end. How to let the moderator know when the tone of the Q&A is making me uncomfortable. How to let the questioner know when I am deeply offended by their question (rather than try to awkwardly answer it or smiling politely) without attacking them or making the entire audience uncomfortable.
5. How to explain my experience of past, traumatizing Q&A sessions to set context for the development of this show and create a healthy dialogue about the personal, political, and artistic creation from the seemingly autobiographical. How to use this experience to create a healthy dialogue about boundaries and respect of the artist and her personal space.
6. How to use this experience and process of learning to take into the future of my work.
BLAH BLAH BLAH. It’s a process. And I’m learning.
So, Helena was telling me that when she started her job, she didn’t get much work to do so all she did was read my blog from beginning to end.
So in case Helena ever has a week again like that at work, or anyone else who is bored enough to read my blog. I present you with material to read to fill your lonely hours.
I’ve posted some press as PDFs online. Vince helped me turn these into PDFs because I am so tech illiterate when it comes to making PDFs. I think between all of these articles, and reading my blog, you still don’t get to know the real Wong. But you come semi-close.
The VOGUE Knitting Article
Loudmouth (this is a couple years old)
Anyway, enough bitching and horn tooting. Time to get back to work.