“Waiting for Kim Lee” Doesn’t Do Asian American Women Justice

Presented by Asian American Theatre Artists of Boston
Written by Vivian Liu Somers
Directed by Alison Qu

Virtual Staged Reading, July 8, 2020, 7PM
HowlRound Theatre Commons
AATAB on Facebook

Critique by Diana Lu

ZOOM/HOWLROUND — Let’s be clear: Waiting For Kim Lee is not a play; it’s a rant, forced into a dialogue. I hate it when people screech from the steps of a soapbox and call it art (David Mamet* comes to mind). I also hate the superficial media representation-discussion that seems to be the only thing Asian American artists ever talk about.

That was fine in 2016, but right now, we’re dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than the national average and getting hate-crimed for America’s pathetic epidemic response. We’re struggling to keep our businesses afloat, and protesting for our right to exist, and for Black lives. Complaining about parents and how many auditions you’re getting right now seem like outdated and out of touch problems.

It would be one thing if Waiting for Kim Lee had anything especially insightful or new to say about it, but this play just recycles the same few talking points that have already been rehashed by every Buzzfeed article for the last five years. Not only are they stale, but they are also narrow-minded and miss the point.

“We want a seat at the table.” Ok, let’s say you get a seat? Who owns the table? Why do they own the table and decide who gets seats? It doesn’t matter how many tokens get to sit at the table if the fundamental power dynamic stays white supremacist.

“We just need to write our own roles.” Actually there are lots of Asian Americans writing way better scripts than this who are being ignored, plagiarized, and harassed out of the industry. The problem isn’t that there aren’t any writers or producers or directors, just like the problem isn’t that there aren’t any actors. There’s plenty of talented and qualified people that aren’t getting work or are way underpaid when they do get work. Quit pretending it’s anyone but the platform havers who control the narrative.

“My parents aren’t supportive of my decision to quit school and be an artist.” First of all why do you assume it has to be one or the other? Condoleeza Rice is a concert pianist. Maybe you’re your parents say what they say not because they’re the racist stereotypes of the “Tiger Mom” you think they are. Maybe they understand the previous two points better than you. Maybe show them some respect, and show them as the full-humans you complain others don’t allow you to be.

So you feel you aren’t representing in your full humanity. Why don’t you write a play about it? Or, write about all the incredible work that other Asian Americans are doing in the real world: the grassroots organizers doing protesting imperialism and police brutality; the women pushing legislature to decriminalize sex work and laws to protect sexual assault survivors; the doctors and nurses sacrificing everything on the frontlines of healthcare.

It’s good that Somers decided to write her own story. It’s important to start somewhere. The effort is commendable but a first play (or first ten) doesn’t need to be produced.  Kim Lee needs to wait on an actual story with actual dramaturgy.

In the meantime, read Angela Davis or something.

*Queen’s note: Mamet is an edgelord.

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