I was immediately intrigued by one word in Leeann’s character description — “Amerasian.”
“Wait… that’s me. That’s actually me!”
Most of the time, I go into auditions hoping to be enough of something — Asian enough, ethnic enough, ethnically ambiguous enough. Actually, I have spent most of my life wishing these things. Growing up I was afraid of being called white-washed or a twinkie (yellow on the outside, white on the inside (kids are so clever with insults!!!)) because I thought it meant I wasn’t enough. And no matter how much time you spend reasoning with yourself that there is no way to be less than your DNA, those insecurities never go away. (PS I did a short lil solo performance about this in college!! So scary!! Nothing worse than being yourself on stage!!)
So when I was offered the role of Leeann, I was ecstatic! Stepping into her shoes and exploring those insecurities in a different time has been so interesting. Leeann is strong, and unafraid, but is pushed passed her limits leading to moments of vulnerability. She’s everything I’m not (nurse, popular, cool), and everything I have wanted to be (cool), while also enduring terrifyingly traumatic experiences.
All six women are left with intense emotional trauma after leaving Vietnam; Leeann is fighting an evolved, more deadly self-hatred that threatens her mental well-being. To me, it sometimes seems like I am so far separated from the Vietnam War. At this time so many people were massacred, and the American youth sent to fight regularly witnessed tragedy. I think my separation from this time is subconsciously for protection, because when I think about all those tragedies happening to people like me, people younger than me, I get so sad and angry.
This is why a play like this is so important to produce now, in 2016. We cannot forget the terrible moments in our history, because we need to learn from them (cheesy!). And by not shying away from what diversity looks like in America today, it makes this far away time a little more tangible.
I hope you come see our show! We have all been working hard for many months to give these stories the integrity and understanding they deserve, and we can’t wait to share it with you (awwwwww)!
Photography by Al Zayed.
A Piece of My Hearts opens May 6th, 8pm. Tickets $15 Advance, $10 Student & Senior, FREE to All Veterans
Zoe Agapinan is a Chicago based actor, writer, and improvisor. This is her second show since moving to Chicago — Yay! She graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2015 with a BA in Theater Arts and a minor in Economics. Her favorite roles while at UCSC include Paula in “Fefu and Her Friends,” Phebe/Adam in “As You Like It,” and Loretta in “The Congressladies.” She currently studies improv and comedy writing at the iO Theater and the Second City. Zoe would like to thank her friends, the Frain family, her lil sister Jasmine for everything ever, and Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble.