This week the Brodie Black Box Theatre will host the emotional and highly political Asian-American play Carry the Tiger to the Mountain, directed by associate School of the Arts professor Randy Kaplan.
The play, written by Chinese-American playwright Cherylene Lee, is based on the real-life story of Chinese mother Lily Chin (sophomore Nicole Tsz Man Wong) whose son, Vincent (freshman Derek Wang), was brutally killed in Detroit in 1982 in a racially motivated incident by two white men. After watching these criminals receive almost no punishment for their crime, Lily began to speak out about the injustices perpetrated against Asians in her community and in greater America. Her efforts led, according to the program, to the nation's first non-black federal civil rights lawsuit.
Wong did an exceptional job conveying the emotions of the bereaved mother seeking acknowledgement of the heinous, hate-motivated murder of her son. From her tragic breakdown as she was confronted with his death to the final scenes when she stood up, despite her pain, and demanded that his worth and rights as a human being be acknowledged, Wong's performance consistently drew empathy and understanding from the audience.
Memorable performances were also given by senior Dana LePage who portrayed Vincent's devastated fiancée, as well as by Wang as Vincent himself whose kindness and piety made his murder all the more unforgivable. Additionally, senior James Merenda as a pro-domestic car salesman did a very effective job of expressing the mental state of ignorant white America toward Asians in the 1980s. As the program revealed, the, "…American auto industry [at that time] was tanking" due to the greater efficiency and lower prices of Asian imports. Merenda's use of racial slurs, his assurances that buying only American-made vehicles was practically a patriotic duty, and his lashing out at all challenges to these convictions fully represented such unfocused anger and assumptions of superiority on the part of whites.
Besides being director, Kaplan also impressively choreographed all of the cast's tai chi sequences. According to her, she chose to put on Carry the Tiger to the Mountain this year because it is a play that shows how, "Racism can move from something personal and private to something public and political" - in short it is something that poisons individual relationships, as well the interactions between people on a national level, as seen in the tragedy of Vincent Chin.
Carry the Tiger to the Mountain will be performed Thursday evening at 7 p.m., Friday afternoon at 6 p.m., and Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. Tickets are $6. More information about upcoming School of the Arts events can be found at http://www.geneseo.edu/~sota.