My interview with Ping Chong is the cover story for the May 2013 issue of Dramatics!!!!! Dramatics magazine is the only theater magazine targeted toward teenagers in the United States. I remember reading it (along with Cheer Nation) when I was in high school. I never thought I would write for them. It’s such a full circle moment to write for a publication that you read, especially one you read as a child.
I first met Ping Chong when I was in graduate school at Syracuse University last year. He did a talk on inclusion for people with disabilities in the American theater, and I asked him about his work, experiences, and methods. He then gave me his business card, and told me to give him a call.
Fast forward to later that year, and I received a grant to do a participant journalism project. I chose to attend/report on his annual documentary theater workshop. At this workshop he works with seasoned theater professionals (and me) to develop community-based theater, using his world-renowned Undesirable Elements documentary theater series as the model. This was the first time I ever attempted to report a story objectively, while also wearing my own theater artist hat.
What came of my time in Amherst, Massachusetts changed my perspective on many things about my personal life and my identity as an actress, director, writer, and student of the theater. None of that is in the article. What is in the article, is a brief history of the Undesirable Elements series, resources for youth and educators who are interested in documentary theater, and a Q&A with Ping Chong. I have already received the rewards from writing this piece, and I hope some high school student will pick up a copy of Dramatics in his/her high school library, and know that something as simple as reading can come full circle.