We had the good fortune of connecting with I-CHEN WANG and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi I-CHEN, why did you pursue a creative career?
When I was a girl, I often thought, if only I could find a place to live freely and happily when I became a woman. By freely, I meant not being asked to be nice all the time or expected to find a husband and reproduce. By happily, I meant being able to be with someone I like despite our genders. I read stories from different cultures until I realized that place simply did not exist.
Theater directing is one of the best things that happened to me in that scenario. At first, it was the desire to see a world where women can do whatever they want unapologetically, and it grew into the exploration of what makes a person who they are. The more I work on the stories of others, the clearer my longing is: I’m not looking for a perfect model. I long to see journies about how people come to terms with who they are.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The work I create in theater is very personal. I don’t plan to change the audience’s mind with a night’s performance; the invitation to think more creatively about what a person could be is the goal. To achieve this, sharing different narratives that are often unheard of is very important. At the same time, the stories I am interested in telling are about the here and now: What are the challenges people face in our time? How do we live as ourselves when these challenges prevent us from doing so?
Another important aspect of my job as a director is to create space for people on my team to feel comfortable and safe sharing their experiences and feelings. I do not believe that people should leave their feelings at the door when they come to rehearsals- instead, I would begin our work time with simple rituals that recognize all the emotions and energy we bring into the room. We are humans before we become artists. We need to take care of ourselves as we make art.
The theater I make is for people who don’t know who they are but are questioning; to offer them different ways of seeing themselves; to empower them to have their narratives and own them. My work on and off stage is a working process to build a world where people can embrace their differences. It’s for the kind of girl I once was.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
During daytimes, I’d recommend them to check out the shows running at the time. There are so many live performances in New York City that’s impossible to see them all. Other than that, many museums in the city have inspiring exhibitions coming up now and then- it would be nice to start a day by visiting one of the museums before noon and then seeing a matinee show.
For evenings, if they come when the weather is warm and nice, I’ll show them spots I like to hang out at riverside parks. Casually chatting with a group of friends on the lawn and watching the city glows in the dark always feels nice to me.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am blessed to have a lot of loving people in my life that I couldn’t possibly compare their importance to me. And thus, I’d like to share an album I always go back to whenever I need strength or inspiration. It’s “Games We Play (神的遊戲)” by Taiwanese singer Deserts Xuan (張懸). There are ten songs in this album, each portraying a type of “緣 yuán,” the predetermined binding force between one person and another. What speaks to me the most is the acknowledgment of givens in life without losing faith in our say to our future. I’m always going to be powerless over several things but it’s okay as long as I put my energy into the ones that I can help with. I’ll keep communicating with people I work with as we make theater that hopefully gives people like me strength. “Games We Play” is a gentle reminder that I’m not perfect and don’t have to be. What matters is that I offer my best at every given moment.
Dress In Code, 2022, Photography by Nathaniel Johnston Photography – Isabel, 2021, Photography by Nathaniel Johnston Photography – The Community, 2019, Photography by Steven Pisano Photography