We had the good fortune of connecting with Liviera Lim and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Liviera, what inspires you?
Gosh. I am inspired by so many things, and I think that’s the beauty of living this life – that inspiration is everywhere. Whether you can harness that inspiration and turn it into something you like, and that you find worth creating, is a whole other challenge though. That being said, there are a few broad categories and places that I can’t help but look to for inspiration.
One is different creative mediums. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to work in a wide variety of creative mediums like film, theatre, visual arts, games, music, poetry, curriculum, and a bunch of the subcategories within all of those. I think there are so many things to love and borrow from each one. I’m a big fan of the phrase “you’ve gotta know the rules to break them” and I think that it’s really important to know how each sort of medium works so you can adjust it, mix it up, and make it your own. Why does something work well in books, but not onstage? How can you take some element of an illustration and represent it with music? When I’m stuck, I like to ask what can be borrowed from different things I’ve seen and try to twist it into something new, and that’s how I get something fun like a speech that follows three-act structure.
Another place I get a tonne of inspiration from is the people in my life. I’m surrounded by creative friends living in such a creative city. By nature, I love collaboration: I’m a huge Dungeons and Dragons fan, I adore my writing team, and even when playing games I really prefer when everyone is working together towards the same goal(s). Having people who have their own ideas, and are open-minded about building something together, even if it’s something different than they intended, or if there’s sort of a push and pull of different visions, has resulted in a lot of the work I’m particularly proud of. I like to leave my ego at the door and come to the table trying to build the best thing possible, even if that means “killing my darlings” if you will.
The last sort of thing that stands out to me as a source of inspiration is myself – as arrogant as that sounds. I’ve done a lot of social-emotional work as an educator, which has led me always to be taking notes of how things make me feel and unpacking why that might be. I have a habit of chasing the things that make me feel good: themes, aesthetics, tropes, etc. And when something makes me feel upset or uncomfortable, I try to reconcile that with what’s the underlying cause and how I can either work on that or make peace with it. That shows up a lot in my work, the sort of wholesome themes, as well as the growth or development of people, communities, skills, and ideas.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My main thing is working full-time for Young Storytellers (YS), a youth development nonprofit that seeks to raise young voices by partnering students with mentors to write a story and seeing them brought to life by professional actors. I love that YS really combines so many of my loves: teaching, writing, theatre, play, and volunteering. It’s really given me so many opportunities to connect with different people, learn about new things, and be able to use my voice for what I believe in.
The past 3 year has been full of challenges (1 being more challenging than others if you could guess), but also new ventures and discoveries. A short list of projects I’ve been able to engage with as part of the Young Storytellers team:
* Creating systems, timelines, outlines, and materials for volunteer training and management
* Development of staff and volunteer workshops on anti-racism, working with students with different needs, and social-emotional learning
* Leading storytelling curriculum at the elementary, middle, and high school levels
* Adaptation of an in-person one-on-one writing curriculum to a completely virtual collaborative group-storytelling program
* Creation of a weekly live-read series featuring student stories, performed by community and celebrity guests
* Integration of Teaching Tolerance’s Social Justice Standards into all of our programs, centering Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action
* Production of a virtual storytelling educational series called Story Time, available to anyone for free
* Partnering with Paramount Pictures as a Teaching Artist to deliver various writing programs at Le Conte Middle School over the past 2 years
Aside from that, I also do work for Alterea Inc., an immersive experience company as part of their narrative and education teams. On the narrative side, we write themed immersive events that place the audience as protagonists of the story, so I support world-building and quest development through research, asking questions, and just bringing and building on ideas as a team. On the education side, I also advise on how to integrate educational standards and learning objectives into experiences if necessary, as well as bring classroom experience and knowledge around things like assessment, development milestones, and scaffolding to the table. I’ll also act in the shows if I can.
In 2018 and 2019, the team worked on a cool immersive show called ASCEND, where I got to research the Chinese pantheon of gods and integrate them with characters from Greek, Maya, Egyptian, and other cultures. It was super cool bringing my own culture to the table and exploring how it could interact with other cultures. We put the show on at the USC ballroom, and then took it to the Hollywood Fringe Festival (with some rewrites). I got to play one of my favorite characters I wrote: Meng Po, a sassy and badass old lady with a mind-wiping soup called Mi-hun-t’ang (迷魂湯). I even got to drink the Elixir of Youth and do a fight scene in my QiPao wielding battle fans as weapons.
Both of these are kind of a mish mash of things that I really love and always wanted to do professionally, and my past experiences totally led me here without me even knowing it. I worked at camps every Summer for like 10 years. I was the Artistic Director of a student run theatre company called Grab Bag Theater in high school went to school for Theatre at USC (fight on!), where I got the chance to do Medical Clowning at LAC+USC Medical Center and attend the ASTEP Artist as Citizens Conference. Originally, I thought I wanted to be an actress, but very quickly realized after moving to LA that 1) it really wasn’t that simple, and 2) there are so many other things that bring me joy and fulfillment. I really fell in love with arts education, immersive theatre, nonprofit, and all those sort of little things that don’t exactly fit into one job description.
I wouldn’t say it’s been easy, but I will say it’s been pretty fun, and there are plenty of opportunities for skill-building, new connections, and self-discovery. When I’d just graduated, I was broke and in debt, which was a huge challenge just trying to figure out how to budget, save, and pay off debt without financial support. I’d worked a lot through college though, which helped a lot in applying the same types of money and time management skills to a new situation. I also emotionally had to (and still have to) come to terms with a lot of aspects about my identity, the world, and my place in it. I struggle with being overwhelmed whenever bad things, particularly violent events, happen and get highlighted in the media. It’s an ongoing process to be able to figure out how to respond to things in a way that moves my personal mission forward in a sustainable way. I still fail sometimes at that part.
Also, in terms of grappling with who I am as an artist, a professional, an immigrant, a woman, a queer person, and all the intersections of my identity is something I’ll probably be unpacking for the rest of my life as the world and its norms continuously shift. Or maybe this is my quarter life crisis – who knows? I definitely don’t like the challenges, but I try to embrace them, and I’m the type of person who usually looks back from the other side and appreciates who I’m able to become because of it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ooh, yes. I love planning. Assuming this is pre / post-panorama, I have a whole itinerary.
Sunday morning, they’d fly or drive in so I gotta give them a chance to settle in, but we would kick off their visit with the afternoon tea service at Chado in Little Tokyo. I’d show them the Young Storytellers office in the Arts District, and then we’d head off to Huntington Gardens until it closes. Then we’d have dinner at a Hong Kong Café called Garden Café in Alhambra.
Monday, we’d go Universal Studios.
Tuesday, we’d relax after a long theme park day. Sleep in. Eat an Indonesian late breakfast / early lunch at the food court in West Covina’s Hong Kong Plaza (my go-to stalls are are Janty Noodle and Bakmi Parahyangan), then go to Chinese Ancient Foot Massage in San Gabriel to decompress. Walk around the Westfield Santa Anita in Arcadia and maybe catch a movie. Definitely get some Sugarfina and dinner someplace (or from a few places) there.
Wednesday, we’d have to head to Disneyland, because it’s Disneyland. And then Thursday, tackle California Adventure Park because these parks take a full-day to enjoy in my opinion.
Friday, we’d need another rest day. Brunch with a view at Castaway Burbank and then thrift shopping in Hollywood. Go to Koreatown for some BCD Tofu, and then hit some breweries and bars in DTLA and the Arts District. My personal favorites: Angel City Brewery, Boomtown Brewery, the Resident, the Broken Shaker, and Clifton’s.
Saturday, we’d sleep in again before going on some hikes, sustaining ourselves with some Banh Mi from Banh Mi & Che Cali. I really like going up to the Wisdom Tree and then hiking the Hollywood Sign, but Eaton Canyon Waterfall also has a very special place in my heart. We would have to reward ourselves with some Korean BBQ afterwards before hitting either the Theatre District in Hollywood to see a black box show, or going to a main stage show at one of the big theaters (Pantages, Forum, Ahmanson, etc).
And just like that, a week is done, and I get to tell my friend that they need to come back so I can take them to all the places we missed this time around!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Young Storytellers! I’m not just saying that they’re great because I work there, but I work there because it’s so great. YS really believes in the power of storytelling and wants to make it equitable and accessible for all, especially young people. I’ve believed in the mission for years, ever since joining as a volunteer actor in 2016. YS has taught me so much, not just about DEIB, nonprofits, education, and the entertainment industry, but also instilled in me a lot of organizational habits, communication skills, social-emotional knowledge, and just abilities to “adult” in general. They also invited me into a community made up of some of the best people you’ll ever meet and I’m so lucky not only to be a part of it, but to be able to contribute my voice in meaningful ways.
Yi Yu Brandon Moningka Lilith Ferreira Zoey Schack Charise Proctor Darcy Moningka Brandon Moningka