Artistic Director’s Note: THE CHINESE LADY

by | Oct 18, 2021 | From the Playbill, ART Productions

It’s my honor to welcome you today to Artists Repertory Theatre and to our production of The Chinese Lady by Lloyd Suh. I want to immediately thank our hosts at Portland Center Stage for the chance to present our work this year in the Ellyn Bye Studio, while our home theatre of many years at 1515 SW Morrison is undergoing a transformational renovation. On behalf of all of us who worked to bring today’s play to the stage, we are grateful that you have joined us, and that we have this opportunity to share the experience of this performance, together.

It’s still hard to process that 18 months have passed since our last production ended its run, just three days before the pandemic closed theatres all over the world.

While we have done our best to pursue our mission during this time by producing audio dramas and short films, offering online classes, and developing dozens of new scripts via Zoom, the fundamental theatrical element–gathering together and sharing space—is irreplaceable.

The process of making a play begins by assembling a community of artists who agree to create something together, but the purpose of the play can only be achieved when audiences gather to witness and respond. For most of the past 18 months, we’ve not known when it could be safe to gather. We began rehearsals and the creation of the play’s design elements not quite knowing if we’d be able to achieve our purpose, to share the performance with you, in a theatre.

“And yet, here we are,” as Barbie Wu, in character as Afong Moy, will soon say to you when the house lights fade, the stage lights glow, and the curtain rises.

Founded in 1982, Artists Rep is quickly approaching 40 years of thought-provoking, challenging, daring, complex, complicated, sometimes controversial—always emotionally resonant—theatre experiences. This amounts to more than 260 plays and thousands of performances. The pandemic canceled or postponed approximately 10 plays and nearly 300 performances that would have been added to the numbers above and Artists Rep’s storied history. Many of the plays that were planned for production in 2020 or 2021 will never be produced. It’s both a practical matter, and one of timeliness. However, one of the plays that endures is The Chinese Lady. Written before the pandemic, and set largely in the 19th century, playwright Lloyd Suh’s extraordinary text is simultaneously about our nation’s past, present, and future.

I believe The Chinese Lady is one of the most delicately crafted, incisive, and potent plays I’ve ever read. When I first encountered the script nearly three years ago, I shared it with brilliant Portland actor and ART Resident Artist Barbie Wu, to see if she felt as strongly about the play as I did. She committed to playing the title role almost immediately upon reading it, and we began planning the production. Following two postponements during the course of the pandemic, I am thrilled to finally share this vital and beautiful work–in person–with you.