BY NIDHA KHAN

‘You’re pretty hot for an Asian.’

‘You’re so exotic.’

‘Mixed race people are so attractive’.

What is your gut reaction when you hear this?

“My gut reaction is to punch the perpetrator in the face.

Let me explain, what you’re saying is that by default, Asians are unattractive and that I’m an exception. That in spite of my race, which is a part of me that I love, connected to my family and heritage, I’m still deemed attractive by your western standards.

Fetishizing someone because of their race is also pretty gross. Reducing a person down to their racial makeup in any way is dehumanising, and makes you feel like an object. Not Nice. Don’t do it. Thanks.” – Chye-Ling Huang

Co-founder of Proudly Asian Theatre, Chye-Ling Huang’s new play Orientation explores the hard and ugly truths about how dating preferences can be shaped by the stereotypes surrounding the emasculation of Asian men and fetishization of Asian women rather than just simple chemistry.

It’s about asking questions like ‘is love influenced by race? How much of our desires are fuelled by social conditioning – namely a bias towards white people and away from people of colour, especially Asian people? Can love and relationships ever be separated from discussions and compromise around race?’

Supplied by Proudly Asian Theatre

Orientation is a continuation of the themes and stories from Huang’s previous 3-minute documentary, Asian Men Talk About Sex, where eight men speak candidly about love, sex, and dating in NZ. But, rather than narrating people’s actual lived experiences, the play is a piece of fiction. Yes, it is informed by the experiences of Huang and those she’s encountered, but it does not mean every piece of dialogue or event is derived from their own personal experiences.

“The script is an amalgamation of opinions from people I’ve encountered and things I once thought, but on the whole, the themes in the play are ones I’ve come to terms with and feel really comfortable talking about…..It can be hilarious when people assume certain parts of the text are from direct experience. That’s the risk you take when you write from your own specific demographic, but this is also fiction.”

Orientation poster

The play’s purpose is to reflect the lived experiences of Asian Diaspora and empower Asian audiences and artists, but also challenge those whose racial identity has never been questioned or factored into conversations about dating, sex, and love. Huang acknowledges that marketing Orientation is difficult because it feels ‘scary’ to the type of people that she’d like to welcome into the conversations – those who reject the notion that they are racists, but have an unconscious racial bias they either have not acknowledged or are not willing to face yet. Then there are those who may question whether an ‘Asian play’ is for them. But, just because a play is centered on Asian experiences and features an Asian cast does not mean that non-Asian audiences are not welcome and it does not mean those non-Asian audiences won’t find something to connect to.

As Huang explains, “when I see plays made by white practitioners starring white casts, I go for stories that can challenge me, I go hoping to find something relatable and human. I can still relate even though the characters aren’t Asian. The same should be expected of non-Asian audiences seeing a show with a cast of Asian actors. The show explores the character’s struggles. It’s not a giant middle finger to anyone not Asian.”

Chye-Ling Huang is the writer and director of Orientation, playing September 5-15 at Q Theatre as part of MATCHBOX 2018 and NZ Theatre Month.  Student tickets are just $18. For more details, visit: http://www.qtheatre.co.nz/orientation

Nidha Khan is a public health graduate and policy student who spends her time writing about human rights, youth activism, and social issues. She’s also a lover of puns, a terrible cook, and is on a mission to hug every pug in sight. You can keep up with her antics on Instagram at @nidha01 and check out more of her work below:

Directing Change: An Interview with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

An Interview with Anna Neistat: Part 1

The Importance of Respect in Sexual Experiences

Trump’s Zero-Tolerance Policy: The Role Young New Zealanders Play

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