The Milwaukee Repertory Theater's The Chinese Lady: Why Representation Matters
By Livia Peterson
Despite I provided a discussion why I love the Milwaukee Repertory Theater beyond words are able to describe, the one production in particular immediately received excitement upon its announcement, as part of the 65th Anniversary Season. Indeed, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights and Ayad Akhtar’s Junk is just the start of enthrallment. Yet, Lloyd Suh’s The Chinese Lady announcement instantly delighted me and reinforced how much I love the Milwaukee Rep.
By the playwright Lloyd Suh, The Chinese Lady tells us Afong Moy was escorted from Beijing to America and displayed as the Chinese Lady in 1834 and inspired by the true story of America’s first female Chinese immigrant.
I was born in Vietnam, abandoned by my biological parents, and adopted at aged two. My sister was born in China, abandoned by her biological parents, and adopted at aged four. We have an Asian background and consider ourselves Asian American. We are rarely represented in film and on the stage. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater ensures diversity and inclusion with the equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives and it is reflected in the mission statement: The Milwaukee Repertory Theater ignites positive change in the cultural, social, and economic vitality of its community by creating world-class theater experiences that entertain, provoke, and inspire meaningful dialogue among an audience representative of Milwaukee’s rich diversity.
The Milwaukee Repertory Theater continuously outdoes itself in the most understated manner and yet, the Season programming thanks to the Artistic Director Mark Clements, the Executive Director Chad Bauman, and among others never disappoints. Nonetheless, the elation was obvious during The Chinese Lady announcement. The fact that I will see myself and my sister represented on the stage in two months leaves me speechless every time I think about it. The minorities such as women are still underrepresented and yet, experiencing one’s voice to be heard is special, especially provided by my favorite theater company. We have a voice. We have dreams. We crave representation. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater acknowledges those things and more, even in the Social Media Club.
I’ve attended at least half the season twice due to all the productions resonate with me in various degrees. Yet, I have an inkling The Chinese Lady is bound to extremely strike a chord with me. Not just its storyline may resonate more than I anticipate, but I bet everything else such as scenic design will as well.
Once again, thank you to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater for producing a play reflecting my heritage. The Rep amazed me from day one and indeed, The Chinese Lady and other productions reiterates why the Rep is so meaningful to me.