Monthly Archives: October 2015

TEA Official Trailer now available!

by Melinda Menard

University Theatre’s official trailer for our production of TEA by Velina Hasu Houston is now available on our YouTube page.  Check it out!

 

University Theatre Speaks – Interview with Velina Hasu Houston

by Melinda Menard

An interview of our upcoming production of TEA
with playwright Velina Hasu Houston

by Jo Krukowski

September 29, 2015Velina Hasu Houston

 

 

 

 

JK: In the introduction to Tea, you describe writing poetry from a very young age, and that you began the process of writing Tea as a potential novel. Was there a specific moment in your life when you realized you wanted to share your stories in a theatrical mode? 

 VHH: I cannot recall a specific moment, but the general desire was profound.  I knew that I wanted to write from a very early age, when I was five years old.  At the time, I told my mother that one day she would see my name on a book.  So the urge toward the literary was present, but it had not yet found its path.  When I was eleven, a teacher that liked my poetry encouraged me to write a play.  I had never even read a play, but she was kind enough to provide me with several.   The minute that I read my first play, I was mesmerized.  I felt that I had opened a door and found “home.”  I wrote my first play at age eleven.  After that, I read and wrote voraciously, eventually moving to Los Angeles to pursue master’s studies in playwriting.  Interestingly enough, I have come full circle and adapted the story of Tea into a novel, which was my original intention.

 

 JK: You have discussed how Tea was born out of interviews with approximately fifty Japanese women who were living in Kansas. As a person who grew up in an army family with a multicultural background, was there something that struck you the most about the stories these women shared with you? 

VHH: The women’s stories struck a deep chord in me as a multicultural, mixed-race, and transnational female.  Rather than being surprised by the stories, I found them fiercely relevant.  Like them, I was at odds with Western culture because of being steeped in Japanese culture in the context of a U.S. culture that did not understand it.  Their challenges, of course, were of a greater magnitude than mine because they had been reared in Japan and were trying to survive in the U.S., of which they knew very little.  But the challenges I faced and continue to face as a mixed race Japanese who does not look typically Japanese often made my trials difficult in a different kind of way.  So their stories reinforced my understanding that life in the U.S. for immigrant cultures was not comfortable or undemanding.  It was hard enough to be a mother or wife, but to be a mother and wife in a society that considered you less than a human being created unique tests.

As for the women’s stories about their marriages, successes, and failures, I was too young to understand them.  I did understand them, however, as dimensions of the women’s journeys from which we all could learn. I absorbed them at face value.  They were meaningful illuminations of encounters that time and again challenged the human spirit.

 

JK: Is there a particular line in Tea that you feel truly captures the message and spirit of the play, a line that you love seeing performed on stage? 

VHH: The prelude, the invitation to tea, is one of my favorite parts of the play because tea is represented as a metaphor for the women’s souls.

 

 JK: Has your view of this play changed since it was first written in 1981? Has the passage of time made its message change for you?

VHH: As the years go by, I have a different relationship with the play, largely due to the passage of time in the lives of women that inspired the play.  I don’t know if the message has changed for me, whatever that message is – I think, like a painting, a play inspires different take-aways for different spectators.  For me, the play speaks to the notion of a fish out of water, of a stranger in a strange land striving to make sense of her new world and to find a way to belong.  In this way, Tea should reach beyond its Japanese-ness into a greater consciousness about the survival of men and women around the world as they venture into new ways of being in somewhat unfamiliar places.

 

JK: What do you most want the audience to take away from the experience of Tea?

VHH: First of all, I am deeply appreciative of those who read the play and come to see it in production.  Because the play illuminates my own unique U.S.-Japanese upbringing and is inspired by my mother and by many other Japanese immigrant females that I have been privileged to know, of course it holds a special place in my heart.  It is my hope that spectators travel with the play and find pieces of themselves in the journeys that the women in the play take.  In such traveling, I think it is impossible not to be unaffected by the women’s struggles – both comedic and tragic – to find a place of belonging in a place where little or no room was made for them.  I think that all human beings know what it feels like to be in a strange place and feel that one does not belong.  In Tea, the spectator hopefully is drawn into the play and sees the women’s struggles from the inside out, allowing them to open themselves up to a different part of life in these United States and very different American dreams.

 

For more information on show times and how to purchase tickets, please click here.