10 questions: Nina Lee Aquino

1) What the fuck is going on?
It’s the 5th annual Potluck Festival. The only festival in Canada that’s dedicated to developing works by Asian-Canadian playwrights.

2) How have you developed as an Artistic Director during your time with fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre?
I became bossier.

3) Are there any themes that are common to the work being presented in fu-GEN’s upcoming Potluck Festival?
None whatsoever. True to the potluck concept, each playwright really offers a unique “dish.”

4) What were some of the major challenges involved in turning this annual one-night-only event into a six-day festival?
Money, people, space, time and finding food to feed people for six days.

5) How do you overcome the static setup of a traditional play reading to make it into something that feels exciting and dynamic for the audience?
We make it kinetic.

We have a kick-ass festival “set” (design by Jackie Chau) that’s there for the readings. We also have a wonderful lighting designer to provide support for the directors and to spice things up a bit for the reading. Each presentation gets tech. Time/rehearsal as well – so it’s more than just park-and-bark style.

It’s amazing what you can do with music stands on stage.

6) How well are Asian-North Americans being served by and represented in contemporary Canadian theatre?
Not very well.

That’s why fu-GEN exists.

7) How does the company find the balance between on one hand working from a specific and exclusive ethno-cultural framing (e.g., producing only Asian-North American playwrights), while on the other hand advocating for a greater multiculturalism?
We produce Asian-Canadian playwrights because no one else is doing it. And our stories are just as important and relevant as the rest of Canada. We’re here to remain visible and present in the Canadian diaspora. So that people can go, “ah, that’s Canadian, too.”

We’re developing Asian-Canadian theatre artists to diversify the Toronto theatre community. So that when somebody from Stratford or Shaw see a fu-GEN show, they can see Asian-Canadian talent and go, “oh, i want to work with that designer or actor” and then they do. It can happen. It’s already happening.

Fuck balance. Never think about it. I just do my job.

8) How do you feel about your production of People Power earning four Dora nominations?
Feels good.

9) From your experience working with fu-GEN’s board of directors, what advice would you give to an independent theatre company looking to establish its own board?
Look for good people. People with loads of money helps, too.

10) How do you feel about the quality of theatre criticism in Toronto?
I don’t read reviews.