Saturday, February 17, 2007


LYNDA CHANWAI-EARLE Ka-Shue (Letters Home) Playwright’s Note I am Eurasian by ethnicity, a fourth-generation New Zealander. Based on the Chinese side of my family (the Tung clan of BakChuen), Ka-Shue uncovers some of the last 150 years of a buried history in New Zealand. There has been a noticeable absence of a Chinese voice in this country. Perhaps it is because the Chinese community has been producing its own work for its own people, but this work has been largely inaccessible to a wider public until now. The material has often been spoken in Chinese, and not produced for mainstream audiences. In writing Ka-Shue I have focused on the personal and domestic lives of three generations of a Chinese family. Ka-Shue spans the cultures of New Zealand and China, encompassing a broad sweep of the political events between the two countries as a backdrop for the personal dramas of the characters. This play is dedicated to my family. I am aware that this play is close to the bone as far as my family history is concerned, but I hope in the end that I have attempted a universal story about immigration, about the systematic alienation of particular immigrant groups. For me Ka-Shue is also a story about immigrant women, struggling to make for themselves a sense of home and identity. The play works most effectively with minimal props and furniture, which remain on stage throughout. Descriptions such as the venetian blinds of the hotel windows or Paw paw’s graveside can be lit areas played out to the audience. Ka-Shue is set in several time frames—1939, 1941, 1945, 1959, and 1989—and the scenes weave seamlessly between them. KaShue can be played by one actor or a full cast (as a series of monologues). If one actor is used, it is preferable to use only one costume and have the actor portray character changes through voice and body. Time and place can be evoked with the help of live music (preferably

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