Celebrating AAPI Joy: Meet Jessica Wu
Moxie: We are THRILLED to get to share this interview with folx since we've been working with you so closely this year! First off, what do you consider yourself within the arts community (I.e. actor, director, producer, choreographer, multi-hyphenate artist, etc.)?
Jessica: I take pride in being a 'many-hat-wearer' in the arts community. In the last 12 months, I've been an actor, a writer, a director, a producer, an educator, an immigration advocate, and a political staffer.
M: How does your identity inform your work as an artist?
J: The biggest reason I write is to create representation and opportunities for Asian-American women in our industry. Until we have a vast spectrum of stories for and about our community, we'll never fully be seen as 3-dimensional, complex, humans worthy of empathy. Representation truly matters. Our lives depend upon it.
M: Agreed. So tell us a bit about your arts background - what got you interested in pursuing a career in the arts, what has your journey been getting to NYC, etc.?
J: I grew up as a 'competition dancer' in rural Canada with a love of original broadway soundtracks and I came to NYC when I was 17 to pursue my rather clichéd Broadway dreams. My career has taken me into projects I could never have imagined, and in creative roles I had never originally set out to do but are such a big part of who I am now as a theatre-maker.
M: Where do you find joy in your craft - what brings you hope and elation in the arts, especially in these times?
J: Our Asian-American community is speaking up more loudly than ever before and I think we're finally being heard. That gives me a spark of hope. And on a super personal-level, my goodness the first time I hear an actor or a vocalist embody a new piece I've wrestled out of my head and onto paper is magic. Those moments are golden and I cherish them deeply as an artist.
M: Who are your arts heroes/who do you look up to in your career?
J: Lucy Liu is a badass. She has transcended the 'it girl' in movies, branched into directing and producing, became a high-end visual artist, and uses her platform for Asian-American advocacy. Bad. Ass.
M: Did you have a mentor along the way, or someone who guided you in your career path, and if so, what was that like?
J: Whether she knows it or not, Baayork Lee has paved the way for every headstrong Asian-American woman in our NY theatre-community. If I hadn't met Baayork that summer when I was 20, I know my career would not have been the same.
M: What does the word "representation" mean to you as an artist?
J: For me, true representation must account for intersectionality. We contain multitudes. Anything less is caricature.
M: If you could rewrite the rules of commercial theatre (Broadway, Off-Broadway, etc.) today, what would the future of professional theatre look like?
J: I would rewrite the hierarchy. Producers have always lived at the top of the chain, with the artists at the bottom "submitting" to them for the chance to do their art. If I could wave a magic pen, I would reframe artists in an equitable exchange with producers - no more "submitting", but instead "collaborating" and "conversing". It's more of a mental shift, but one I think that is incredibly important to reframe how we value art in our society.
M: So what sort of stories do you want to see next on stage?
J: For our AAPI community, I think it's important to have stories out there that contradict the model-minority myth. I want to see us f&#@ing up and making bad decisions and our lives persisting in spite of those imperfections. We are humans and all humans are gloriously messy and just as deserving of empathy.
Want to see more of what Jessica is doing? First off, catch her show opening May 28th with Moxie Arts (tix here!) - follow her on social media at @woohoojwu and keep up with her work at www.jessica-wu.com