As an official media partner of the 30th annual St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, Montreal Theatre Hub brings the #FringeBuzz in 2021 with an all-new interview series with artists from this year’s edition of the fest! In this Snapshot, we feature RANA LIU, who makes her playwriting and directing debut with Blowfish Theatre Company’s GENERATIONS. Read our Q&A with the creator of the Fringe show in anticipation of its world premiere at Monument-National’s La Balustrade on June 13th.
MONTREAL THEATRE HUB: What is “Generations” about?
RANA: “Generations” is a show about a mother and a daughter, set over a dining table. You get to see a glimpse into the types of conversations. They talk about love, ego, privilege, work, luck, food and the sense of belonging – the themes of life. Fundamentally what this show is about is the clashes of cultures between first and second generations of immigrants. How do they communicate with each other? Are they listening to each other? Or do they just speak on top of each other? It’s a nod to our mothers. A thank you letter to our immigrant moms and all that they have done for us.
MTH: What can audiences expect from the experience of seeing it?
RANA: I hope that audiences feel as though they are at the dining table with these two characters. To be a part of that close relationship, where the person is your best friend. To experience the immigrant story, specifically the generational differences and what are the struggles of these two generations. How they come together to communicate, learn and love each other.
MTH: What was the idea and inspiration behind the piece?
RANA: “Generations” was inspired by the conversations that I’ve had with my mom at the dining table, or in the car, or on walks. Having the chance to sit and listen with her, and honestly, my mom always gives the best advice. She immigrated from China to Canada when she was 20 and had me at 25, so we’re close in age. I’m blessed to have a very open and safe relationship with my mom. This is also a nod to all the strong women that have raised me, that have been a part of the journey to help me become the person I am together. My aunts, my grandmothers, my mentors that have been there. And of course, my mom. I hope they get to see a glimpse of themselves in this show.
Uzoma Onyechekwa (actor), Rana Liu (playwright/director), and Andrea Pavlovic (actor) of Blowfish Theatre Company’s GENERATIONS (Photographer: Keegan Boulineau)
MTH: Why did you choose the Fringe as the place to premiere this work?
RANA: This year will be my fourth time participating at Fringe! From being a crew member, to producing two shows with Blowfish Theatre Company in 2017 (“Paani“) and 2018 (“A Love Song for Insomniacs/Runaway Game“) and now being back at Fringe in 2021 as a playwright and director with “Generations” is incredible. Fringe has always been a place that has been opened to new ideas and concepts. It’s a safe space for artists to explore themes and be able to communicate them to generous and welcoming audiences. It’s always been so much fun to be a part of Fringe and I am so excited to be able to premiere our show at Fringe. A full circle moment.
MTH: What has it been like trying to create a show during a pandemic?
RANA: It’s been challenging. I miss my immediate theatre family, having the ability to be close to one another, where we get to talk to each other face to face. I am very very thankful that I can still have close relationships with them. Shout out to social media, where I get to talk with them everyday, edit the script, and have our rehearsals over Zoom. As a first time director, this has been a very interesting experience. I’m very grateful, very thankful to my cast and crew and all the people that have been a support throughout this journey. Thank you. And the best part? Theatre is back baby!
Uzoma Onyechekwa, Rana Liu, and Andrea Pavlovic (Photographer: Keegan Boulineau)
MTH: What’s kept you driven to keep creating during this past year?
RANA: I’m not gonna lie, it was really difficult at the beginning. I had planned on writing the script in 2020, but when the pandemic hit, I was in a creative rut, and like many others, mourning 2020. In 2021, I started creating more, making jewelry and trying different art forms. Getting accepted into Fringe was the greenlight, basically giving me permission and also telling me that I have to do it! It’s been a great drive. I also need to thank my support system: my friends, family and partner for always cheering me on and believing in me. Thank you.
MTH: How does it feel to be back presenting on a live stage?
RANA: I’m so excited that theatre is back. I can’t wait for people to be back in a theatre space. I personally can’t wait to be back. Being in a performing space is something that I’ve missed so much this last year. I’m so grateful for this opportunity. I’m so so so proud of my cast and crew for coming together to tell this story and make it their own. Thank you to Fringe for organizing this – y’all rock. Thank you to the audience for being here and making this happen. This is the first step to having live performances and I am so thankful to be a part of this. We’re still here, and we’re going to continue to be here.
MTH: How does this show/story speak to our present times?
RANA: During the pandemic, a lot of us moved back in with our parents, while others not living with their family had endless phone calls with their loved ones. The realities of the pandemic have shown the difficulties of separation and borders, how we are living different realities. For many, they were confronted about the socio-economic and political realities for the first time, especially with movements like Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate. We are having more conversations about race, identity, privilege, belonging and immigration. Many saw the cultural clashes between generations, especially between 1st and 2nd generation immigrants. “Generations” is about having these types of conversations with your loved ones so we can understand each other better. Whether you are an immigrant from China, Nigeria, Bosnia, or even from the States coming up to Canada, I hope that people can relate to this story and see it as their own.
Uzoma Onyechekwa, Rana Liu, and Andrea Pavlovic (Photographer: Keegan Boulineau)
RAPID FIRE ROUND
What have you missed most about the Fringe?
I miss the people. I miss postering day, I miss waiting in show lines. I miss wearing our lanyards and walking down St-Laurent and meeting other artists. I’m so excited to feel the buzz in the city again and to be able to be a part of the reopening of theatre is such a blessing. I am so thankful.
Favourite Fringe show you’ve ever seen?
This was in 2017, I can’t remember the title of the show. It was at the Mainline theatre. All of the set pieces were onstage but there were no actors onstage. All the actors were in the audience and were speaking as the set pieces. It was so fun and extremely funny to watch the set piece come to life. It was brilliant.
#Fringebuzz: which show(s) on the 2021 lineup are you most stoked to check out?
I’m most excited to see Holding Waterways, by Playwright & Director Christine ML Lee from kalianore productions. It is also a show that explores the relationship between a mother and a daughter. I’m looking forward to seeing another show that dives into the mother-daughter relationship.
Rana Liu is an Asian Canadian multidisciplinary arts creator, manager and lover of bagels. Rana co-created Blowfish Theatre Company in 2016, founded out of a passion for theatre and a need to present stories. Her principle goal is to (re)vitalize diversity and cultural understanding through shared perspectives. To not just tell these stories, but to celebrate them. Telling stories using the composing of many different elements so as to appear variegated. “Generations” will mark her debut as Director and Playwright, and fourth year at the Montreal St-Ambroise de Fringe Festival.
Rana Liu earned her BA at McGill University in 2017, double majoring in Political Science and English: Drama & Theatre, and completed her MA at Columbia College Chicago in Arts Management in 2019. As a patchwork storyteller, her mission is to provide a platform for people to tell their stories.
GENERATIONS presented by Blowfish Theatre Company runs from June 13-20 at Monument-National’s La Balustrade (1182 St Laurent Blvd). Tickets ($9-10) can be purchased online at www.montrealfringe.ca
Read here all of the interviews in the Fringe Artist Snapshots series: