Cultural Commissions – Eugenie Chan

The Wallace Initiative commissioned working papers/artistic responses from Bay Area artists about deepening, expanding, and diversifying cultural participation, hoping to generate new ideas and spark conversations between regional artists and arts organizations.

Eugenie Chan, 5th generation Chinese-American playwright, investigates questions of beauty, art, and cultural legacy by asking a cross-section of Chinese-Americans for their personal perspectives. Eugenie conducted a series of interviews with relatives, friends, friends of relatives, local business people, and neighbors (a group making up six generataions of Chinese living in America) to get her answers.

Working with the belief that people’s desires are intrinsically related to their history, I created a series of questions about people’s lives in their home countries and their lives here, tailoring them based on what generation of Chinese in America they were.

As a Chinese, what do you think is beautiful? What is the best thing an artist can create for you? Your children? What kind
of cultural legacy can we make that would be meaningful?

The result is a 34 page play that details the diversity of perspectives found within this cross-section of the Bay Area community. The play had its first reading at Self Help for the Elderly in San Francisco on March 18, 2009 with actors Yoonie Cho, Leon Goertzen, Lisa Kang, Arthur Keng, Wayne Lee, Garth Petal, Michelle Talgarow, Annie Y. Wang, Pearl Wong, and directed was by the playwright.

Click here to download a PDF of the script of Circus (or Mah-heih!), an Interview-based Play.

To view this PDF, you will need Adobe Reader. Please visit the Adobe website to download the latest version for free.

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In 2008, The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) and Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund (GFTA) embarked on a four-year funding partnership to encourage systemic and sustainable structural change in the relationships of Bay Area arts organizations to their audiences, supported by the Wallace Foundation. Community offerings during the grant period (2008-2011) included seminars, workshops, large public convenings, implementation grants, development of a regional shared mailing list, and expansion of the website.



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