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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chinese New Year

This year marks the fourth year of spending Chinese New Year abroad.
No family reunions, no food hopping, no ang pau collecting whatsoever.

Surprisingly, one would think that I'd be used to it by now. As a matter of fact, I feel the most 'empty' this year. Maybe it is because I just realized that I have not had reunion dinners with my grandparents and relatives for the past few CNYs. Also, I was blessed with friends whom I claimed framily while I was in college to celebrated Chinese New Year with.

I even had the opportunity to wear my red phoenix cheong sam! Now all I can do is look at the pretty red dress and say, "When will I ever wear you again?"

Although I was away from home, I was still surrounded by the Malaysian culture. Traveling for food with friends, dressing up for special occasions like these and all. Yes, that IS the Malaysian culture. Lol.

Here's what's a truly Chinese Malaysian culture. Lou Sang or some say Yee Sang/Yuu Seng.
It is usually partaken before dinner as a symbol of good luck for the new year.

The original dish often consist of daikon (white radish), carrots, red pepper (capsicum), turnips, red pickled ginger, sun-dried oranges, daun limau nipis (key lime leaves), Chinese parsley, chilli, jellyfish, chopped peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, Chinese shrimp crackers (or fried dried shrimp), five spice powder and other ingredients, laced with a sauce using plum sauce, rice vinegar, kumquat paste and sesame oil, for a total of 27 ingredients.

This picture above however was homemade 3 years ago using only ingredients that we could find in Kalamazoo, which mind you is not diverse. Hence the lack of ideal ingredients.  But it was one of the most memorable Yee Sangs because it was the first away from home AND its homemade!!!

Second year of CNY away from home with the ladies at a Malaysian reunion dinner. 

We even had Karaoke after that! So Asian :)

3rd Year, I can't even remember what I did. I knew that I celebrated CNY without my sister first the first time though. Hmmm.

Dear CNY, what do you have installed for me this year?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Color Blind

People always say that most shows are now cast color blindly.
They say......

I guess it's easier said than done. Always the case.

I mean, I kinda understand. You would always want to cast what the audience expect to see. It would be weird for the cast of DREAMGIRLS or SISTER ACT to be entirely white ain't it.
For instance, that time when I was called back for Velma in Chicago. I should I have known that I will never get cast because I do not look the part. I'm not being pessimistic here. I'm just realistic about that fact.
They say it's color blind casting. They say...

And yes, being such a specific type, unfortunately it does suck.

Today, I went for a chorus call for Hairspray. 300+ girls were present and finally the monitor said,
"Well we are actually looking for beautiful black women. So if you don't fit the type..." 
He need not go on.

The girls were pissed. almost 90% of them left. In fact, I was about to leave until the monitor came back in and said to my friends and I, "Don't go anywhere. Call your friends. There's been a miscommunication."

I just laughed. Everyone around me was pissed. I'm so darn used to being the only Asian in the room that getting typed out is like eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for me. How do you think I feel?

Honestly, numb.

So apparently, they had a 'miscommunication' after stating the fact that they have cast all the other roles and are only looking for beautiful black women. Was it really miscommunication or did they regret doing what they did by turning down 300 girls and maybe ruining the company's reputation? I wonder.

Either or, I stayed and managed to get seen for the dance call.

Honestly, I thought I did great. The choreography was simple and my kicks were higher than the girls who got called back. However, unlike the other groups which got to perform at least twice, mine only got to perform once. Kinda unfair. My guess was that they looked at our headshots and put us 'non appropriate types' in a group and just asked us to dance once, just for the sake of dancing.

Owh well, this is life ain't it?


Why Colorblind Casting Should be a One-Way Street

In May 2007, filmmaker/ playwright Neil LaBute (The Shape of Things) wrote a controversial op-ed for the Los Angeles Timesabout colorblind casting in the theater. He argued that everyone, including white actors, should be able to play whatever part they want regardless of race.

“For most white actors today, roles of color — from the classics to some of the sensational writing that is currently being done for the theater — are not even an option for them (because of their race), and I’m not sure why,” LaBute writes. “If someone does allow me to mount my all-white version of A Raisin in the Sun — then please let us proceed.”
The issue of colorblind casting has been on my mind recently because my theater company is mounting an all-Asian American version of the Tennessee Williams classic Suddenly, Last Summer.
Colorblind casting maintains that any actor, regardless of race, should be allowed to play any role. Usually it is applied to a minority actor playing a role that is not written for that minority.
LaBute argues that colorblind casting should be a “two-way street,” and white actors should be able to play Othello or sing the lead in Madame Butterfly. In the past, white people have played many of these roles, but LaBute laments that in our more politically correct climate that is no longer possible, and that’s a shame.
In a perfect world, any actor should be allowed to play any part. But we live in a flawed world where race still matters and racism, no matter how subtle, still rears its ugly head. Until things become truly equitable for all, colorblind casting should remain a one-way street. Until it is common occurrence to see minority faces on stage, on the big and small screens, playing non-race specific roles as in a Shakespeare or a David Mamet play or tackling characters like Indiana Jones or Spiderman, white actors should not be taking roles meant for minorities. It is hard enough for actors of color to book anything of substance without having Brad Pitt or Reese Witherspoontake away the few available opportunities.
At the heart of the argument that white actors should be able to play minority parts is a subtle racism that is also at the heart of opposition to affirmative action programs. The underlying foundation of this school of thought is that white people are better and more talented, i.e. we can’t let “those people” onto our most prestigious stages or into our finest schools because they’re not as good as us.
Some people (including Asians) have told me that it is “weird” to imagine Asians tackling the Southern accents and embodying that specific Southern culture in a Tennessee Williams play. These comments don’t have malicious intentions or come from uneducated hicks. But it shows that even among some enlightened Americans, the idea that things are completely equitable — that an audience will accept a Batman played by John Cho — is a long way off. And until that day comes, the thought of a white cast “yellowing it up” in a David Henry Hwang play is more than offensive.
Philip W. Chung is a writer and co-artistic director of Lodestone Theatre Ensemble, whose staging of Suddenly, Last Summer runs until August 24 at GTC Burbank in Burbank, Calif. For more info: Check outlodestonetheatre.org.


Currently starring as Boq in the Chicago production of Wicked, Telly's Broadway credits include Flower Drum Song, and Pacific Overtures (on which he also appears on the cast recording). Outside of New York, he's appeared as Simon in Jesus Christ Superstar (Music Circus), Thuy in Miss Saigon (PCLO), Lun Tha in The King and I (starring Lou Diamond Phillips), and Dolph in But, I'm a Cheerleader!
You're the first non-Caucasian to play the role of Boq. Do you think color blind casting is more prevalent on Broadway, or are there still barriers?

First off, let me take this opportunity to applaud the creative team and producers of Wicked for being at the forefront of non-traditional casting. Because of the fantastic nature of the show (who says that everyone in Oz is Caucasian?), Wicked has always been a show that has always cast non-traditionally and included many minority actors in their companies. Derrick Williams is an African-American Fiyero. Aaron Albano (who is Filipino) is a Boq understudy on the tour. Both the standby and the understudy for Elphaba on Broadway right now are African-American. And now, I am cast as the first Asian-American Boq. It is my hope that other Broadway shows will follow in Wicked's shoes – that every actor regardless of race is seriously considered in the casting process.

I try to stay optimistic with regards to the future of non-traditional casting on Broadway, but there is a double standard that exists for Asian roles in music theatre. It is perfectly acceptable for an actress like Juanita Hall or Lillias White to play Bloody Mary in South Pacific, or for Jonathan Pryce to play the Engineer in Miss Saigon. However, an Asian actor like myself would never be considered for a role in Dreamgirls or Fiddler on the Roof. Shows like King and I, Hairspray, and Showboat deal with issues of race and should be cast race-specifically. Yet, this double standard exists that takes Asian roles away from Asian actors.


Then again, I'm just one small minority voice speaking compared to the other billions of voices that matter more.

Who fault is it that you are not born with blonde hair, blue eyes, long legs, and huge boobs?

Color blind casting will never be true and that's a fact in life that I will have to bite the bullet and accept.

Monday, January 24, 2011


I wish I had a lot of money so I don't have to worry about living.

I wish I had a green card or a citizenship just so I cut my stress level into at least half.

I wish I had nude colored shoes.

I wish I was a kid.

I wish I had a super high metabolism so I didn't have to worry about watching what I ate.

I wish to have Chinese New Year dinner with my grandparents.

I wish to have ice cream cake now.

I wish to travel the United States and then the world.... without worrying about money.

I wish that I was artistic enough to have an art degree so that I can design and create pretty designed wedding cakes like what I see on tv!

I wish so many things.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


8pm at work

Co worker: "So don't take it personally. I was asked by a customer if u swing both ways."

Yenn: "Well, I don't know what to say. I obviously like boys."

Co worker: continues doing work......

Yenn: "Ok fine. What should I say?"

Co worker: "We're doing business here. Use what you got, flaunt it. You never have to answer those questions. If you get my drift."

Yenn: "Erm..."

Co worker: "Trust me. They'll tip you more."


9pm at work

F Client: "Wow. You are gorgeous. Do you have a girl friend?"

Yenn: "Well actually no. *smiles and walks away*

F Client: "Are you looking to get into a relationship or do you even wanna hang out? Cuz if you do, I'll be here."

Yenn: "Erm. I just moved into the city so I'm not looking for anything. Just trying to settle down myself and we'll see how it goes."

F Client: "Ah I see. This is for you baby." *drops me a 20 dollar tip above her 7 dollar drink*


10pm at work

Was approached by a bunch of very attractive ladies.

Yenn: "Hey how's your night doing? Enjoying yourself?"

Random guy: "Yea. Thank you for being such a great help."

Yenn: "You're welcome! So what occasion is this?"

Random guy: "Oh, it's the Gay and Lesbian Association of ***very important company***"

Yenn: "Ah! I see."


Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I have been doing a bunch of auditions the past week. 4 days out of 5 week days for the same season. They were doing The King and I as one of their season shows and that was why I was so gung-ho about making sure I was seen for it. And how many timeS did I get seen? Only twice. I waited ALL day the first two days and nothing happened.

The first time I was seen, I was the second last group to be seen at the end of the day. Mind you that I woke up uber early in the morning and sign up at the list at 7.30am! That's 2 hours before the actual sign up time started. There were SO MANY people waiting to be seen and all because the season includes other popular musicals like Cinderella and Xanadu. If it were just the King and I, I am sure I would be seen sooner. It was so funny because we were all starting to get loopy as the closing hour got closer. It became a point that it's a celebration when you hear your name called. I told myself, 'I don't care if I am going to be cast or not. I just wanted to bloody get seen!' Finally, I did. The second last group before closing.

 As for the second day, I was seen during a dance call solely for the King and I, the few Asian musicals. I turned up in the morning and holy smoke! 'Where did all the Asians come from?!' Even if they were non Asians that turned up, they REALLY did look Asian! Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese... Think of any yellow skinned ethnicity, there were all there.

This is New York City. Competition is everywhere. Wake up and smell the coffee Yenn!

The audition season just started for summer theatre castings. Are you ready to rumble?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Old Time's Sake

I was browsing through some old pictures when I came upon 'NEW YORK SPRING BREAK'. I didn't hesitate to click on it. I thought I needed the old time push and motivation on why I wanted to be here in the first place. Funny thing is, I have always wanted come to New York. Don't ask me why. Back when I was in high school and studying music at the same time, I would always tell my mom that when I graduate high school, I will finish my degree and pursue my career in New York City. Heck I didn't even know anything about the city then. It was just a gut feeling.

In late February 2009, I made my first trip with the International Student Organization to New York for a Spring Break retreat. It was my first time in the Big Apple, and boy I was blown away. The urgency and rush of the city gave me a breath of fresh air after being in Michigan for a while, I came to realize that I am some sort of city girl. Yes, I love the greens, the stars at night, and watching furry squirrels and rabbits nibble on seed they find on the ground. But, I would like that on a once a few months vacation.

So here I am, two years later. Based in the city, trying to grind my way through. 

Do I like it? Honestly, not that much. 

Did I regret? Maybe a little. Not on what I am doing right now. But on the fact that I didn't graduate with a double degree.
*wait! hear me out*

Would I do something else?
No. I will keep grinding.

2001, it was a dream.
2008, working towards it.
2010, I got discouraged.
2011, I will keep grinding.

I found this quote on one of my old pictures. I remembered editing it and sending it to someone to encourage them. Funny two years later I found it when I am down myself. Just what I needed, inspiration.

The question for each man to settle is not what he would do if he had means, time, influence and educational advantages; the question is what he will do with the things he has. The moment a young man ceases to dream or to bemoan his lack of opportunities and resolutely looks his conditions in the face, and resolves to change them, he lays the corner-stone of a solid and honorable success.

- Hamilton Wright Mabie

Time to look in the mirror and say,  "You can do it, I will encourage you, I love you."