The Missing Ingredient


When I think of Lotus I think of how I stumbled upon my tribe; a group of Asian Australian artists who are discovering where their unique voices and stories sit in the framework of Australian theatre.  Artists who are hacking away to make sure those stories are embedded there permanently.  And what a treat to be a part of the Brisbane group that consists of all women! I come from an acting background so the leap to being a first time playwright has been a significant, enriching but pee-in-my-pants one.  Luckily for me, the people from my tribe have either been there before or are currently enduring the same…. um, discomfort.  So one does not feel so alone during this predicament.  We would gather once a month, over the period of six months to workshop and share what we had.   It was in these sessions where I found how to loosen my grip on trying to ‘get it right’ as a writer to eventually finding a home for my imagination.  This is mainly due to the fact that the group was deeply interested in spotlighting each other’s talents and mining for the jewels that came from our culturally diverse backgrounds.  With each member’s approach to storytelling being so different, these sessions were a pool of creativity.  My lane started to emerge, and I’m in the process of learning how to stick to it.

What has united us the most is our hunger to see more Asian Australian stories being told on main stages. It is the yearning to see our stories reflected back to us, to represent a part of the community that has laid dormant for far too long.   Being part of Lotus has strengthened my drive to carve out a writing pathway that is unique to my Asian Australian viewpoint.

Ngoc photo

As an actor I have always searched for plays that embraced diversity in their casting.  But what I wasn’t prepared to discover was how the search was mainly based on diverse characters rather than a diverse story.  I had been in a fog.  As I came out of the white mist, I tried to recall if I’d seen any Australian plays recently that centered around a culturally diverse story, particularly Vietnamese Australian and I was hard pressed to think of one.  I was trained at drama school to honour the words of the playwright and if the playwright didn’t get down those words and ideas that rattled around in their heads there was no story to tell.  Simple.  I think of all the stories we have missed.  Stories that are trapped inside a person of colour, not daring to come out for fear it will not ‘fit in’ to the norm. So to be a part of a program that is seeking to shift that paradigm makes me very passionate about adding my story to the mix and supporting others who are on the same mission.  It makes me excited about theatre and the conversations that are being had because of this.

This is the first year I’ll be attending the National Play Festival and I have every intention of being a sponge and soaking up all the advice I can get from industry professionals.  Having the opportunity to work on my play with a director, dramaturg and actors is both exhilarating and terrifying.  What I hope to gain from this workshop is a strong grasp of structure and how to create dialogue that allows the actors elbowroom to interpret the script.  My play is complicated in that it jumps from the present day to the past and back again for more than one character.  So, finding how to make that cohesive is going to be a challenge.  If I had to list a fear I hold for this workshop week, it would be trying to amalgamate all the feedback in a short period of time, whilst making sure it is in line with the integrity of the piece. Oh, and no sleep! But having said that, I’m looking forward to the task.  So bring it on! Having my play as part of the NPF is a great privilege that I don’t take lightly.  It validates how important it is to have diverse stories on our stages and personally it means I get to share the tale I have been holding in my head and heart for what seems like an eternity.

Ngoc Phan

Author: Ngoc Phan

Ngoc Phan is a Vietnamese-Australian actor and first-time playwright. She received the In the Mix Australian Council grant in association with the Queensland Theatre Company to research and develop her play My Father who slept in a Zoo. Since then it has had professional public readings at QTC and La Boite and has received support from Playwriting Australia and Performance 4a’s Lotus program, which continue to assist in the development of the work. Ngoc is a graduate from WAAPA’s Acting program and is currently an Artist in residence at La Boite. She has recently joined the writing team at Essential Media to work on a new webisode, which has received funding through Screen Queensland.

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