Last Friday, the cast of Blasian Narratives hosted a panel discussion followed by a live performance. Founded in 2014 by Jivan Atman through the Morehouse-Spelman College Theatre Department, the Blasian Narratives project seeks to explore “the intersection and identities of mixed race Black & Asian individuals through live performances and film.” As Atman noted during the panel, Blasian Narratives wants “this experience to be representative of the kind of conversations that should be happening with other experiences.”
The original cast of this project attended either Morehouse or Spelman College, both historically black schools, where they found each other and developed this project. The performance pieces together original narratives written by the cast members about their own lives, and stems from diverse backgrounds and upbringings. These stories include Shiranti Goonathilaka’s tale of what it’s like to be raised in a Sri Lankan household in Atlanta, but to arrive in her native homeland realizing she was “less” Sri Lankan than she thought. Brothers Marlon and Julian Booker recounted their experiences growing up in Hawaii, where multiculturalism thrives, but how others’ perception of them as “more black” perpetuated a need to fulfill negative stereotypes. Cenisa Gavin grew up in a Korean household in Anchorage, Alaska, and was constantly labeled in different contexts as either “the Asian one” or “the black one,” never as an individual with an intersectional identity.
One by one, these narrators emerged from the audience and joined the stage, adding their own pieces to the conversation. They broke the fourth wall between the stage and the audience in crossing the two: a move both symbolic of the shared experiences between the cast and audience and reflective of how their narratives emerge from regular people. The autobiographical nature of the performance emphasized the theme of universal identity-finding.
The set of programming that Blasian Narratives brought provided ample space for the audience to engage with the cast members and to ask questions. This performance conveyed the experiences of mixed-race people coming to the realization that they are, in fact, “enough” of an identity, independent of genealogy. Spaces like the one created by Blasian Narratives are necessary for these reflections and the consequential conversations to take place. But perhaps they are more necessary to be brought to campuses that have less of these ongoing discussions than Stanford, or to an audience that is less self-selecting. I would be interested in seeing the interaction between the audience and the cast where the audience differs more in diversity makeup, and where they might be more foreign to discussions of complex identities. Nevertheless, Blasian Narratives is powerful at Stanford, and exposes stories worth telling anywhere.
Images courtesy of Institute for Diversity in the Arts