Eugenie Chan is a 5th generation San Franciscan whose plays are a creative blend of language, reality, tradition, and history. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, a resident playwright at New Dramatists and The Cutting Ball Theater. Eugenie teaches at the University of San Francisco and previously taught English at MA. She will present a workshop during LitFest on the art of playwriting.
1. How does it feel to be back at MA?
Great! It’s always a joy to be at Marin Academy, as an artist and teacher.
2. You have been a teacher for a long time. How does one begin to teach playwriting, and what skills do you think are the most important to develop?
Begin with what fires you up–what you know, what you want to know, what you’re burning to discover. Playwriting is more about curiosity, the search, a love of language and song, and the desire to answer a deep-rooted question.
3. Your family plays an important part in your writing. Is there a moment when art transcends personal experience?
That’s the best moment of all, and the most difficult to arrive at–the moment when you discover that something you know so very well is bigger than you or your family. That the moment your great grandmother arranges her son’s marriage to a woman he does not know isn’t just about breaking his heart, but about sheer survival.
4. What are you currently working on?
Two things: a play called Madame Ho, inspired by the life of my great-grandmother who was a brothel madam in San Francisco Chinatown at the turn of the last century; and Gumdock, about her son whom she sent to Stanford in 1915, when there were only a handful of Chinese and Chinese Americans on campus.
5. What advice would you give to a high school playwright?
Write your passion. Get together with your friends, the ones who love to perform and the ones you love to be in the room with. Read your play. Perform your play by any means possible. And cherish these actors who will reveal your play to you.