The above headline will serve as a metaphor to what this article will be “speaking” about. And when what we do mean as to “speaking”, it just describes the content of the article as a written piece, rather than something verbally transcribed from a podcast that can be found somewhere in the meta universe.
Back in the early “aughts”, I wrote a column called Richer By Far that appeared within the pages of The Epicenter, the official newsletter for the Los Angeles chapter of the Catholic Alumni Club, a social group for those that were unmarried and desired to subscribe towards the Catholic faith. I also served in an unofficial capacity, the club’s archivist.
One thing I used to do was to go through the pages of the LACAC’s newsletters of the past that were created for its members. The newsletters consisted of bound volumes from 1954 to the present time, and consisted of monthly listings of club activities and related events. It also sported a few other articles and notes that were created and served of interest to its members.
I came across one specific article from these back issues that I found to be rather amusing. So I wrote about it for my column that appeared in the May, 2001 edition of The Epicenter….
A survey was once conducted with the men of the LACAC asking the question, “Are the women in the LACAC too independent?”. Here are some of their responses…
“…Heck no! If they were, maybe more of them would wind up dependents!”
“You’re darn right! They’re all rich and sour!”
“No, never! Too many square male members!”
“No, not too much! We much appreciate independence! There will be at times when we (if we ever get married), will be glad they are so!”
“Independence is regarded as a quality in a gal by some of us men. It is an expression of a girl’s individuality and man, let’s keep it alive!”
It’s interesting to note some of the replies from these men. It’s also interesting to note that this survey was conducted back in 1956!!
Independence is one of the most treasured possessions that a human being can have. Knowing that one is free to do whatever one wants (within reason, of course) is a blessing. While on the same note, being independent isn’t necessarily the same as keeping to one’s self off of the time. It has been proven that people need each other for a lot of reasons; friendship, guidance, and yes, to have somebody to love and cherish!
It’s the same element that makes groups (such as the LACAC for instance), to be solid. It takes a number of people to bond together offering others some of these same traits, while allowing each other to keep and maintain their independence!
Yours truly had recently heard a number of gripes from some fellow members stating that they would rather go out on their own than to stay and give this club a fair chance! If they wish to break out on their own, so be it! If we wish to keep together, then we must make a point to offer those other members out there (independent by default) to become part of the club. It doesn’t take any effort, if any effort at all! Just a bit of motivation and devotion. It’s sort of like an old “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” bit.
So how independent are the women in the LACAC in the early 21st century? Well, let’s put it this way, so to quote another person who responded back in ‘56, “You can’t get along with them, but you can’t get along without them!”
..And the more things change, the more things stay the same! (That’s my quote!!)
The Sierra Madre Playhouse of Sierra Madre officially opens their 2022 season with Lauren Yee’s KING OF THE YEES, a story about a legionary Chinese American family based in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and how a younger member of this clan is witnessing how much is changing while remaining the same.
Harmony Zhang is Lauren Yee. Her Father Larry Lee (Dennis Dun) is the current (and elder) generation that is part of the Yee Fung Toy Family Association. This association was created around the time of the gold rush of 1849 when the Chinese immigrated to America to see their fortune and to help build the transcontinental railroad linking the east coast states to the west into the newly inducted union state of California. Since its origin, it has been a club for the men folk (and only for the men) where they arrange to assist its members for financial purposes and to keep their family name strong, in addition to holding on to their tightly knit Chinese heritage. Laura’s father is more or less a traditionalist and built his status through hard laborious work. Laura is a college graduate and desires to build on a playwriting career rather than creating a family as her father expects her to do. The family association is based in Chinatown where its entrance is a red door decked out in a conventional facade. One day, Larry goes missing. There’s no four play suspected, but Lauren must find him still. As she starts out, she stumbles upon many of the elements of her heritage through a series of unique scenarios and episodes that cross between historical ancestry that goes back through the centuries, and to the Chinatown of the postmodern era where traditions remain for the pleasure of those non Chinese. Lauren finally becomes aware of where the family came from and to honor her father’s diligence connected to the cultural bonds between the then and the now.
Playwright Lauren Yee created this piece as a semi-autobiographical tale of her own domestic life connected to her father who served as the current “king” of the family name and legacy. Lauren’s journey is a selection of crossover blends that range from becoming humorous, tragic, joyous, sorrowful (not much of that emotion), and how change can be good for one’s own soul while keeping connected to one’s lasting roots. Her journey takes a route of a surreal nature as Chinese culture can be viewed as such if one landscapes it using western standards and practices as its base. Tim Dang, who was also involved with Los Angeles’ own East-West Players Asian-based theater company, directed this program with the utmost guidance and care where its focus is Chinese humanities and culture adding respect along with respected satire. There are no stereotypical elements depicted, yet some of the characters that Lauren encounters through the upward and down sloped journeys as performed by Christopher Chen, Tom Dang, and Miley Yamamoro can be spotted as comical, yet never cartoonish.
With the cast of players on stage are the sets and visuals that go along with everything. Yi-Chien Lee’s set and projection design falls into the traditional look and feel, along with Jojo Siu’s costuming. (Traditional and contemporary.) It even has some choreography as created by Tom Tsai that would fit within a musical production. Although there are musical cues added through Dennis Yen’s sound design, this program isn’t a musical per se. It’s just an honest play that speaks for the tradition that’s been around far longer than San Francisco, California, and anything connected with North American values.
The Chinese as well as the Asia based cultures have been gripping a number of blows over recent times. Those were from a sense of dislike of its people as a whole, and being taken the blame of the rise of COVID and the aftermath. But a play as this one shows that this culture may not be fully understood by those that are from an Anglo-Saxon and European background heritage. The production’s focus is not to preach the culture, but to serve as a welcomed bridge of how its legacy is detailed with respect and will remain through the many ages. Perhaps it may even teach some valuable lessons to this all in the name of goodwill with a bit of fun added for good measure. So if one’s surname is Lee, Chang, Smith, or Sachowitz, this is a program that is heartwarming and amusing. That’s the secret sweet and sour sauce to this show that glows as bright as the orange colored tone that same sauce is bathed in.
KING OF THE YEES, is presented by and performs at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 West Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre, until June 12th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8;00 PM, with Saturday and Sunday matinee performances at 2:30 PM.
For ticket reservations or for more information, call (626) 355-4318, or via online at https://www.sierramadreplayhouse.org
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