making spaces better for people

Norman Yeung chats about his newest work “In this moment.”

Theatre Local: Tell us a bit about your piece: What’s it about? / What can people expect to see?

Norman Yeung: I’m currently in a period of decluttering my life.  Amidst the cacophony of too much communication and learning to be a more mature and responsible adult and changes to my personal and professional life… I want to simplify.  I’m also a hapless Romantic who’s always living in a different space and time, reminiscing about the past, dreaming about the future, discontented by the present.  I want to cut out extraneous noise and discern what really matters, what’s important in the moment.  Sometimes, while walking along a bustling downtown street at 5:05PM, or passing busy bars at midnight, I find myself thinking about nothing.  All I am doing is observing the sights, sounds, and sensations.  I’m not in my head.  I’m living in the moment.  It’s during these moments – fleeting as they are – that I find focus and clarity.  I want to access these moments more, and I want the audience to experience this happy nothingness along with me.  Sometimes, in spite of our minds frantically racing about trying to figure out our relationships and careers and commitments, all that really matters is that the wind is chilling our nose… the bakery is emitting deliciousness… the busker’s guitar sounds lovely…

I’d like the audience to transcend the noise with me.  We all could use some peace, if only for a moment.

TL:Is this the first piece you’ve created specifically for a small audience?

NY: I’ve created a few pieces that are most effective with a small audience.  My absurdist “Mandy Panda”, about a Caucasian actress who wants to play a Chinese panda, is so lo-fi with its slide projections and glockenspiel that it celebrates a rough-and-tumble environment with a casual, small crowd.  With Kathy Moretton I created “Lichtenstein’s an 8: A New Formula to Quantify Artistic Quality”, a Brechtian piece that, by comparing and contrasting science and art, proposes that artistic value can be assigned a quantifiable number.  It encourages audience participation – or at least alienation – and seems to work best in a small space.  After all, a character leaps out of the audience to refute the scientist-character’s theories.  Again, it incorporates slide projections and a dinky glockenspiel; I find my love of lo-fi works best in a small space.

The reason why I’m appreciative of small spaces and small audiences stems from my love of modern dance.  I’ve attended many performances by EDAM and Kokoro Dance in relatively small spaces where I absolutely had to sit in the front row because I wanted to see the dancers sweat, hear them breathe, hear their bare feet squeak, see the white paint dripping off their bodies to riddle the black dance floor.  When I watch La La La Human Steps perform in rather large spaces, and I’m sitting far from the stage, I lose the intimacy between performer and spectator.

“In this moment.” is all about clarity and communion between performer and spectator, rejoicing in the shared time and space, and is best served with delicate intimacy.  Further, I find that sometimes the most intense moments of focus, the clearest of moments, happen during live performance, which is the most ephemeral mode of art.  By its very premise, “In this moment.” celebrates ephemerality.

TL: What’s up next for you?

NY: My next big project is playing the role of Hassan in the stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” (play written by Matthew Spangler).  This Canadian premiere is produced by Theatre Calgary and Citadel Theatre, from January to March, 2013.  I’m thrilled to be playing such a complex character in a story that is absolutely relevant to our current state of affairs.  I’m also excited to spend my winter in Calgary and Edmonton, despite people warning me about the cold.  I ain’t scared.  I can’t wait to experience my first chinook.

Photo of Norman Yeung

Norman Yeung: Norman works in theatre, film, and visual arts. Plays he has written include “Pu-Erh”, “Oolong”, “Theory”, and “Lichtenstein’s an 8: A New Formula to Quantify Artistic Quality”. “Pu-Erh” premiered in 2010 at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto and was nominated for four Dora Mavor Moore Awards, including Outstanding New Play. “Pu-Erh” was a finalist for the 2009 Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition, receiving an Honourable Mention. He was a member of Canadian Stage’s BASH! artist development program and fu-GEN’s Kitchen Playwrights Unit. He was a member of the 2011 Tapestry New Opera Composer-Librettist Laboratory, where he started learning the craft of writing libretti. The operas were performed at Opera Briefs at Theatre Passe Muraille in 2011. His post-apocalyptic opera “Black Blood”, composed by Christiaan Venter, was produced by Tapestry New Opera and presented at Paprika Festival in 2012. He is featured in the book “Voices Rising: Asian Canadian Cultural Activism” by Xiaoping Li. As an actor, Norman’s recent film and television credits include a supporting role in “Resident Evil: Afterlife” (Sony/Screen Gems), a series regular role in “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil” (SPACE/CTV), and roles in “King” (Showcase) and “Rookie Blue” (ABC/Global). His theatre credits include lead roles in “Jasmine” (SummerWorks/Factory Theatre), “Pu-Erh” (SummerWorks/Theatre Passe Muraille), “Fugitives” (A Western Theatre Conspiracy), “Exit the Dragon” (VACT/Firehall Arts Centre), “Filthy Rich” (Firehall Arts Centre), and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (Gateway Theatre). He will play the role of Hassan in the Canadian premiere of “The Kite Runner” (Theatre Calgary/Citadel Theatre) in 2013. Films he has written and directed include “Marnie Love”, “Hello Faye”, and “Light 01”, which have screened at international film festivals, on Movieola Channel, Mini Movie International Channel (Europe), and on Air Canada. He was Second Unit Director on “The Tracey Fragments”, a feature film directed by Bruce McDonald. He is currently writing “Anne Darling”, “Rowds”, “Scabs”, and “Margaret Loses Her Daughter”. www.normanyeung.com

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