Lucy Wang’s new play My Aim is True will be featured along with four other plays in HERSTORY 2: WE RISE. In this interview with Artistic Director Natalie Osborne, Lucy Wang discusses the life of Anna Mae Aquash and the continuing struggle for native rights. You can see HERSTORY 2: WE RISE, March 10th and 11th at the Silk Road Art Gallery in New Haven.
1.) Can you tell me a bit about your experience with 365 Women a Year?
I naturally gravitated towards 365 Women A Year because my body of work features strong yet vulnerable female characters. 365 Women a Year simply provided more impetus and a welcoming home to explore and create stories about extraordinary women. It’s wonderful to belong to a community that recognizes and celebrates the contribution women have made to the world. In addition to writing about Anna Mae Aquash, I’ve written about Marion Davies, Julia Morgan and Misty Copeland.
2.) What drew you to Anna Mae Aquash?
I learned about Anna Mae Aquash from an article published in the April 25, 2014 issue of the New York Times Sunday magazine, WHO KILLED ANNA MAE?, by Eric Konigsberg. Her courage, her commitment and her unsolved murder brought me to tears, and I knew then that I had write about her.
3.) Anna Mae Aquash was an activist in South Dakota in the 1970s, today the Water Protectors are fighting to protect their tribal lands at Standing Rock, can you talk about the relationship between then and now?
If Anna Mae Aquash were alive today, I believe she’d be protesting and camped out at Standing Rock. I think she’d be heartbroken to see that Native Americans still have to fight for the right to hold onto their sacred lands, and that the government wants to break yet another treaty. What hasn’t changed is the need to keep fighting and praying.
4.) What is something you wish more people knew about this movement?
Water is life for everyone, and without it, we’ll all die. Protecting our water and our environment benefits everyone, not just one tribe, or one people. As much as we might need oil, we can’t drink oil. We can’t live on another planet, as of yet.
5.) Why is it important for people to hear stories of activism?
Sharing our stories about activism can transform and save lives. I just learned that it was a youth group that started the protests at Standing Rock. The group began as an effort to combat the high suicide rate among Native American teenagers and young adults. Its members then campaigned successfully against the Keystone XL pipeline and later shifted its focus to Standing Rock, giving these young people a greater sense of purpose. They brought an exciting new energy, attracting support from other Native Americans and activists from across the country.
We all have our struggles, and these struggles can isolate and defeat us, but when we hear about others standing up for what is right, it can give us courage, community and purpose. Sweeping change doesn’t typically happen overnight or by the actions of one person. As we are seeing right now with the Resistance against the Trump Administration, it usually takes organized masses and movement.
6.) What do you see as the role of the writer and the artist in America today?
I once had the pleasure of meeting Ishmael Reed, and he told me – as the title of his book says – writing is fighting. His words resonated. I think of writers and artists as fighters. We fight for your attention, to tell a story, make a difference, to survive, to shed light on the less visible, to open someone’s heart, to enlighten. More often than not, we’re knocked down, but we have to get back up to fight another day.
7.) What is something you want audience members to take with them after seeing My Aim is True?
I hope people feel inspired to learn more about Native Americans and to lead with courage.
8.) What other projects are you working on?
Inspired by the success of my show CHINESE GIRLS DON’T SWEAR, I’m writing a new one-woman show. I’m also working with my friend and composer Paul Wehage on a musical comedy about cancer – yes, I said comedy – and I’m writing a new straight play and a novel.
9.) Is there anything else you would like to share with your fellow writers and theatre-makers?
Play. Value yourself. Read your contracts closely. If you’re not sure something is fair or legit, reach out before your sign that contract. Call a friend, or the Dramatists Guild. Your voice and vision are worth something.
If you would like to support HERSTORY and NOplays efforts to bring women’s stories onto our stages, please consider making a donation. This interview is part of a three part series. To read the first interview with playwright Danielle Winston, click here.