by Alice Tuan
When I wrote Iggy Woo back in 2002, I was pretty sick of the usual Asian-American themes—alienation, immigration, cultural misunderstanding, historical injustice, cute foods, perpetual becoming—yes of course, that’s part of the experience, but what about the Asiatics who have been in the U.S., shop in malls, smoke cigarettes, are addicted to sugar and fall in love with people who don’t love them back? It’s better now with the 4th wave of Asian-American playwrights—Lauren Yee, A. Rey Pamatmat, Michael Lew, Mia Chung, Michael Golamco and bunches of others—but back then, in the early naughts, I wanted to write just regular folks who happen to be of Asian descent.
Iggy Woo is described as “a play about unrequited love, quitting smoking and creating amidst consumption.” How did you see these coming together, and what were your inspirations?
Yeah, I was trying to quit smoking. And quit a guy. And yeah, I grew up in the Valley. Where the true cathedral is the mall. And yeah am obsessed with gift wrapping. And ate pho, like, every day.
Jimmy Choo designs shoes. Iggy Pop is punky cool. What if there were two mall workers who snuck cigarettes and created new designs on their break?
I gave myself the challenge of writing 8 pages a day for 9 days. Would not get out of bed until I knew what the first 2 pages were. Day 7 was killer—just so tired and bleary but wanted to get through. That’s when I went and sat in Macy’s gift wrap to inspire the last 3 scenes, and what a shot of metaphor for American consumption it was, down to beautiful, empty boxes and 15 second samples of Christmas favorites, the tease of sentimentality.
When my agent first sent the play around, someone said it wasn’t ‘Asian’ enough. Ugh. Are Asiatics forever gonna be unfun melodrama? I say let’s have some mad joy and tear up all the pretty boxes to find that one cig during a furious nic fit.
Iggy Woo by Alice Tuan will be presented as part of Artists at Play's reading series day on Sunday, March 24th. Get your meal tickets now!