So what is your name and where are you from?
My name is Mike Lew and I’m from San Diego.
And what projects are you working on during your time at SPACE?
I have a play called “British Raj: Just the Fun Parts” and it’s part of a trilogy I’m writing with my wife, Rehana Lew Mirza. So the two of us, we just started to notice that a lot of the plays we were seeing had this assumed context that everyone was coming at the play from the same place and that’s not necessarily where we’re coming from. A lot of how we process the world and politics comes from a vantage point of, you know, the history of colonialism. We got this idea to write a contemporary play where that’s the context, but in order to get people up to speed we needed to go backwards. So I’m writing the first play which is an encapsulation of the British Raj from 1600-1947 and the second play takes place in the Caribbean, and the third is a contemporary American play that she’s writing. We’re co-writing the second one. So really what we’re doing is going back through hundreds of years of colonialism that led to today.
Why did you choose to come at such heavy topic matter from a comedic perspective?
I think that social satire and being able to recognize our hypocrisies is powerful, and if you’re coming at injustice from a sideways angle you’re able to open up an audience and make them more receptive to your argument rather than swooping in with a heavy hitting drama that makes them shut down or try and distance themselves. I think in comedy you are able to make it personal rather than anthropological.
It’s funny because a lot of my work is comedy, but Rehana and I have been working really closely together since 2005 when we joined Ma-Yi Lab (which is the largest collective of Asian American playwrights ever assembled in the history of recorded time by the way), and her focus was largely on South Asian interrelations. We kind of bump off on each other, hence this trilogy. I would say my concern is for marginalized populations and trying to create a more diverse theater. And from that, a lot of different work flows.
So where have you been working on these projects during your time on the farm so far?
I really took a shine to the back porch right behind the Sycamores. Also the hearth in the entryway of the Sycamores is great. It’s amazing that there are all these little nooks to hang out in and they’re not necessarily designated as writing spaces but they call to me.
What’s in store for you after your time at the farm?
I tend to know what my next play or two will be a couple years out from writing it, so I just started writing “British Raj” but I knew I was going to be writing it a couple of years ago. So right now there are a couple of projects that are mid-process. Rehana and our composer, Sam Willmott, are writing a musical called “Bhangin’ It” which is about Bhangra music, like “Bring it On” but with Bhangra music. I have another play called “Teenage Dick” which is an adaptation of Richard III in high school which is further along than “British Raj,” and then there’s a new musical I’m starting with Adam Gwon and we’re just starting to kick around ideas for that.
If you had to be a farm animal, what animal would you be?
Wow… I guess a goat? Nobody messes with a goat. They get to climb, there’s some milk involved but the humans generally leave you alone.