We had the opportunity to learn a little more about playwright, director, and producer Danielle Cummings (she/her) and Amy Pan (she/her), and we’ve just gotta make the introduction.
Welcome Danielle and Amy! What WTFringe show are you representing? What are your roles on the production team?
DANIELLE: I’m the co-playwright, assistant director, and producer of Motherland.
AMY: And I’m the co-playwright and director for Motherland.
Could you both give us brief descriptions of your artistic backgrounds? How did you two come across the work of WTF?
DANIELLE: I’m an NYC-based writer and pursuing my M.A. in Ministry in the Global City at City Seminary of New York. I primarily write fiction but have publicly performed original spoken word pieces such as \”Starry-Eyed\” (2021), \”The Rose of New York\” (2018), and \”Abraham and Sarah\” (2013). Last year, I adapted a virtual production of Romeo and Juliet and directed and produced R + J Online: Covid-Crossed Lovers. Ever the restless creative, I also consult on developing scripts on a professional basis. My Instagram collection of fairy tales, “TellMeAstorya,\” launches this year. I encountered WTF through Amy\’s short play, Highlighter Girl, last year.
AMY: I’m an NYC-based actor and playwright and studied at the University of Kentucky and the London Academy of Dramatic Arts. My 10-minute play Highlighter Girl was an Audience Choice winner in WTF’s Fringe Festival. Highlighter Girl was also produced in the University of Kentucky’s mainstage production New Works Now (2018). Prior to this, my works Not Nineveh (2017) and One Dandelion Wish (2017) have been produced in the university’s Studio Season. My 10-minute play Rainbow was also a semi-finalist in Actors Theatre of Louisville’s New Voices Competition 2013.
Chelsea Russell and Rowen Haigh both encouraged me to check out the work WTF was doing and to submit my own work as well. So, I took a short play I\’d written about Asian American identity, adapted it for a virtual medium, and submitted it to last year\’s festival. It was an exciting challenge to experiment with producing for virtual theatre, but it was very rewarding. I learned so much!
Have either of you collaborated with WTF before? If so, in what capacity?
DANIELLE: Nope! I watched Amy work with WTF last year and appreciated the way the company empowers directors and producers, as well as the inclusive accommodations of the festival.
AMY: Yes, I produced Highlighter Girl with WTF last year.
Well, welcome and welcome back ! What is your connection to your WTFringe show? What compelled you both to step into production roles for it?
DANIELLE: I have spent the past 17 years or so very closely connected to predominantly AAPI spaces. In many ways, the AAPI community has been my family and I have had the privilege of being up close for a long time to witness several stories that differ from my own. Together, Amy Pan and I co-wrote a play exploring some of the beauty and challenges that can come with being an inter-cultural immigrant family: Motherland. Like many immigrant families, the Liu family\’s communication doesn\’t always come easily, but there is beauty in the ways they continue to try. So, this past year of Zoom calls has primed people to understand their struggles and values more deeply than ever before! I hope this play can serve as a window into a world I\’ve been fortunate to be included in for so long.
AMY: I co-wrote and directed Motherland. I was compelled to produce this play because I believe telling AAPI stories is important; every time I\’ve been able to share my experiences (or experiences similar to mine), I\’ve found that it humanizes our community and creates greater understanding.
Thank you so much for everything, Danielle and Amy. To cap off our conversation, what has been your favorite aspect of preparing for WTFringe 21?
DANIELLE: I love creative problem-solving; and with our tiny team, I\’m filling nearly every role and constantly learning through challenges. It\’s been such a gift to have the freedom to be stretched beyond my writing expertise while simultaneously working with true experts. Amy Pan is a wonderful director, and every member of our cast is a dream come true. I don\’t speak Chinese personally, but the scenes are so well-acted that I can follow along and know exactly where everyone is in the script. I\’ve always heard it\’s wise to surround yourself with people smarter or at least further along than you; Motherland has been an opportunity to do that, and I\’ve learned so much thanks to the amazing people I got to work with.
AMY: It\’s been a joy to direct our incredibly talented and fun cast, and I\’ve loved hearing all of their stories. It\’s not often I get to be in all Chinese-American spaces, and it\’s a pleasant surprise to know that no matter how \”American\” I can sometimes feel, I\’m still connected to a greater common experience!
Catch the FINAL performance of Motherland on Saturday July 24 at 8:00 pm EST.
All WTFringe 21 tickets are Pay-What-You-Can with a $10 suggested donation per performance.