Our first Addicted Inspiration feature is playright and actvist Chloé Hung. Born and raised in Toronto, Chloé is a current Master of Fine Arts candidate for Dramatic Writing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. There she studies playwriting, screenwriting, and TV writing as she works her way to a career in the arts. Though she is still in school, Chloé is already garnering accolades for her work. Her play All Our Yesterdays, her play about the Boko Haram schoolgirl kidnapping in Nigeria, won the Patron’s Pick Award at the 2015 Toronto Fringe Festival. The emotional and thought provoking play has been remounted as part of the Next Stage Festival, with its run wrapping this coming Sunday, January 17. For using her art as activism and education, we think Chloé is incredibly inspiration. Read about her journey below.
How did you get involved with the work you currently do?
I began writing All Our Yesterdays in a playwriting class. The inspiration came from reading about the missing Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. I was so struck by how horrific this tragedy was. They’re still missing. Over 200 girls and all for trying to get an education.
The contradictions are incredibly horrible. These men would kill boys, but kidnap girls. They would subject girls and women to all manner of degradation and yet they need women, specifically from a reproductive stance, to continue their agenda. When the girls were first kidnapped the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls went viral. Even First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted a picture with the hashtag. But now when I bring it up to people they only vaguely remember, if at all. It’s so sad that we can forget but there is so much tragedy around the world it’s hard to keep it all in your mind. So I write about it.
What is your WHY? What drives you to do what you do?
I write because it’s how I know how to express myself, my fears, my frustrations. I write because I love to tell stories. I write because I can’t not write.
What are the biggest challenges/setbacks you’ve had to face?
The biggest challenges I think are still to come. So far they’ve been smaller scale and more to do with my own fears and doubt in my work and in the industry’s ability to embrace an artist of colour. Every time I apply to a diversity-based arts program and have to fill out some form or write a personal statement about how my background has influenced my writing I die a little inside. That’s a dramatic way to put it but it’s not fun. I want to be seen as a writer, just a writer. But in order to get to that level, I have to first get people’s attention as a female Chinese-Canadian writer.
What are some of the successes (big or small) you’ve had?
The enthusiastic and warm reception to our Toronto Fringe Festival run of All Our Yesterdays was a great surprise. It definitely felt really good to have people recognize our work. We had a five out of five from NOW Magazine, we received Patron’s Pick, and now we’re going to be part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival.
Who inspires you?
My mother and her mother and her mother’s mother. I come from a long line of working women who are strong willed and opinionated. They instilled in me the importance of a good work ethic. Nothing is going to be handed to you, you need to work hard.
If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?
Save the Children. We’ve partnered with them for All Our Yesterdays, a portion of our profits will go to their organization. They have a wide network that focuses on issues that affect children from health and nutrition, to education, to child rights governance. They’re a great organization. It breaks my heart that children around the world are subject to such abject poverty and are deprived of their rights from such a young age. That’s why I’ve made sure every run of All Our Yesterdays has an outreach component, so we can do our part. Go to www.savethechildren.ca to learn more about them.