BY KAYLEE DUFF
🎭 Catch A Bride for Kai on Saturday, July 7, at 8 p.m., a featured play in the 2018 Columbus Black Theatre Festival. 🎭
Written by Helen Yee and Jack Peterson, this play features a majority Asian-American cast and a story based on Yee’s life as an LGBTQ-identified immigrant.
The synopsis reads:
“Take a worried Chinese mother with a misfortunate son, who she believes is cursed, the unhappy ghost of another son, a skeptical daughter who has lost touch with her roots and her daughter’s partner who is thrown into the chaos. Each character is dealing with their own personal ‘ghosts.’ Add to this group a practitioner of Suan Ming, better known as the fortune teller whom the mother has hired to help get things in order. What you get is a funny, thought provoking story of a traditional Chinese ghost wedding in A Bride for Kai.”
Helen Yee was born in Hong Kong and moved to America with her family when she was a child. This meant growing up in a world where she had racism directed at her while realizing how different she was than other kids, Yee explained. “My mom wanted me to be in touch with my cultural roots, but I wanted to fit in.”
Yee and her mother had “cultural superstition clashes,” and this play is the story of one of those clashes. Over the years, Yee told the story repeatedly to friends and peers. “Over time, I started losing the details,” she said. “So I started writing it down.”
Yee was a natural-born storyteller and performer, but had never written anything for the stage before. Thus enter Jack Peterson, known playwright. “He took the story and turned it into a play,” said Yee.
But the play is firmly rooted in Yee’s past experiences and voice. It’s about her growing up as a lesbian in an Asian family, she said, and the conflicts that caused with her brother.
“The play is about me being able to embrace who I am,” Yee expressed. “It’s just a story, but parts of my history are in the play.”
A Bride for Kai also addresses what it’s like to be queer in an Asian-American family. Relationship problems and cultural differences are highlighted between May (the play’s main character) and her girlfriend.
Categorized as a comedic drama, the play “encompasses lesbian challenges and Asian racism in an all-white school,” and shows how to “find comfort in your own skin.”
Yee’s play was first read, with an all-Asian cast, at State of the Arts, which is a community theatre organization that strives to make theatre welcoming for everyone. After the reading, she was approached by an audience member who told her to submit the stage play in a contest. Yee did just that — and won a spot in this year’s Columbus Black Theatre Festival.
One of the beautiful things about A Bride for Kai is the casting. The majority of the cast are Asian. The actress who plays May had similar experiences to Yee’s while growing up. That inherent understanding is the important part. “I wanted the characters to be depicted by actor who could relate to racism and the culture differences,” explained Yee.
Yee is immensely proud of the cast, saying that she’s “amazed by the improvement from day one until now.” The cast is a mix of three experiences actors and three fresh actors (who have never been on stage before!).
The performance takes place at the Center Shedd Theatre in the Columbus Performing Arts Center, starting at 8 p.m. on July 7.
Tickets are available for purchase at the door or online.
- Adults: $20
- Seniors (60 and over): $15
- Students (ages 14 through 21): $15
- CBTF all-day pass: $50
This performance is brought to us in part by Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership (OPAWL), which “is a community-based organization committed to empowering AAPI women to be leaders in their communities.”
This is definitely a must-see show, so buy your tickets and reserve your spot today!
Helen Yee is also the co-founder and CFO of the American Institute of Alternative Medicine, which teaches holistic medicine practices such as acupuncture, massage therapy, nursing and medical assisting; visit their website for more information.
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