Episode 487 – Alvin Eng

Virtual Memories Show 487:
Alvin Eng

“With so much of life, you need to be prepared out the wazoo, but once you’re in the moment, you have to improvise.”

Playwright, performer and acoustic punk raconteur Alvin Eng joins the show to celebrate his new memoir, Our Laundry, Our Town: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond (Fordham University Press). We get into his Chinese-American upbringing in the 1960s/70s, his evolution into musical theater and the education of ’70s rock shows, the heyday of NYC performance art, his exploration of his Chinese heritage and the sensation of being Other in America & China, writing for the page vs. the stage, his Portrait Plays and how they interrogate other art forms and artists, the solitude of creation & collaboration of performance, and how writing this memoir was sort of like making album. We also talk about his midlife crisis rock bad, How the song Chinese Rocks rocked his punk world, what he had to learn in order to teach playwriting, what it means to be Chinese-American today, how he grew more comfortable with words than music, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Our Laundry, Our Town!

“It’s important to remember that, yes, your moment is vital, but there’s so much that happened before.”

“The best thing is that my wife & I both understand the craziness and instability of this life. Because we both come from the theater, we know it’s about the process of here and now.”

“Thanks to the internet, things have to become more global, more elastic in their definitions.”

“Throughout life, the questions are more or less the same, but hopefully the answers are different.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Alvin Eng is a native New York City playwright, performer, acoustic punk raconteur, and educator. His plays and performances have been seen Off-Broadway, throughout the United States, as well as in Paris, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou, China. Eng is the interviewer/ editor of the oral history / play anthology Tokens? The NYC Asian American Experience on Stage (Temple University Press / Asian American Writers’ Workshop). His plays, lyrics, and memoir excerpts have also been published in numerous anthologies. Eng’s spoken-word videos, songs, storytelling, and commentary have been broadcast and streamed on National Public Radio among others. He is a a two-time appointee to the Fulbright Specialists roster of Theatre / U.S. Studies scholars and a three-time recipient of NYSCA/ NYFA Fellowships. His new book is Our Laundry, Our Town: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond.

Follow Alvin on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Alvin by Louis Chan. It’s on my instagram.

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