Our passionate pathways feature this month is Lan Chu. Twenty year old Lan is in the final year of her psychology degree at RMIT. I interviewed her in the lead up to the recent showing of, In the Light of Day.
We talked about her long association with WEYA, spanning nearly a decade, and the process of creating In the Light of Day.
Lan’s first memories of WEYA are from when WEYA had a residency at Debney Meadows Primary School, when she was a student there in year five. She was in a production called The Minotaur, performed at the Clock Tower centre in Moonee Ponds. She remembers ‘that massive minotaur head that they made, that we would carry out onto the stage’, and ‘this one scene where I had to be a mother who’s baby turned out to be the Minotaur’. She recalls having to ‘slowly pull the cloth from the baby’s face’ and ‘the moment I had to scream like a mad woman, which was the scariest part and I never wanted to do it until the show’. But she did do it, and felt ‘pretty good about that’.
Lan went to Debney Park Secondary Collage, now known as Mt Alexander Secondary College, a school where WEYA had already been working for a few years.
Reflecting on her early involvement with WEYA, Lan says:
‘It was fun. There was not much else that I did as a kid. The opportunity was there. I took it. Our high school was pretty poor. There weren’t the resources to support a pro music or sports program. When I was a kid it made me a lot more confident about my intuition – instincts and stuff. It explores so many issues. I always thought that it was good for me.’
She also talks about the inspiring example of older participants in WEYA programs:
‘Definitely it’s the people as well. Keeps you coming back. So many people at my school: Abraham, Soloman, Macky. I wanted to be at that level too.’
Lan was born in Melbourne, and raised by her Vietnamese born mother, along with three siblings. I asked her what her mum thought of WEYA:
‘She thinks it’s cool. She doesn’t have a problem with it. She only sees good out of me doing it. She tries to come to the shows, but it’s hard with her English.’
As we talk about family, Lan mentions mental health challenges among her siblings, that she as a psychology student has had time to consider.
We talked about In the Light of Day. Lan explained that:
‘We started off not knowing what we were going to do the show about. We just thought of a character, based off someone in the neighbourhood we grew up in. My character’s a “shut-in”.’
She tells me that her shut-in character is based on someone close to her, and that she wanted to raise awareness of the shut-in phenomenon:
‘A lot of people don’t really know about shut-ins. It’s really big in Japan. It’s like when people don’t really want to know about society, so they just shut themselves in.’
Lan goes on to talk more about the play:
‘The whole street ends up being quarantined and we [the characters in the play] have no idea why. And it’s interesting ‘cos of all the unique characters! We have a lot of random characters [in this show]! It will be interesting! Hahah! It’s a slice of life in a ‘normal’ neighbourhood in the Western suburbs.’
What Lan has enjoyed about studying psychology is that ‘it’s all about human behaviour, what makes up personality, how your brain works with your body, social behaviour, the play between how you behave and other people behave.’
She muses that ‘I kind of thought that by doing sociology I’d be able to understand other people more and be able to put myself in other people’s shoes and stuff.’ And notes that she sees herself as an empathetic person:
‘whenever I watch things I also put myself in the character’s shoes. That’s why I don’t’ like watching horror movies. Cos I always put myself in their shoes!’
Lan will be graduating at the end of this year but plans to keep studying as she wants to go into education. She’s considering specialising in psychology, as a teacher, but also reflects that ‘I could teach drama, with my WEYA experience.’
Whatever you do Lan, the Western Edge Youth Arts team is right behind you, and super proud! Not to mention grateful for all you’ve contributed to WEYA over the years!
Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts