Like it or not, we all come from immigrant roots. Like European Americans and African Americans, our families all arrived on these shores from somewhere else. Over the generations, we maintain some of our ethnic cultural values, and discard others.
At some point, most Asian Americans suddenly feel embarrassed about our parents because they’re so… Fresh Off the Boat, or FOB. Like “queer” to the gay community, “FOB” is a term that was once and is still used as an insult but has become code for just plain “old-fashioned” within our community, and is even used affectionately.
Andrea Lwin, an affable, funny and talented LA-based actress and writer, celebrates the FOB-ier side of Asian American family life in her warm and witty web series, “Slanted.” So far, she and her director and co-producer, Cristina Anderlini, have completed two episodes in the web series (above), which they’re funding themselves. Maybe someone will step to the plate to help them finance future episode; for now, Lwin expects to have another segment done early next year.
The two episodes build on Lwin’s one-woman show of the same name, a fictionalized autobiography of growing up in an Asian American family with parents who are, well, still FOB-ish. I know this feeling, because although my brothers and I were all born in Japan, our family came to the U.S. when we were young and we’re about as all-American you can get. But my mother, who was born and raised in the northern island of Hokkaido, is still a FOB in so many ways, more than 40 years after our arrival on these shores. I guess that would make her “Not-So-Fresh-Off-the-Boat.”
I met Andrea in person at the BANANA conference of Asian American bloggers last month, and exchanged emails afterwards. Here is the Q&A I had with her about “Slanted”:
Q: How much of the one-woman show you developed is true? (like your parents’ characters, and Marty Phister, the creepy talent agent in your second episode)
A: The one-woman stage show SLANTED is autobiographical and the web series is based on it in terms of my parents, future brother characters, setting, lines of dialogue. I did delve into the industry somewhat in Ft. Lauderdale when I was younger and the web series idea evolved from that mixed in with my real life now in LA, the stage show and fresh new storytelling. There’s some creative licensing used in the stage show and more so in the web series, e.g. Marty Phister which was created by the actor who played him, Bob Beuth. We had a name written for him, but he came up with a better one so we went with it!
Q: Are you paying for this project by yourself? I see there’s a co-producer?
A:Yes, my co-producer Cristina Anderlini, and I fund it right now.
Q: When will episode 3 be available? (I can hardly wait)
A: February. We are shooting to blast a video blog in between Ep. 2 & 3 in Jan. We are having so much fun with it. The way we work is with total collaboration. Cristina directed the stage show and we just wanted to expand the story in a different medium to reach a larger audience. The message had to keep going! We wrote a TV pilot script based on the stage show, but didn’t want to wait for it to get seen. We just wanted to start shooting and decided to utilize the web world. So, we developed this web series idea based on the stage show and put a spin on it. Cristina and I produce it, take turns writing, call upon our production and actor friends, and we just talk it out so everyone feels like they are equally contributing to the episode. We’ll improv, rewrite, play and fly with it!
Q: What do you want to accomplish with this web series?
A: We would like to find a new media agent and financing so we can continue to keep it going the way we envisioned it.
Also, we would like it to reach a wider audience especially to more Asian Americans.
My big dream would be for it to be a TV series. I grew up watching TV all the time, and secretly wanted to be an actress. But I never saw any Asian American actresses on TV so it didn’t give me any hope to pursue my dreams fully at an early age nor did I see any stories that related to what I was going through when I felt “different” and alone. So I’d love to give that to web viewers and future TV viewers, especially the younger generation, so they can reach for their dreams despite all the obstacles.
Here’s “Slanted” in a capsule:
In 2006, SLANTED was selected for the New Filmmakers Series in New York as well as the LA Womenâ€™s Theatre Festival and performed in front of a sold-out audience to a standing ovation. Prior to this, there have been performances of SLANTED at The Elephant Theatre, Hudson Mainstage, â€œAbout an Hour of Your Timeâ€ at the Thousand Oaks Fringe Fest, MagnaCarta Theatre Company â€œLate Night Showsâ€ at The Complex, â€œKaleidoscope seriesâ€ at Edgemar Center for the Arts, â€œ15 Minutes of Femâ€ at The Egyptian Arena Theatre, in the â€œCabaret Festivalâ€ at the Whitefire Theatre and a filming performance in front of a live audience at the Matrix Theatre.
SLANTED is a one-woman show about the growing pains of a young Chinese-Muslim girl who finds herself born into â€œbeach bunnyâ€ society in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in the 80s. Born to immigrant parents, ANDREA, the protagonist of the show, struggles to find her place in the world while dealing with all the heartaches and pain of growing up â€œdifferentâ€. The youngest of three children, with two older brothers years ahead of her, Andrea becomes the focal point of her parentâ€™s attention, as they constantly try to mold her into the perfect combination of old Chinese culture and new American opportunity.
You can follow Andrea’s journey (and SLANTED’s progress) via Twitter and Facebook. She’s a talent worth following.