Playwright Joan Rang Christensen on becoming the adult who could have helped her when she was young.
Joan Rang Christensen is a playwright. She's a Korean adoptee and based in Copenhagen Denmark. Besides that, she's the founder and artistic leader of Johns Theater.
Her latest play is "Wings," a story about how seemingly "common" problems are amplified for people of color due to the systemic and structural discrimination in the world today. "Wings" will be premiered right here in Minneapolis as a collaboration between Pangea World Theater and Akvavit Theatre in Chicago, which focuses on Nordic and Scandinavian works, this weekend!
All of Joan's works focus on ethnic, racial, and gender equality, and "Wings" is no different. She's incredibly hard-working and inspiring, but that drive didn't come from out of the blue.
When asked about her inspirations and how she got to where she is today, Joan answered "I'm inspired by people of color, people that were minoriatized, who went before me and who's work is an eternal inspiration to stay focused on the work, to not give up, to stick to the point, to understand what is happening and how you can navigate it. Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Judith Butler, to just mention a few. There are so many. But also, children and young people, who share their experiences and struggles with me, and motivate me to contribute to trying to make a change. Including myself as a kid. I try to be the adult, who could have helped me when I was young and wanted to become a writer."
Although, yes, Joan Rang Christensen is successful, her career hasn't been without challenges. "To get and keep a platform. To get funding. To insist that stories from a POC-perspective are important and relevant to a society. To break through the glass ceiling over the heads of most POC and WOC is the hardest."
The cast of the reading of "Wings" here in Minneapolis features all POC actors, coming from different backgrounds but still tied together with so many common experiences. It was never even an option to not cast POC in this play here, but that hasn't always been the cast. "I've spent so much time discussing with directors and producers to have actors of color playing roles of color. And sometimes been presented with the choice of having my play whitewashed or cancelled (silenced). And yes, I think race, gender and ethnicity had everything to do with it."
And clearly, the work Joan has been doing her whole life is needed in so many places across the world. She has received accolades and thanks from people of color, fellow adoptees, and people in marginalized communities across the world. The best part for her? "The audience reactions. Personal letters and mail after a show from people who, for the first time ever, saw something - a person of color and a story - that resembled their life experience and suddenly felt seen and validated. That theater was a place for them too. That has been the biggest reward for me."
When we asked Joan what she would say to an artist struggling to find their voice and embrace their identity, she told us that we can find out in the last scene of "Wings," so make sure to join us this weekend!
Joan has a lot on her plate, and is debuting another play in just a few months! "My next play is called, 'Tonight the War Comes Home,' and is a poetic, performative reflection about the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in 2015. 13 cartoonists were killed and the event caused huge debates on artistic freedom, freedom of speech, obligations and freedoms of art. It opens in April 2019 in Copenhagen."
Copenhagen is pretty far away, but the Pangea World Theater studio is right here in Minneapolis, so embrace this weekend's balmy weather and come see "Wings!"