by Megan Zong
As a second generation Chinese-Canadian born in Saskatoon, identity has always been something I have grappled with throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young adult life. I didn’t grow up with the closeness of having my extended family at gatherings and learning from my elders. Although I have visited China many times throughout my life, the temporary nature of those visits didn’t allow for strong everlasting bonds to form. In many ways, I feel disconnected from my Chinese heritage and cultural roots. The limited knowledge I have about Chinese history is through the stories told to me through my parents and extended family members.
For a long time, I have been wanting to write a play about my family’s history during the invasion of China by Japan in World War II. For many families like mine, the only reason we are here today is through personal sacrifices and the sacrifices of others. My vision for this bilingual multigenerational play is to explore the parallels across three timelines: my grandfather’s life during WWII, my father’s journey immigrating to Canada, and the current experiences of Asian-Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the creation of this historical dramatic play, I will be using primary source documents such as my grandfather’s short stories he wrote regarding real life heroines and villains he encountered during the war which I will translate from Mandarin to English. I will also interview family members, including my 93-year-old grandmother in China to inform the writing of this story. Her three children, my father and his two younger brothers (all very close in age), would get into all kinds of mischief at home. I look forward to setting the playful stories of my father’s childhood and the love of family during poverty against the backdrop of WWII.
We don’t learn about Chinese history in schools here. We learn about WWII through the western perspective which focuses on Europe and the involvement of North American allies, so very few people know about the effects and impact of WWII in Asia. Because of the opposing political ideologies between the east and the west, there is a lot of dissonance whenever “China” is talked about in western media. This tension leaves me at odds with my identities –Chinese and Canadian – and often stranded between the two.
My hope for this play is for people to leave the theatre with a better understanding and appreciation for Chinese history, culture, and people. For myself, through research and writing this play I want to reclaim parts of my Chinese identity which I have neglected for so long.
About the Artist
Megan Zong is a Chinese-Canadian multidisciplinary artist currently based on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations (Vancouver, British Columbia). Originally from Treaty 6 Territory (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), she graduated with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Saskatchewan. An actor, dancer, and singer, Megan has performed in plays and musicals across Saskatchewan. She is now expanding her professional career to include film and television.
Drawing on her experiences in various collective creation projects with Sum Theatre, Megan is an emerging playwright and indie producer. As a creator, Megan’s work aims to elevate marginalized voices while pushing the sensorial boundaries of live theatre. Recently, she made her playwriting, producing, and assistant directing debut with Unmasked, a semi-autobiographical story about her personal experience with psychosis. This production offered a unique portrayal of mental illness through combinations of physical abstraction, glow paint, and live music to create an aesthetic not previously seen in Saskatchewan theatre.
Through Persephone Theatre’s 2021-22 Playwrighting Unit, Megan developed a Theatre for Young Audience’s play, titled My Name Is…, about celebrating one’s cultural identity amidst the discrimination and repression faced by many BIPOC children and youth.
Currently, Megan is collaborating with her long-time friend Mitchell Larsen to create a performance art piece surrounding the theme of gender through Remai Modern Art Gallery’s Here and Now program. This piece will culminate in public performances at the end of August 2023.