Sunday, May 8, 2016

Spotlight On...Poppy Liu

Name: Poppy Liu

Hometown: born in Xi'An, China; childhood in St. Paul, Minnesota; adolescence in Shanghai, China; currently residing in Brooklyn

Education: BA at Colgate University (Theater & Women's Studies, summa cum laude); classically trained in Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)

Select Credits: Drunk Shakespeare (Lady Macbeth); Double Falsehood (Violante, Letter of Marque Theatre Co at Irondale); The Gambler (Polina Alexandrovna with Phoenix Theatre Ensemble at Wild Project); Doruntine (Doruntine with Blessed Unrest at Interart Theater)

Why theater?: For me, theater is a place to learn empathy. The rawness of live performance is something utterly unique because it reveals the messiness of the human condition. It's real time. There's no room for edits or tweaks. A moment passes in less than a heartbeat and you're either present right NOW or you're not. The stakes are high. Theater is about showing up. Everyone in the theater has showed up, the audience and the performers. Everyone is in the room, physically. More and more being in the room together feels like a revolutionary act. We have no screens to hide behind.

Who do you play in Body?: Franny

Tell us about Body: Body is the first breath of a conversation. It purposely asks 20 questions and then answers none of them. Our goal with this show is to stir something in your gut, to make our audience feel the place we call the "burning grapefruit" located just a little bit below the navel. This show is asking people to see the human body in a different way, to witness an act of vulnerability. Nudity is a metaphor for vulnerability. We are presenting ourselves with nothing to hide behind, figuratively and literally.

What is it like being a part of Body?: I love everyone in this ensemble so much. I think that is apparent on stage. It's always a gift to be able to make a piece out of love and from a place of love. That's been my experience. It certainly has not been easy, we undertook a huge feat. Not only was the entire concept and story built from scratch, the process for how to make a show like this was also built from scratch. It takes a certain amount of trust to dive into a feat like that with an ensemble of our size.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I believe in theater because of its capacity for social change. I am inspired by political theater. I am inspired by storytelling as the oldest form of communication for humans. It's how our ancestors passed knowledge and culture and information down. Storytelling is the very fabric of the human experience, it's in our bones. When we are able to conjure that lineage of ancient storytellers I think we tap into a collective consciousness. I am inspired by forms of performance such as puppetry and Butoh which put social engagement in the center of their forms. Puppetry with its history of political commentary and Butoh with its origins from WWII - a form that was created as a direct response to human suffering and an attempt to transform it into poetry.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: You know, I've been pleasantly surprised by the roles I have gotten to play so far. I have been cast as men, as women, as abstract creatures, as warriors, as lovers... I haven't had a minute of being bored.

What’s your favorite showtune?: I think I'm a different genre of NYC actress perhaps....  my version of "showtune" is like Die Antwoord.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Malala Yousafzai, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and activist for female education; I would love to do a music video with FKA Twigs

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Jack Nicholson for sure, he is my spirit animal. Or Ai Wei Wei, the Chinese radical political art activist. The movie would be called "Mongolian Goat Boys".

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I would love to see the performances happening in the Forbidden City during the Qin Dynasty (some crazy art during that period!)

What show have you recommended to your friends?: anything that Broken Box Mime Theater creates

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: If you ever have shared a dressing room with me you will know that my theater diet consists solely of meat and cookies. I'm always coming in with either a 1/2 pound of roast beef, a container of spare ribs, or 2 packs of cookies.

What’s up next?: I'm creating a short film over the summer with the theater company I founded, The Collective Sex, based on my abortion story (I'm looking for awesome feminist female film directors so holler if that's you). I am also working on a social start up called Pure House which is communal housing project with the mission of transforming spaces in safe and nourishing environments for creatives around the world to thrive.

For more on Poppy, visit