Every October, Boston’s Post-Meridian Radio Players put on a spooky show to celebrate Halloween.
“Because of copyright and stuff, more often than not, it would be old public domain stories like ‘Dracula’ or Edgar Allan Poe,” said Jamie Lin, a Taiwanese American member of the group. A few years ago, she started wondering what a show representing her own background would look like.
“I guess I should write it,” she concluded and began searching for Taiwanese ghost stories online. She eventually found one in a blog post about Línkāiqún Mansion in Keelung City, Taiwan, which was owned by a family that shared her surname.
On Saturday, people can enjoy the first proper staging of “The Ghost of Keelung,” the radio play adapted from this story, at Mary Soo Hoo Park on the Greenway near the Chinatown gate.
“The Ghost of Keelung” tells the story of a young woman working in a hotel bar in 1950s Taiwan. The bar has predominantly Western clientele, and she falls for one of the American sailors. But when he jilts her, there are dire consequences.
According to Alison Yueming Qu, cofounder and executive director of CHUANG Stage, the bilingual and bicultural theater company putting on the play, it’s a “revenge story” which reimagines the Western stereotypes about young Asian women and allows the character to “claim ownership of her own story” while sharing “the real history of Taiwan being colonized.”
“Initially the play was written to be a sound experience, and we’re leaning into that. But we are also live producing everything onstage in front of you,” explained Qu. In addition to actors and actresses reading onstage, the audience will see two foley artists using glasses, water, and other materials to produce live sound effects and create the feel and environment of the bar.
“The Ghost of Keelung” is the third bilingual Asian American play reading in a series called “Found in Translation” which CHUANG Stage produced in partnership with Pao Arts Center, Chinatown’s first arts and cultural center, and Asian American Theater Artists of Boston. The series amplifies the complexities of being multilingual, immigrants, or AAPI in Boston.
“The ratio is like 75 percent English, 25 percent Mandarin” in “The Ghost of Keelung,” playwright Lin said, adding that the play will be accessible for non-Mandarin speakers.
“There are just certain phrases that will always be in Mandarin in my brain,” she explained. There aren’t scenes that will be entirely in Mandarin, but Lin drew from her experiences as a child of immigrants who spoke Mandarin at home and relied on the dramaturg, Carey Lin, who is currently based in Taiwan, to write dialogue that would feel authentic to her experience. In the scenes where the dialogue is a mix between English and Mandarin, “You can kind of figure out context by having both pieces.”
Bilingual plays are an important part of CHUANG Stage’s work in Boston.
“More than anything else — more than how we name ourselves: Asian American, Chinese American, or Taiwanese American — I think language is the one thing that connects us the most,” said Qu. This performance is part of a larger effort organized by the Rose Kennedy Greenway and Pao Arts Center for an annual art installation series inspired by the Chinese Zodiac and typically unveiled ahead of the lunar new year. This year’s “Year of the Tiger” public art installation was created by New York-based artist Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong, and a performance series with the same name uses the venue she has created to bring people together.
“It [the installation] was created to support the performance series and to activate underutilized space in Mary Soo Hoo Park,” said Sheila Novak, associate curator of public art for the Greenway Conservancy. “Public space is political, and how it is cared for and how it is utilized reflects the values of our society and the values of our government.”
The radio play is not the only Taiwanese American event happening in the area Saturday night. A Taiwanese Night Market will be happening across the street on the other side of the Chinatown gate.
“One of the goals for this process is that we really do want to engage and make all the Taiwanese Americans in town so proud of themselves and so proud of this work,” said Qu. “I am just hyper excited about this Saturday being a party.”
“The Ghost of Keelung” will be performed at Mary Soo Hoo Park, 59 Surface Road, on June 25 starting at 6 p.m. Run time is approximately 45 minutes with time at the end for questions and mingling. Tickets are free with a suggested donation of $10. Register for tickets at www.chuangstage.org/2122the-ghost-of-keelung