Interview with Chen San May 2012 CHEN SAN: Dear Gage, translated your work, The Second

Coming of Joan of Arc, is a wonderful experience for me. In this process, I was stirring from time to time by those lines you wrote. The story of Joan of Arc is well known around the entire world, even in China. Can you share with us why choose her as the entry point of you want to talk about? GAGE: I wrote the play when I had just come out publicly as a lesbian and I was in a big lawsuit against a university. I was trying to expose corruption in my theatre department. I was suing the state, and they were fighting back very hard. It felt like a witchhunt. When I read a biography of Joan of Arc, I felt that many of the same dynamics were happening to me. I wrote the play, because I felt that the patriarchy does the same things to women over and over again, and we need to understand that this will keep happening until we change things. CHEN SAN: In this play, there are many bold imaginations and interpretations. I wish to know how the American audience looked at these interpretations, which were not recorded in official history? Did the audience find a new angle of thinking? What did they evaluate this play? GAGE: Actually, many of the personal details about Joan that are in the play are historically accurate... but they are not often included in her biographies. She did attempt suicide. She did have an alcoholic father who called her a prostitute. She did sleep with a woman named Hauviette, and she did leave home when Hauviette got engaged to marry. So, many of these things are true... I just put them together in a lesbian story. I think that many lesbians have always felt that Joan was a "sister." Women in the audience often tell me that the play changed their lives. CHEN SAN: When this play staged in US, have there had been any resistance? The audience, who came to this play, is more within the lgbt community and feminist, or there are also many ordinary audiences? What the ordinary audiences see about this play? GAGE: My work is usually attended by audiences interested in feminist issues... and often there are many lesbians in the audience. The play has troubled some Catholics. There was a man who was traveling around the country and trying to tell producers of the play not to do it, because it was not the Church's version of Joan of Arc. I thought that was foolish, because it is a play! CHEN SAN: Could you share with us, in this play, what do you want to express to the world most?

 

GAGE: I want women to realize that the terrible things that happen to us are happening in a political context. Too many women feel that it is their fault if they are poor or abused or sexually abused. I want women to understand that there is a war going on globally. It is a war against women. CHEN SAN: As you already know, this play is going to show in the Chinese theater soon. Do you have any expectations and ideas about that? What do you want to say to the Chinese audience? GAGE: I am so happy about this and I am very interested to hear about your experience. I don't know the history of lesbians in China. I hope that the play causes many people to think about their own history, and I hope that it gives strength to women who have experienced men's violence. CHEN SAN: I know that you specialize in non-traditional roles for women, especially those reclaiming famous lesbians whose stories have been distorted or erased from history. Why did you choose this as the main direction of your creative? GAGE: I did not become an artist until I was in my 30's. I felt that I got a late start, because the world lies about lesbians. It steals our history, or hides it, and this makes it very difficult to make lesbian art. As a lesbian, my family is more than the family I was born into. I have another family: the family of lesbians. I need that family history, and I hope that my work will help women who are lesbians understand who they are and take pride in their experience and their identity. CHEN SAN: After in-depth understanding of you and your work, I was really shocked. I was such surprised that you have so many works, and their quality is such good. In addition, you are also an active part in many kinds of activities of the affirmative. How did you make that? GAGE: Because my plays are about lesbians and about survivors of sexual abuse, I have had to fight very hard to get them seen by the world. Because of this, I have been very active in movements for social justice. CHEN SAN: In your large number of works, what is your favorite one? And why is that? GAGE: I love all of my plays the way a mother loves all her children. There are some that are special for special reasons. I love the Joan of Arc play because it was my first lesbian play and because I performed the role of Joan all over the US for more than 20 years. I just retired from performing it last year! I feel like Joan has become part of me.

 

CHEN SAN: I feel that your life is as exciting as a drama. Could you share some of your growth experience and self-identity experience to the Chinese reader? GAGE: It is true... I have had many, many adventures. I have also had many tragedies. I spoke up about my father's sexual abuse of me, and I became a stranger to my whole family. I also became disabled with an immune system disorder... and I feel it was from the stress of my career. And I have had the joy of living and working in communities of wonderful women and lesbians. I meet lesbians from all over the world, and it always fills me with joy and with energy. And my work brings me very deep satisfaction. I love to tell lesbian stories! CHEN SAN: At last, anything else you want to share with a lesbian-feminist readership here in China? GAGE: I hope that lesbian-feminists in China will find each other and publish magazines and create theatres and have radio programs and make films and write books... and create a culture where you are in the center of your experience! Yes, it will take work... but it worth it. I promise.