Meet Karmia Chan Cao
Creator & Director of Pawn
$5 tickets for Pawn at FringeNYC
What’s next on your Netflix queue?
Tree of Life
What’s playing on your iPod right now?
Last good book you read was…?
The Bomb by Howard Zinn
Your favorite restaurant in the city is…?
New York Hot Dog’s Bulgogi Dog
All-time, hands-down favorite piece of theater:
Fiddler on the Roof
What’s the best thing about FringeNYC?
The best thing about the Fringe from my perspective is that 200 shows offers a tremendous amount of diversity, career paths, geographies, perspectives, and passions. FringeNYC is a massive gathering stormcloud of talent and of ideas. As young artists, this is exactly the kind of experience we need. We look forward to exchange and look forward to collaboration. We look forward to pouring ourselves on New York. Every single wave comes in earnest. In this we are no different. But we bring with us a sense of earnestness and simplicity that is often denigrated in a cynical world where it is cooler to mock than it is to reveal greatness. One of the greatest strengths of the Fringe is that it embraces the Don Quixote sense that it is better to be considered mad than to not do what we believe in. Artists at the Fringe care about the power of theater wielded properly. We are all trying to express something. Regardless of the content, the shared desire for complete, holistic expression is common among all the shows and we look forward to sharing that with people.
What’s the #1 reason people should come see your show?
Pawn challenges people. We are not nice to our audiences, but we do it because we operate from a place of true love. Pawn brings up a lot of issues that many of us, including those within our company, would be perfectly happy to avoid. Yet, Pawn brings forth memories that incite us to feel. We live in an age where to feel is to be vulnerable and open to attack. Instead, we live in fear of what we cannot express. Fear is the primary, celebrated feeling of the past decade. Pawn aims to draw the poison out of the wound. Audiences may feel vulnerable as they are asked to examine the wound. But having stitched it up, what is left behind is an overwhelming sense of unity and hope. This show was written for New York and has always been about New York. We care about the people of New York and want to celebrate their spirit and bravery. How quickly New Yorkers got up to stand again after the 9/11 attacks. And when they were exhausted, they stood some more. To celebrate New York is not to have a party, but instead to study why the city stood when the towers fell. The first tower is for that spirit. The second tower is unfortunately for the kneejerk reaction that launched the country into two consecutive wars. This show is not blindly antiwar. Instead, it aims to lift unexamined consequences back onto the table. It wants to explore whether the price-tag of war is something we can afford. Through the butterfly effect, we are all deeply connected in a way beyond race, ethnicity, or religion. To change the world is not an option or a calling, but a reality. Everyone is changing the world everyday, so it is a choice of how we are changing the world, what flag we carry, and for what we are soldiering on.
Do you have any opening-night rituals?
Ritual is logic for the soul. The logic that my soul goes through on each opening night is parsing through why we’re here, what Pawn represents, what we’re fighting for, and what we consider success to be. Then I play the drums.
What are the craziest performance conditions you’ve had to work under?
Do you really want to know? How about trying to fill 1700 seats each night in Beijing during the biggest storm of the century? How about losing power in the middle of a performance in Daegu, South Korea and being left with just drums and raw voices for two minutes in a metal-rock song? How about being told in Chengdu that there are no gel frames for the lights, but hair clips will probably work? How about chunks of the ceiling falling an hour before a show and being told that it’s the first time in twenty years that the ceiling has fallen, but that it won’t happen again?
How did you get involved with the arts?
Simply put, I think writing was discovering an extra appendage or an organ. It’s very much like a breathing exercise of how much I want to take in of the world, how much I want to give back, what the air smelled like, how the words taste and what receives life from every breath.