Five Questions: Anchuli Felicia King

Anchuli Felicia King is a multidisciplinary artist of Thai-Australian descent who works primarily in live theater. Her areas of interest include emerging technologies, VFX and projection design, music production and writing for performance. As a playwright, she is a member of EST’s Youngblood Group and Roundabout’s Space Jam Program. She has worked with a wide range of companies, including Punchdrunk, The Builders Association, 3LD Arts & Technology Center, Roundabout Theater, 59E59, Ars Nova, the Obie Awards, Red Bull Theater, Playwriting Australia (Sydney), Yellow Earth Theatre (London), House of North (Berlin) and SHIFT Festival (Shanghai). In 2017, Felicia began working as the Associate Artistic Director at 3LD Arts & Technology Center.

  1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?

I’ve never really had a fixed national identity. Ethnically, I’m half-Thai and half-Australian, so I spent the bulk of my childhood between the Philippines and Thailand, and then my teenage years in Australia.

I also have this weird globalized accent that I picked up in the International School circuit. It has a vaguely American lilt to it, so I sort of always tacitly identified as American. It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I realized how Australian I actually am. But even Australians don’t believe I’m Australian! So I’m sort of in cultural limbo. Which is a great space for an artist to occupy, I guess.

I’ve always wanted to live in New York though. I finally found an excuse to move here in 2015, when I got accepted into the theater MFA program at Columbia. My degree is technically in dramaturgy, but I’ve ironically ended doing pretty much everything except dramaturgy!

But yeah, I can’t really imagine my life anywhere else now. New York is the only place where being an outsider makes you part of the majority.

  1. Which plays or other works of art have had the greatest influence on you and why?

I’ve always been sort of interested in, like…meticulous grotesquerie. Like, the subject is distorted, but the form is really intricate and virtuosic. I once read this theory that you can boil down every Western art movement into two essential categories, “classical” and “baroque,” and I definitely veer on the side of the baroque: art that’s expressive, bombastic, rich with detail.

In my artwork and animation, I have a couple of touchstones: Del Kathryn Barton, Egon Schiele, Dave McKean, Gustav Klimt. And musically too, I’m inspired by composition that’s lush but a bit discordant. Philip Glass, Tom Waits, Bjork – I’m going through a real Bjork phase. She’s awesome.

With literary work, I’m interested in a different kind of grotesquerie, the grimy underbelly of humanity, I guess. I’m a sucker for like…gothic, decadent lit. Also filmmakers like Yorgos Lanthimos, Catherine Breillat, David Cronenberg – people who use a heightened cinematic vocabulary to explore moral bankruptcy, cultural outsiders, perversion.

In the theater… in-yer-face plays and political drama. So Sarah Kane and Philip Ridley, but also T.J. Rodgers, David Henry Hwang, Ayad Akhtar, Lucas Hnath…yeah, it’s a depressingly male genre. But I’LL FIX THAT.

  1. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?

Patience. I’m really impatient when it comes to my own work. I just want to get the damn thing done, you know?

It’s particularly bad when I’m trying to learn new software. I get halfway through youtube tutorials and then immediately starting tinkering around in complex programs with no idea what I’m doing in. And then I beat myself up for not having instant mastery of, like, Unreal Engine, or 3D modellingwhich takes people lifetimes to learn. So yeah. Patience.

Having said that, it’s why I love working in animation and video design. You have to wait for things to render. It literally forces you to be patient. And, like, take breaks. I forget to take breaks.

  1. What do you do to make a living? Describe a typical day.

Right now, I’m working as the Associate Artistic Director at 3-Legged Dog Arts & Technology Center. We have a pretty small staff, which means I’m involved with pretty much every facet of the institution, from programming to development to, like, rigging cables.

We’re a pretty unique organization, so there isn’t really a “typical day” at 3LD. There’s obviously the daily grind of every arts organization – answering emails, writing grants, production meetings. But there’s also some crazy awesome stuff. In the past six months alone, I’ve done video design for the Obies, worked on a mixed-reality installation for the SHIFT Festival in Shanghai, and built a geolocation tour of Alphabet City.

Which is all to say – a typical day at 3LD involves lots of tech gear, unhealthy quantities of coffee and usually some kind of minor crisis. It’s quite an adventure.

  1. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?

I’m really lucky that 3LD is an artist-run organization. Everyone on staff is either a full-time artist or creative technician, which comes with a great deal of flexibility and understanding. Thus far, I haven’t really had to choose: with a hefty dose of creative scheduling, I’ve been able to balance my freelance projects with my full-time job.

If anything, I find I’m really bad at choosing between art and life. One of the hardest parts of transitioning into professional practice has been like – valuing my time differently. I used to say yes to literally every projectBecause I just love making art so damn much. In the comprehensive hierarchy of my priorities, it’s like:

  1. Making the Art
  2. ….. food?

And that’s it.

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