Yilong Liu is a Chinese-born playwright who writes plays in English. Michael Leibenluft is an Obie-winning, American-born director who directs in Chinese. Together, they’ve been working on the New York premiere of Liu’s play, June is the First Fall in a production by Yangtze Repertory
We are constantly delighting each other with things and discoveries and even in scenes where the characters are brutal and cruel beyond imagination to each other—as soon as we get out of character, everyone is so full of laughter and joy.
I once described Little Lord shows like a rollercoaster. At the end we want you to realize how far you’ve been, how far you’ve traveled, even if you were just sitting still in your seat.
So you’re a dramaturg. What inspired you to pursue dramaturgy? I discovered it while I was in undergrad as a devised theatre major. At that point, I was a bit of a generalist, as we were encouraged to be—I’d done some acting, directing, writing, stage
Being on a plane you’re just constantly being confronted with your own mortality. Or at least I am.
In Polylogues, the audience is watching me, and specifically me trying to listen. You’re watching that effort.
the art that really connects to me is about the little tiny very specific pieces of life, always needing to retie your shoelace, the way your kid wipes his tears away with his palms, the way someone’s hair looked under a neon sign, the oddly beautiful mold encasing a dead bug at the bottom of a puddle on a mountain
I’ve found it terrifying at times, and surprised about how different it has felt for me. But it’s brought a deeper sort of pleasure, not least of which is that I am so proud of what we’re doing.
I like to provoke an internal movement in the audience, something where their inner life or fantasy is activated.
Yeah we’ve done microphones.
Life is triggering. I am triggered constantly. You either choose to run away from that reality, be victimized by it, or lean into it by accepting the truth of your own experience.
Nowadays I’m less interested in causing maybe a huge stir or making something achingly beautiful on the whole. Now it’s more like: take a sizable hunk out of the corner somewhere and maddeningly chew.