Perseverance is an essential quality in a young artist. Talent and hard work can help forge a path. But it’s really a “fuck you” attitude in the face of adversity that makes the difference when wading through the endless puddles of rejection that make up the early phases of a career.
It’s a reality Chase Lo knows well. He was turned down twice for the Emerging Creators Unit before finally earning a spot this year. His play Al/Lex catches a character at a breaking point. Limited by other people’s expectations of him, he’s been forced to suppress parts of himself that are about to come bubbling through the cracks. Daily Xtra caught up with Lo to chat out persistence, why he wants to share this story, and his post- Buddies dreams.
Daily Xtra: For a lot of young artists, the early opportunities you get are real make or break moments. You can feel like you’re so close to quitting your career and then you get one thing that keeps you going.
Chase Lo: Any time I get to be on stage or film, it’s a privilege, and a privilege I don’t take for granted. Growing up, I had very limited access to performing arts classes and it wasn’t something my parents encouraged me to pursue. I’d come to the realization that it was something I wanted to do on my own, which involved a lot of personal reflection, self-determination and mentors along the way. When I was able to access the support and spaces I needed, safe arts environments where I could explore my creativity, gender, sexuality and racial identity, it made all the difference.
Your character’s life has been defined by other people’s expectations which made him suppress many parts of himself. Have you dealt with particular pressures around your sexuality and gender identity relating to your family or cultural background?
For sure. The play is definitely informed by my specific experiences as a queer Asian male. But at the end of the day it’s a work of fiction that’s grounded in real life questions about identity and the parts of ourselves that we struggle to take ownership of.
As a queer person of colour, why is it important for you to share this story with Toronto audiences?
I truly believe this story needs to be told. And as much as I’m a performing artist, I’m also what makes up Toronto’s audience. So I am invested in seeing this story as a both a storyteller and audience member.
Your perseverance in applying to the Emerging Creators Unit suggests a real focus on your career. What kinds of big plans do you have for yourself in the next five years?
Oh lots! After showcasing Al/Lex at Rhubarb, I’d like to see it grow into a full production, all the while further developing my artistry and technique as a performer. I see myself having my own performing arts company, where I’m directing and producing shows but also supporting other emerging queer artists of colour in developing their craft and artistic exploration. I wrote down a list of things that I want to achieve and I’m gradually checking each of them off. Getting into Emerging Creators Unit was one of them. Let’s see what’s next.