Arts & Entertainment
1 min

Reading between the lines

Toronto artist Gein Wong unearths ancient language in her latest production

Gein Wong's latest production fuses modern dance and Chinese classical music. Credit: Bao Phi
Toronto-based playwright, composer, poet and video artist Gein Wong’s work has touched audiences as far away as Australia. Her stories are grounded in social justice and draw on her history as a queer Chinese-Canadian woman.
As writer and co-director of Hiding Words (for you), Wong brings her largest production yet – with a talented cast and crew of 14 – to a transformed Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront Centre. The audience sits under silk drapes suspended on either side of an S-shaped stage.
The multimedia production fuses theatre, poetry, hip hop, Western and Chinese classical music, modern dance, performance art, film, video art and visual art as it presents interweaving stories about women finding their voices.
Wing-Yin is a bold girl growing up in 1850s Guangzhou on the eve of the Taiping rebellion. Grace is a Chinese-Canadian spoken-word artist who is interrogated for instigating a cyber attack on the Canadian government in 2012. In the second half of the production, Grace is transported to Hong Kong in 2007. There she meets Blackberry, a performance artist, and MC Yeung, a rapper. Both are planning a protest of the Beijing Olympics.
Nüshu, an ancient Chinese writing system that traces its roots back to 400 CE, unites the stories. At the time, girls were forbidden from reading and writing, so they created Nüshu, a language unrecognizable to men. The characters in Hiding Words (for you) become separated in their adult years but remain in touch using Nüshu in embroidery. Nüshu reads like poetry, love letters between “sworn sisters” – as these bonds became known.
Grace and Wing-Yin’s bond is strengthened through Nüshu, and an emotional reconnection near the end emphasizes their bond, which defies time and place. They find love, and in each other they find themselves.
Wong hopes the play will eventually reach audiences worldwide, and she hopes the success of such a large-scale production will open doors for more queer artists and performers of colour.
“I think it’s important to take stories about my communities and go big with them, create large-scale productions. Our stories are important and deserve to shine.”

The Deets:

Hiding Words (for you)
Runs till Sun, Sept 23
Enwave Theatre
Harbourfront Centre
235 Queen’s Quay W