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Posted May 17, 2023

The Interview – Minh Ly

Minh Ly

Minh Ly is an actor and writer. He trained at Studio 58 in Vancouver, BC, and has been working as an actor in film and television ever since. Ly’s plays include the solo show White, Another F#$king Identity Piece! and Ga Ting (Family).

Ga Ting (Family) tells the story of a young gay white man who goes to visit the Asian-Canadian parents of his lover, who has died. In the frank theatre production at the Cultch in Vancouver, the play was performed in English and Cantonese (with surtitles) to very diverse sold-out crowds. Why do you think that there was such an overwhelming audience response?

I think it was because at the time very few plays featured mature Asian actors in their 60s—and the bilingual aspect of the play was integral to the storytelling of the piece. Hence, many people who had probably never before felt seen at the theatre finally did. I think the subject matter—queerness in Asian cultures and generational/cultural clashes—also brought in many marginalized audience members.

Minh, you tackle many difficult subjects in the play, including homophobia and mental health. Why did you feel it was important to initiate a conversation around these issues?

Well, any talk of gayness and mental health is quite taboo in Asian, or more specifically, in Chinese culture. I wanted to write a piece that would spark discussion about those topics, especially in those communities. My hope was for people to see themselves in the play and hopefully someday have some important conversations with their loved ones, or at least know they are not alone.

For many years, Asian artists have been underrepresented on Canadian stages. In 2022/23, plays by more than twenty Asian playwrights have been programmed across the country, including Lady Sunrise by Marjorie Chan (Factory Theatre), New by Pamela Sinha (RMTC and Canadian Stage), Cockroach by Ho Ka Kei (Tarragon Theatre), and The Waltz by Marie Beath Badian (Blyth Festival and Great Canadian Theatre Company). Do you think that’s a hopeful sign that we are moving in the right direction?

Absolutely! There’s been a lot of growth from when I started in this industry 15+ years ago. I’m thrilled and excited to see so much Asian talent and so many Asian stories presented on our Canadian stages. Hopefully, this is just a start and we will see more marginalized artists, especially artists with disability, get the space they deserve to tell their stories and be seen.

Minh, you’ve done a lot of travelling. What are some of your favourite places to visit?

Well, one of my favourite places to visit is Vietnam, from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. I’m all about food when I travel. Being half Vietnamese I’ve grown up eating a lot of Vietnamese cuisine and love it. Once you get to Vietnam the food is so inexpensive but so good, you can eat like royalty there…every day!

What’s your next project, Minh?

I was recently a part of this year’s cohort for Noteworthy, a musical theatre creation intensive at The Musical Stage Company. I am toying with some musical theatre ideas and am excited to take a stab at writing a musical in the near future.