Behind the Fringe – Made in Taiwan

By Christa Tandana, Senior Plogger

I’ve always heard that it’s difficult for Asian Americans to find work in theatre and film. So, to have the chance to speak with successful actress Michelle Krusiec was really exciting to me. She is the creator and star of Made in Taiwan, an autobiographical one-woman show that is one of the most in-demand shows in this year’s New York Fringe Festival.Michelle has led a very busy career in television and film. She starred in the movie Saving Face, acted in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and even travelled the world with the Discovery Channel! It all began in the suburbs of Virginia, where she grew up. She started acting professionally when she was 12-years-old. One of her earliest roles was a “token Asian role” in a car commercial, where Michelle was told that her hair wasn’t Asian enough, so she had to wear a wig.

Made in Taiwan started as a paper in college, where she was majoring in theatre and English. It turned out to be a 14-page “play of sorts” that was intended for performance. Years later, in an acting class, she had to depict an event from her life, and she chose the night her mother bit her (True story! You’ll have to see the play!). People urged her to continue working on the story, so she went back to her 14-page collection of stories. It has taken Michelle five or six years to slowly piece the story together and rework it. The play has grown since its inception, and so has Michelle. She feels that her show is more successful now than in earlier interpretations because she has a different perspective. She said, “I always thought, ‘I feel really boring and I don’t know who I am’. And I would struggle because, well, at that age, I didn’t know what my point of view was. That’s the whole point of the piece. I didn’t have a point of view.”

This multi-talented actress has been successful in television and film, yet she returns to theatre to tell a story.

Michelle explained, “The reason writers write is because they have a story to tell. And I think theatre allows for those stories to be told. You’re some facet of that story, whether you’re an actor, or a writer, or you’re setting the lights, or you’re creating the ensemble, or you’re interpreting the material. It’s all generated from a person who has a need to tell a story.”

She continues, “Those stories are really vital to the way we communicate with one another as human beings…Artists need to express themselves. And they need to be witnessed by someone.”

Made in Taiwan is Michelle’s story. It’s about growing up and finding out who you are. Michelle says that her play is perfect for young people. “I don’t even think you look at your life at that age,” she said, “You’re still enjoying life and you’re still dealing with whatever life is throwing at you. This story is meant to just start you along that process.”

Watching Made in Taiwanand chatting with Michelle certainly challenged me to think about my life and who I am. I could go on and on about the insight that Michelle gave, but I will leave you with some of her advice.

“Keep checking in with ‘what do I want?’ Keep asking that question.” Michelle told me with wisdom.

After seeing Made in Taiwan, I can tell that Michelle asked herself that question – and really listened to the answer.

Read Christa's review of Made in Taiwan here.