Photo courtesy of Jonyca Jiao
Communication junior Jonyca Jiao saw a gap in inclusivity across Northwestern’s theatre department. So this year, she decided to fill it.
“I don’t see a lot of Chinese or East Asian stories represented on Northwestern’s campus, so this can be our first step to bring something we are proud of, a part of our culture and history, and show diversity in all in theatre,” Jiao said.
Jiao is the founder of EighthDay Theatre Club, a new theatre organization which focuses on Chinese theatre and storytelling. EighthDay is the first theatre group in NU’s history to do so, she said.
The concept for EighthDay came about when Jiao and her other Chinese friends, who are not theatre majors, expressed a desire to participate in a theatre environment that was less competitive and valued their identities. This club allows them to not only immerse themselves in theatre but also celebrate their heritage, Jiao said.
EighthDay will premiere its first show, “Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land,” Thursday through Saturday in Alvina Krause Studio, located in Annie May Swift Hall. The performances will have a runtime of 80 minutes and begin at 7:30 p.m. each night, with an additional matinee on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are free for students, but attendees must register in advance.
The show follows two groups, one dealing with love, loss and romance, and the other adventuring into fantasy while holding onto hope. Ultimately, both intertwine at the end.
“It’s sort of like a comedy, but you can see the sorrow in that pain,” Jiao said. “This story tells that when we see humor, there’s a deeper layer — we see pain, but also a happy side that exists in that pain.”
Communication freshman Steven Yao, who plays the lead role, said his character’s story centers around how he is in love with a girl in Shanghai, but the two lost touch when he moved to Taiwan. When they finally find each other again after 40 years, they realize they have both been living in Taiwan all along, creating their own lives.
Yao said he got involved with EighthDay after Jiao, who is directing the play, reached out to him, as he wanted to combine theatre with his native tongue.
“It’s a place where we can come together and just forget about all the stress, routine and academics and all the pressure that we have as a student and just have fun,” Yao said. “It builds a community for Chinese students to express our voices and advocate for our culture.”
The entire play will be in Mandarin Chinese, Jiao explained. While EighthDay will also perform in English in the future, Jiao said she wanted the Chinese community on campus to feel welcomed and included. The group will also invite non-Chinese speakers to watch the show, understanding everything through body language instead of words.
For Communication junior Peining Jia, the show’s producer and stage manager, this is the first theatre production she has been involved in at NU. As a Radio/Television/Film major, Jia said she enjoyed finding how producing differs between film and theatre. While she has flexibility and time producing a film, she said theatre is all about the performance in the moment, leading to a different producing technique.
Jia said she became involved in the show when her roommate auditioned. She had always wanted to be involved in theatre, so she said this was the perfect opportunity.
“There’s a lot of different types of media or performances of different countries and cultures, but so far, I haven’t seen Northwestern having something that is really Chinese,” Jia said. “This is a really good chance for us to promote our Chinese culture, and I’m really glad to be involved.”
Email: [email protected]
— International theatre students engage in in-person productions in post-pandemic China
— Audio drama reimagines “The Glass Menagerie” through a Chinese-American lens
— Seesaw Theatre produces theatre designed for the audience