The Procedure

Married to an American, you are about to become a citizen of the United States of America. At the immigration interview, you learn that naturalization requires a microchip implant. In the eye. What would you do? Would you choose love or freedom? This is the intriguing premise of the play The Procedure by New York-based Singaporean writer Marcus Yi. The play was performed and nominated for Best New Playwrighting at the  2013 Planet Connections Theater Festivity. New York Comedy World called it “a work of sheer genius.” The Procedure has just been published at Indie Theater Now. On the happy occasion of its publication, SP asked Marcus Yi a few questions.

SP: What inspired you to write The Procedure? Does the play draw upon personal experience?

MY: Ingénue Theater invited me to be a part of their writing circle in the fall of 2012, to create plays about the theme, “Home.” I had been thinking a lot about immigration reform and how immigrants feel about their adopted home, so decided that immigration would be a central theme. For me the play is really about the moment when an immigrant decides that their adopted country really becomes their home.

This is something that does not have a definite date for everyone, but is a gradual process of integration and assimilation. I doubt it is truly possible to completely be absorbed into a different culture if you are from another country, but after a while the experience becomes more bearable and I wanted to explore that dynamic in The Procedure.

The play is definitely based on my life and personal experiences and yes, my mother does skype me when she’s sitting on the toilet….

SP: You are not only a writer, but also an actor, producer and director. What role is most challenging for you? What role is most satisfying?

MY: I love all the roles in their individual capacity. I love writing because it lets me be the architect of the story and allows me to tell the audience my stories and advance my point of view. I love directing because it allows me to work with the actors and directly influence how the play is perceived by the audience. I love acting because of the personal relationship with the audience and the immediacy of their feedback. The constant challenge for me is trying to juggle a few of them at the same time. I think each role requires specific parts of the brain and my brain gets quite overloaded if I try to take on too much at once (which I often do).

SP: How would you describe the indie theater world of New York City? Supportive? Competitive? Visionary? Subversive? Tame?

MY: I feel that the indie theater world of New York City puts artistic control into the hands of the artists that are creating the work. That means it can be supportive, competitive, visionary, subversive or tame depending on the players in the field. The type of theater that I want to create is welcoming to other artists, but still pushes the boundaries of what theater can do, while maintaining a high level of entertainment.

SP: What is your next project?

MY: My musical Micro Shrimp will be given a reading at the William Paterson University as part of the New Jersey Playwrights Contest on February 11, 2014. My play Apples from Eve, which is based on the Ariel Castro case, will be read at the Fresh Fruit Festival Developmental Reading Series on March 8th, 2014 [SP: at 3 pm, at The Church of St. Luke in the Fields, NYC].

Of his collage theater piece “29x/y,” Yi writes, “29 segments written in 29 days in the 29th year of the playwright’s life, this is a play that fuses monologues, songs, dance and experiments in theatrical statements. Confessional monologues from a bathhouse, fag hag haters, dysfunctional ex-lovers, dancing Republicans, eccentric want-ads and Super Mario fetishists all make an appearance to help you understand the meaning of 29x/y.”

From “29x/y”:

The first time that a mean prime gap is a positive integer occurs at 29. 29 is also the smallest Gilda prime. Note that if a Fibonacci-like sequence is formed with the first term equal to the absolute value between the digits of 29 (i.e., 7) and the second term equal to the digit sum of 29 (i.e., 11) then 29 itself occurs as a term in the sequence: 7, 11, 18, 29.

Math tells us 3 of the saddest love stories:

Of parallel lines, who are never meant to meet
Of asymptotes who could only get closer and closer, but could never be together.
And of tangent lines, who were together once then parted forever.

The parallel

We started out in the same place
But shoulder apart
I was born to you
But close we were not
You raised me up
But could pull me right down
I worshipped you
Until I found out what lurked in your crown.
When I pulled closer
You pulled away
When you reached for my hand
I didn’t want to stay.
You told me:
“The highest possible score of a single hand in the card game cribbage is 29.”
I told you:
“The form 7n+1 has the number 29 as the smallest prime.”
You loved games
Especially the ones you played with men
But you weren’t satisfied
So it was an ever-revolving door
Of again and again.
When I was 10 you took me to the sea
“A holiday”, you said, just for you and me.
I packed up my things, my heart set in motion.
But when you got there you walked straight into the ocean.
I made sand-castle waiting for you to come.
But some fishermen found you floating in the sun.
A black car came, I grew up closer to Father.
But somehow I always think of you, Mother.

The asymptote

First day on the square
I saw you
Walking with books
Long wheat colored hair.
We shared a class
You took the seat next to mine
We constantly argued about the intersecting line.
Quantum Physics was not your strongest suit.
I offered my time and devotion to you.
You told me:
“29 is the number of times The Beatles pronounce “yeah” in their 1963 hit She Loves You”
We walked and talked and laughed away the hours
Sometimes pausing in the rain to enjoy summer showers.
Your red lips I wanted to touch
But you said, “getting too close would be too much.”
You are the curve
I am the line
I’d give you my heart
But you don’t want mine.
Extended over time we seem to merge
But in your heart, we’ll never touch.
I thought it was me, something wrong perhaps.
Till one day after class I saw you talking with him.
From then on you didn’t have to tell me.
Our love approaches zero, as we tended towards infinity.

The tangent

First day of class you wrote on the board:
“29 may be written in two ways as combinations of the first four primes and the three basic arithmetic operations: 29 = (2*7)+(3*5) = (5*7)-(2*3).”
I was intrigued.
You shot me down in class as I proceeded to speak
In private you said, “I showed promise.”
I wanted you as my mentor for my thesis.
You challenged my work
Blew my mind
I was amazed by what you could bring
Theorems flowed and proofs pulsed
Equations extinguished and polynomials placated.
Together we reached the point of tangency
When 2 souls touched in mathematical ecstacy.
There’s a comfort in knowing someone understands you
Even if that person is a friend
There’s a comfort when 2 minds meet
But even straight lines have to bend.
One fall evening, I discovered a new proof
I rushed, excited to show you.
You were busy, busy with her.
Asymptotes and tangents became a blur.
Yes it was dark, I couldn’t see.
But what could it have been, the way you treated me?
You attacked my work and broke it down.
But later stole it for a lecture.
I thought we touched, I thought we were one.
But I was a fool so I reached for a gun.
You fell on the steps, graceful almost.
I waited for the police, silent as a ghost.

Math tells us 3 of the saddest love stories:

Of parallel lines, who are never meant to meet
Of asymptotes who could only get closer and closer, but could never be together.
And of tangent lines, who were together once then parted forever.

Image from Marcus Yi’s website.

About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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