Damon Chua discusses his play, Black Coffee Green Tea.
I am a playwright of color and committed to creating opportunities for artists of all color. To that end, all my plays, full-length and the shorter ones, are ethnically diverse or are designed to allow for color-blind casting. Black Coffee Green Tea is no exception. The piece calls for four actors – three Asian and one black. I think it is a combination that is uncommon. I also think it is needed. Through the juxtaposition of different ethnicities on stage, I hope not only to highlight stereotypical views we often harbor of one another but also to challenge the audience on such thinking.
Of course, I also like to entertain, and Black Coffee Green Tea is clearly a comedy. I believe that if we can laugh about our differences, the more likely we are to see our similarities, and the quicker we will emerge into a post-racial world, where such labels are no longer necessary. I may be considered naïve and too optimistic about this matter, but hope springs eternal. That is why I write.
One of the challenges about writing this play is building up a stereotype and then tearing it down – there is only so much anyone can do in ten minutes, across four characters, while cleaving to a narrative that is compelling from start to finish. However successful I have been on this front, I am proud of this play, for its somewhat subversive transgressions wrapped in an easy-to-swallow candy patina.
I admire plays that are political without being preachy, cutting-edge without being self-conscious. I am currently working on a full-length piece, incidentally titled “Optimism,” on how the social optimism of the 1960s morphed into the capitalistic optimism of the 1980s. Like Black Coffee Green Tea, it is ostensibly funny while dealing with serious issues at its core. I guess that is where I am as a playwright, and truth be told, it is not a bad place to be.