The Artist’s Corner: Kitty Lixin Lin ’16

Becca Damante ’17
Arts Editor 

The Sophian interviews Smith musicians, dancers, playwrights, actors and visual artists with current and upcoming creative projects. This week, I got a chance to sit down with theatre major Kitty Lixin Lin ’16, who is starring in a solo performance of “4.48 PSYCHOSIS” by Sarah Kane this Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in the TV Lounge of the Mendenhall Performing Arts Center.

What was your theatre experience like as a child?  

My grandma was a Peking Opera singer, and both of my parents know a little bit of this traditional art form. Growing up in a four-people household in Beijing, I was mainly exposed to the more traditional side of Chinese theatre. In middle school and high school, I joined the theatre club, where I developed interests in acting and directing, mostly working with more contemporary Chinese plays and Western classical [works] like Shakespeare.

What made you decide to study theatre at Smith?

The summer before I came to Smith, I saw a production at the People’s Art Theatre in Beijing [called] “The Sorrow of Comedy,” [which was] a localised adaptation of Japanese playwright Kouki Mitani’s original play “The University of Laugh.” It was a funny, gripping, exciting and very touching two-[person] show. It reminded me how powerful theatre can be; that it can change our lives. A month later, I was assigned my pre-major advisor, Kiki Smith, the costume professor in the theatre department. I thought this must be some arrangement of fate. I took Costume Design I with her my first semester. The decisive moment came the spring semester [of] my sophomore year, on the opening night of “Marat/Sade,” the first MainStage show I acted in. I was certain from that point on that theatre [would] not only be my major but also be my passion [in my] career and [my] life.

What has been your proudest accomplishment at Smith so far? 

The proudest project is probably directing “Forging the Swords,” a contemporary Chinese play, with an all-Chinese cast from the five colleges and in the Mandarin language. I was one of the founding members of Five College Chinese Theatre, a student organization dedicated to presenting plays from China, involving both Chinese and non-Chinese people in the Pioneer Valley area, for a broad audience. “Forging the Swords” was my first full-length directing piece with full technical support. I learned so much from working with people with various backgrounds but all passionate about theatre.

I hear you will be doing a solo performance of 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane this weekend. What can Smithies expect to see on stage? What attracted you to that show?

With “4.48 Psychosis,” I am experimenting for the first time [with] telling a story without a clear narrative…Sarah Kane’s phenomenal text speaks her heart, and I’m merely trying to connect [my], as well as the audience’s, heart to the playwright’s as close[ly] as possible and as best as I can. Many of us may have or have friends who have experienced different kinds of mental illness or difficulty. I want us to make an effort to recognize the world they’re experiencing, however different or same it is from what we call “the normal world.”

What has preparation been like for the show? 

Preparation for this play was not an easy process for sure. I spent days with my co-director, Asa Needle, a student and friend from Hampshire College, just reading, re-reading, talking endlessly about the text, about what the words mean literally and what the playwright wanted to tell us with them. There’s no single correct answer to any of our questions, but we learned so much throughout the whole process.

What is your favorite aspect of the world of theatre, and why?

Right now it’s acting and directing … I love that you’d be able to experience different people’s lives when you act. It’s such a mind-opening process, and if you successfully convince the audience what your character experiences you’ve accomplished something. The reason I like directing is because I like seeing everything coming together little by little, piece by piece, from the script in your hand to a full performance, right in front of you. The synthesizing process is really satisfying, and what you’re creating is a whole piece of work telling a story.

If you’re interested in being interviewed for a future Artist’s Corner, please email bdamante@smith.edu.

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