Man of Many Hats
Asian Fusion Talks to Theater Artist & Lawyer
Marcus YiBy Rigche Ma
One of Indie Theatre Now’s 2014 People of the Year and winner of the 11th Annual New Jersey Playwrights Contest with his musical Micro Shrimp, Marcus Yi, founder of Living Room Theater, has been involved in some 100 productions as actor, director, choreographer, composer, writer, and producer.
Further, this prolific 32-year-old Singapore native recently started his own immigration law practice in New York City, to help internationally renowned artists apply for visas to create and present their works in the USA.
Asian Fusion learns more about Yi’s unique trajectory, and solicits advice for young, minority artists in New York City.
AF: Being named one of Indie Theatre Now’s 2014 People of the Year is quite something. How do you feel?
Yi: Hmm… Nothing. Just kidding. It’s great to be recognized for what I have done. There’s a playwright I admire, Lope de Vega. He wrote 1800 plays in his lifetime. I only aspire to write 50, so I have 44 more to go.
AF: Actor, director, choreographer … and lawyer. How did you come to wear so many hats?
Yi: After I completed my BA in Musical Theater at the University of Tampa, I moved to Atlanta to intern at a rather edgy theater company, Actor’s Express. This really blew my mind. Growing up in Singapore, I was exposed only to plays that centered on socially acceptable themes such as racial harmony. Actor’s Express was the first time I realized that it’s possible to write and stage those kinds of things; dark and disturbing things that people don’t talk about.
But, I also saw how difficult it was to earn a living as an actor. So I moved to New York City to study law, and I had a law lecturer who was also a filmmaker. She advised that I should combine my two conflicting sides; left-brained analytical and right-brained artistic. I didn’t understand what that meant until one of my actor friends asked me to help with her O Visa – which is the visa that gives artists with proven extraordinary abilities the right to work in the United States. Subsequently, I volunteered at Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and soon, people were knocking on my door. Mostly referrals from previous clients. So, I set up my own practice to help artists, and this has become my day job.
AF: One word to describe the core of your work.
Yi: Alienation. In both my artistic and legal work. I don’t feel like I belong to a single group, or, perhaps I belong to more than one group. While I explore alienation in the theatre, I carry empathy and understanding into my law office, for clients who are leaving the familiar for new ventures.
AF: Last but not least, what would you say to young, minority artists in New York City?
Yi: Especially to the minority artists; make your own work, because no one’s gonna do it for you.
Micro Shrimp will play from March 31 – April 18 at the Hunziker Black Box Theatre. More information at http://www.wpunj.edu/wppresents/
For more information on Marcus Yi’s Living Room Theatre and law practice, visit www.marcusyi.com, and www.marcusyilaw.com .