By Dana Zhang
Ada Cheng describes her sexuality as “first come, first served” as she delves into her encounters with sexuality and feminism, most of which occurred during the three decades she lived in the United States. Originally from Taipei, Taiwan, Ms. Cheng comes from a culture that shied away from educating children about sex, leaving Ms. Cheng to seek enlightenment when she came to the States to pursue a graduate degree at age 27.
Ms. Cheng’s story is about escaping, and failing to escape. Her flight was a bid to escape her past and her parents’ abusive marriage. In San Francisco, she believed that a liberal education and a diet of feminist doctrine would help her avoid falling prey to the emotional manipulation her mother experienced. Ms. Cheng went on to a successful career, becoming the first tenured American professor in sociology who is a person of color. She remained in academia for fifteen years before becoming a solo performer in 2016.
The bitter truth about being a queer Taiwanese woman in America is that even after earning prestigious degrees, Ms. Cheng was ill-prepared for the pitfalls she would encounter in relationships with men and women alike. In the two relationships she describes, with a Jenny and then with a Patrick, we learn how even with the best intentions, people like Ms. Cheng unknowingly find themselves in abusive relationships. She was guided by her desire to be deserving of love; the willingness to overlook rough moments and cherish sweet ones; the belief that to have love, she must sacrifice for the other person. In hindsight, Ms. Cheng can tell us exactly what went wrong. Although she suffered, she shares her wisdom with us now.
Ms. Cheng escaped Taiwan to avoid becoming like her mother, but she concludes the show by telling us she brought her mother across borders, in a way. She recognized her mother’s qualities reflected in herself. While the show’s tone was sometimes too light for its content, its meaning ultimately came through with a satisfying end.
“Breaking Rules, Broken Hearts: Loving across Borders”
Written and Performed by Ada Cheng
Oct. 13 at 6pm
Director: Jonald Reyes
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
DANA ZHANG is a multimedia journalist versed in editorial, photography, and video editing. She writes about pop culture, the performing arts industry, and the human experience. Zhang graduated from New York University in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned at Newsweek Media for a year while in university. Zhang is also an avid gamer and dancer.