Grace Chin is a Vancouver, British Columbia-based creative writer and editor, performer, producer and arts administrator, as well as a content marketing specialist for corporate and not-for-profit clients. Along with her current role as General Manager with Ruby Slippers Theatre, she is co-founder of the Pan Asian Staged Reading Society and its script development platform, Scripting Aloud; and is on the board of Vancouver Short Film Festival.
A produced playwright, optioned screenwriter and published author, she is a member of the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada and the Union of British Columbia Performers/ACTRA. Grace was Interim Managing Director, Women in Film and Television Vancouver; Festival Director, Vancouver Asian Film Festival; and has served on the board of Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre and Vancouver Asian Heritage Month, as well as on other performing arts juries, committees, and panels. As a performer, she has most recently appeared on episodic series and features for television and film including for ABC, CBS, CW, E!, Showcase, Freeform, Hallmark, Lifetime, CBC, Netflix, and AppleTV+, as well as independent production. Grace has a BA in English Literature (Hons) from the University of British Columbia, and accreditation in journalism from Langara College. She is googleable.
You are a performer, producer and arts administrator. How do these roles inform your writing and editing?
I’ll speak here to writing and editing playscripts and screenplays. In my experience, the more you understand what others do and what they need to do it, the more willingness there is to work as a team toward the common goal, to have constructive discussions, and to work through misunderstanding. Performers and producers/administrators rely on what’s on the page, to help them lift it off the page; if it’s not in the script, it’s not in the subtext – then it isn’t anywhere. Wearing all those other hats clarifies for me, as a writer/editor, what the finished script/screenplay and other elements should have so that they reduce guesswork and are as clear and helpful as possible to anyone that will need to refer to it for performance and all stages of production and pre/post; as well as what elements detract from what you intend to convey. This is also why it can be helpful – at a more advanced draft stage – to have a reading with actors and if possible, an audience or focus group. Knowledge of the financial and logistical constraints, technical and crewing requirements, and of what potential investors/distributors/funders are looking for, from a producer/administrator standpoint, has sometimes as a writer made me “write/edit to the budget” or “write/edit to the resources/spec” – which at its best falls under the category of “write to your target,” and at worst, is an untenable compromise of vision and story. Experience helps you figure out whether you should “blue sky” it or just how much you can get away with in a particular context, so that your vision as a writer has the best chance of being as fully realized as possible. Writing for print is another animal entirely, to be addressed separately/elsewhere.
What inspired you to co-found the Pan Asian Staged Reading Society and its script development platform, Scripting Aloud?
We have Jim Wong-Chu to thank. In the aughts, he organized a reading of work for print, stage, and screen by emerging writers for explorASIAN, at the old Our Town Cafe. Both Kathy Leung (the other co-founder of Scripting Aloud) and I were participants. Most of us had been in relative creative isolation; that event gave us a sense of common direction and purpose, and showed us just how many of us shared similar aspirations and goals. It also drove home how rewarding and inspiring such events could be, and how rare the opportunities were – at the time – for people of colour to share, perform, and offer feedback on our own work, from an IBPOC creative perspective. Existing avenues and outlets were – at the time – not as inclusive. Kathy and I already knew each other (it’s a small Asian Canadian arts and culture world), and after that event we got together to brainstorm how we could keep that energy and momentum going. From notes on a napkin at a Bean Around The World in South Granville, Scripting Aloud was conceived. With the support of vAct, it ran for three years, reading exclusively new work for various mediums from local emerging IBPOC creators (or if it had significant IBPOC content), performed by local IBPOC performers. At the end of that time, both Kathy and I continued the fight on other fronts, feeling that perhaps the event had run its course. But. We kept getting asked when the readings would start up again. And even as things improved on the diversity, equity, and inclusion front, we realized perhaps there was still a place for something like Scripting Aloud, with a clarified purpose in step with what the community needs now. The Pan Asian Staged Reading Society was incorporated as a BC non-profit organization three years ago with a founding board of four, including both Kathy and myself. Its renewed purpose, alongside its original community-building rationale, is to provide script development assistance to independent and emerging creatives and producers, and to promote work by and for the IBPOC diaspora through community and strategic partnerships, as well as specific development initiatives.
You currently serve as General Manager of Ruby Slippers Theatre, a theatre company known for promoting diversity in the performing arts. What do you hope to see in the future of theatre and how do we further encourage equity in the performing arts?
Speaking generally as an arts administrator, to theatre in BC/Canada – I hope to see more boards, committees, key creatives, administrators, and artists commit to and engage in ongoing decolonization, Indigenization, and EDI work, and to implementing the result of that work in organizational governance, culture, creative assessment and choices, performance/rehearsal practice, and hiring decisions. This means less performative allyship – where speaking up, educating, extending opportunities, and challenging the status quo is limited mainly to the aftermath of flashpoint events or to enhance public perception – and much more genuine allyship, where all these things are considered SOP and best practice. More space given to Indigenous and diverse stories, presentations, practices, and forms; homogeneity and the universal Eurocentric white male default will not shift unless other stories, perspectives, practices, and experiences are consistently normalized and respected. More of a connection and correlation between what and who theatre companies put on their stages, and the communities and audiences they outreach to and serve; it’s been true in my experience that if you build it, and they can engage with it, they will come. More recognition and awareness that we must seek, meet, and work with IBPOC artists from where they are at, so that outreach, fostering, development, and recruitment can be implemented accordingly – we can’t expect “them” to come to “us” or wait for them to achieve an unrealistic benchmark before gatekeepers allow them a pinky in the door – given that many face financial and other barriers to achievement, and lack the kind of advancement track/pipeline afforded those with existing privilege. We can encourage equity in the performing arts certainly by earmarking specific funding and by reducing barriers to that funding; and also by regulation, education, and communication. Regulation through regulatory bodies at all levels, including associations, unions, and guilds; education through ongoing assessment, review, and learning; communication through providing ongoing space and outlets for discussion, conversation, and reporting at all levels, and by having the discourse in the public realm, or by making the discourse and/or result of the discourse/reporting publicly available.