University of Calgary

Family origins

Student explores roots through theatre

Victoria Lee has found that her family’s roots in South Africa always triggers discussion. / Photo: Ken Bendiktsen

Victoria Lee has found that her family’s roots in South Africa always triggers discussion. / Photo: Ken Bendiktsen
By Erin Bacon

Department of Drama student Victoria Lee never thought the story of her family’s origins was interesting until it dawned on her that people were fascinated by the fact that although she is Chinese Canadian, her roots are South African.

She tells her family’s unique and personal story in her play The Hakka Root, which will be part of Taking Flight: A Festival of Student Work at the end of this month.

“The play starts with my own story as a first-generation Chinese Canadian, moves to my mom’s story as a first-generation Chinese South African, and ends with my grandmother who grew up in Mauritius,” says Lee. “When I say my family is from South Africa, it always triggers discussion wherever I go.”

The play is a monologue based on the stories of three women—the daughter, the mother and the grandmother. It moves from Canada, through South Africa, to Mauritius, a former French and British colony off the coast of Madagascar.

“The Hakka Root is probably the most personal piece I have ever written,” says Lee. “Most of my previous works have hidden and separated me. I felt that this was the right time to take a big step and write about the story of my family.”

The differing times and locations of each woman’s lives have made for vastly different experiences. But common in all three is the struggle to understand the generation that came before.

“The women in my family are very strong women who hold true to their sense of who they are in very difficult times. My mother grew up in the racial hostility of apartheid and my grandmother grew up in an uneducated environment and was sold off to marry a man she never met.”

Taking Flight presents nine theatrical events in the Reeve Theatre from March 31 to April 11, ranging from staged readings by graduate level playwrights to full productions of one act plays by some of the world’s most respected playwrights. A festival pass is $15 (single tickets are $5) and are available through Campus Ticket Centre or at the door. For more information: www.finearts.ucalgary.ca.