Artistic Statement from Silk Road Rising's Chief Programming Officer & Mission Trustee, Jamil Khoury
Truth without Borders
As theatre makers with a clearly defined mission, questions about subjectivity, positionality, and authorial voice illuminate our daily conversations. How does one’s identity, whether rooted in culture or heritage or any number of other realities, shape the way we convey and receive messages? How does lived experience inform the way we hear stories? And how do truths and facts filter through consciousness, environment, and perceived self-interests?
Journalism is the answer presented in Candace Chong’s Wild Boar, translated from Chinese into English by Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith, and adapted by Silk Road Rising’s Artistic Ambassador David Henry Hwang. The manipulation of journalism by political, economic, and social forces is of particular interest. On the one hand, the play asks us to ponder journalism as a duality—good and evil. On the other hand, it suggests something more fluid, less binary in its breakdown: journalism as information, and journalism as propaganda. The play contemplates whether or not such distinctions can and should ever be fully parsed. After all, isn’t misinformation for the common good sometimes our best alternative?
If journalism is the “first rough draft of history,” then how do objectivity and subjectivity coexist? If the news influences opinions, and opinions influence the news, then perhaps the line between reporting and editorializing is more malleable than previously defined. Furthermore, if the conveying of events and circumstances is ultimately an interpretative act, then when does the fourth estate stop speaking truth to power and instead become a proxy for that power? In democratic societies, these questions grow more nuanced and complex. Dictators view the control of perception as a no-brainer, a basic survival instinct; as Adolph Hitler said, “make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” On a less devious note, Plato ruminated that “knowledge is perception.” Lee Atwater went on to say that “perception is reality.” Thus, one person’s absolute truth is another’s fake news.
Or maybe we just live in an age of relativism gone wild and therapeutic excess. Maybe those of us living in less collectivist, more individualistic environments, have misinterpreted “the personal is political” to mean “all politics are about me.”
We love Wild Boar not only because it’s smart, sexy, and topical, but because, in a rare combination, it exudes both confidence and self-doubt simultaneously. It builds and unpacks all at once, seemingly unable to differentiate right from wrong without flipflopping, which is part of the play’s inherent strength. At a time when journalism, governance, nation-states, and citizenship all feel in flux, Wild Boar probes those feelings with an air of mystery, flirtatiousness, and whodunit intrigue. That the play is set in Hong Kong and is yet so analogous to the United States is testimony to worldwide encroachments on democracy and personal freedoms. It would seem authoritarian impulses know no borders. But as the Patti Smith song reminds us, "people have the power."
Thank you for trusting Silk Road Rising to tell this fascinating story.