Suitcase Stories by Maki Yi
Suitcase Stories written and performed by Maki Yi opened on October 28th, at Pacific Theatre on 12th and Hemlock in Vancouver. Suitcase stories brings to life the anticipation and set backs of Maki Yi’s personal experiences as she leaves South Korea to make her home in Canada. It is fashioned with a generous measure of humour, swaths of angst and sprinkles of despair. It is a story that easily resonates with recent immigrants, as well as, with those of us who grew up listening to the inspiring accomplishments and overwhelming frustrations experienced by parents, grandparents or great grandparents breaking ground in a new country.
In a poignant, one person play Yi beckons the audience to peek in on her life as a vulnerable and very determined woman who leaves her home town with significant emotional baggage and one small suitcase. We meet her as she lands in Toronto – ‘a place where people don’t carry guns’ – after having said good-bye to everything familiar in her life. She strikes a chord when she confides that she wants to ‘…try life again where no one knows I’m a loser.’ and we journey with her across the great expanse of Canada from Toronto to Regina. Together we feel the bitter cold in what seems, to her, to be a ghost town. Throughout her trials and challenges as a student supporting herself with part time jobs, Yi solicits our more thoughtful and empathetic nature by entreating us to consider the difference between learning and unlearning.
Yi has much to unlearn on her journey and she openly shares this with the audience. We are privy to the sometimes funny, sometimes painful evolution of understanding and self discovery she experiences as she awakens to the realization that this new land is not a land of milk and honey. Nor is her life, as she comes to know it, the life depicted in American movies. Strange behaviours such as a couple kissing in public are jarring. Struggles to become a student of Theatre, a permanent resident and finally a Canadian citizen incessantly tax her resolve. Through each daunting experience on her path to acceptance, Maki sings to keep her spirit up. As with her life, her song travels along an emotional spectrum of joy and sadness, accomplishment and frustration. But, while she is often discouraged she is never defeated.
Maki’s emotive performance is both creative and animated. She is able to transform the stage and generate images with chalk and ribbon. These images enhance her chronicle of life in a foreign land and underscore milestones with an endearing touch of levity.
Suitcase Stories is worth seeing and runs until November 12th. Please see pacifictheatre.org for more information.
Feature image: photo credit: Emily Cooper