Student writes play that draws from and expands upon her life experience
THE SANTA CLARA
November 12, 2015
Marissa Martinez learned the word, ‘hapa’ from her Hawaiian roommate during her first year of college. Historically, “hapa” referred to someone who was half-white and half-Pacific Islander, though these days it simply means “biracial.” Martinez herself is hapa (half-Mexican, half-Filipino) and soon after learning the word, Martinez came up with the title of her play “Hapa Cup of Sugar,” which is a reflection of Marissa’s experiences growing up biracial in the Bay Area.
She held onto the punny title name until she became a junior. Then in October 2014, she began to write the play, finishing it in just over a year.
“Hapa Cup of Sugar” was a part of last year’s New Playwrights’ Festival. Set entirely in a laundromat, the sixty-minute production focuses on three hapa siblings, Leila, Anne and Georgie, as well as Anne’s Caucasian boyfriend, Adam.
The four characters are all adolescents, and over the course of six scenes discover how race shapes their identity and role in society as they come of age.
The play focuses on Leila, and her thwarted attempts to gain employment. She attributes her inability to achieve success mostly to being hapa.
“I feel like each of (the characters) embodies my perspective or approach to being hapa,” Martinez said. “(My play) is about the biracial or minority experience that we don’t normally see on TV.”
During a time when race is often mentioned within the polarizing context of police brutality and political incorrectness, Martinez hopes her characters will shed a more balanced and honest light onto the subject.
Wanting the hapa point of view to be in all aspects of the play, Marissa enlisted the help of friend, theatre major and fellow biracial senior, Christy Chow, to direct her project.
“Being hapa is important to her, like it’s important to me,” Martinez said. “I wanted her to bring that perspective.”
The play deals with themes of family, identity and race, which Martinez hopes will spark positive dialogue amongst the students who come see the show. The play is backed by SCU Presents Arts for Social Justice and the Office for Multicultural Learning. And the Markkula Center for Ethics awarded Martinez the Hackworth fellowship to complete this piece. It will run in the Fess Parker Studio Theatre at 7 p.m. on November 18 and 19. The show should offer eye-opening and thought-provoking material for everyone, whether they’re black, white or hapa.
“I think it’s important for experiences to be shared,” Martinez said. “People should be able to tell their story no matter the color of their skin.”
Contact Jimmy Flynn at email@example.com (408) 554-4852.