After 25 years, Philip Kan Gotanda’s narrative about Chang and Eng Bunker is ready to be told.
“The Life and Times of Chang and Eng: Inescapable Truths of Love that Binds” is a show that tells the story of the Bunkers — the original Siamese twins, who were originally brought to America to be exhibited as freaks.
See the show
Time: 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday
Location: Gerrard Hall
The two settled in North Carolina, where they married sisters Adelaide and Sarah Yates and fathered 21 bi-racial children.
The show is Carolina Performing Arts’ latest production in the Process Series, a program that helps artists develop their works. It will be presented Friday and Saturday.
Gotanda said it’s a relief to have finished the project, with which he has developed a strong connection during the past quarter of a century.
“I think the challenge before was the story was too big, and I was trying to write too much about it,” he said. “Just the facts of their life are quite remarkable.”
Joseph Megel, the director of the staged reading at UNC, said the play is complex.
“It’s not like you’re watching a documentary or a historical piece,” he said.
“This is a complicated work that is exploring a large part of their lives in a very imaginative way. It’s much more full of images and feelings.”
Heidi Kim, a UNC English professor whose students were involved in researching the work, agreed.
“It really gives a picture of how complex the lives of the Bunkers were,” Kim said.
“It doesn’t give easy answers about identity or race or racial acceptance. It really shows how successful they were.”
Megel said the Process Series serves as a way for artists to review their art.
“Sometimes the piece has gotten to a part where the artist is stuck, and the series allows them to get more information and find a place where the piece can move forward,” Megel said.
“I’m most satisfied when the piece finally finds its life. That’s really rewarding when I see the work here has been a spring board in the next step of what we call a finished piece of art.”
Gotanda said the play is a reflection of his relation with the world, and he said he has learned from the process of writing the script.
“I think sometimes you have to get out of the way of a play,” he said. “You can have things you want to tell but sometimes you kind of just have to let them go and write.”
Megel said as a part of the Process Series, Gotanda will have a chance to ask the audience questions.
“We want to know what the audience received,” Megel said.
“Sometimes the feedback the artist wants most is just to see if the audience is laughing or fidgeting. And sometimes you have the question about what do you feel about this character or this moment.”
Gotanda said he is looking forward to hearing his work read aloud.
“To hear it and feel it with the audience, to get a feel of how they are responding to the material — it’s invaluable to the development of the play.”
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