We asked actor Joe Yau seven questions about the play, A-Squared, and acting. Here's what he had to say.
Tell us about your A-Squared beginnings. When and how did you get involved with the company? JY: I knew many of the original members of the company and was eventually able to work with them in The Wind Cries Mary. And a few years later, I would work with them again in The Other Shore. And in 2012, I was asked to work on the formulation of My Asian Mom. We had some ideas about what the show would be and I helped shape that vision. And in 2013 or late 2012, I became a company member. I think that's the order of things.
Describe your character in 3 words or less. JY: In denial.
What is your favorite characteristic of Lauren Yee’s Ching Chong Chinaman? JY: Absurd yet honest.
How have you been preparing for your role? Books, movies, shows, research? And tell us about your learning and preparation process as an actor. JY: I always like to start with the text. What information does the playwright give me? Then, I can start to fill in the gaps. Usually I don't use other forms of media to influence my character, ie., oh this guy is like so-and-so in that movie. I tend to make discoveries with the character during the rehearsal process.
Does your role draw any parallels to your own life? Would you be friends with Ed? JY: Many times I use my own life or the lives of people I know to make informed decisions about a character. I think we all share commonalities with the characters we play. In this case, yes, I'm married. Yes, I have children. Yes, I was born in the U.S. and unfortunately I don't profess a lot of knowledge of my own heritage. I grew up in a very non-Asian neighborhood and became very assimilated during my formative years. So, I do share a lot of similarities with my character. He is a better golfer than I am though. I don't think I would be close friends with my character, but I think I would know him through other people I know.
Most memorable rehearsal moment to date? JY: I guess for me, a couple of weeks ago, I did the first monologue I have in the show and we made a lot of fun physical discoveries in that scene. I don't want to give it away.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as an actor? What advice would you give to aspiring actors? JY: The best piece of advice? I come from an improvisation background and one thing I think about all the time is, that we (improvisers) should always play at the top of our intelligence, which translates into making strong choices and many times the risky ones. So, my advice for aspiring actors would be, don't ignore what your script gives you and make it better with strong choices, take risks (in your acting). Many times we forget that we have to give life to a line of dialogue that on the face of it may mean one thing, but could mean a lot of other things depending on how we interpret it.
Joe's Bio Joe is an actor, writer, director, producer, and company member of A-Squared Theatre Workshop. Previous theatre credits include My Asian Mom (director and producer), Wind Cries Mary (actor), and The Other Shore (actor) for A-Squared. Other credits include Mr. and Mrs. LaQuesta Go Dancing (actor) and numerous sketch revues with Stir-Friday Night (actor, writer, director). Joe is a SAG-AFTRA member and has been seen in numerous commercials for companies such as GE, US Bank, and AARP. He recently had a role as a school teacher in an independent feature film shot in Chicago called A Light Beneath Their Feet. Last year, he acted in an episode of ABC television’s Betrayal. Joe was a “contractor” working for the Karsten family. He had the pleasure of working with James Cromwell and Henry Thomas on the show. Previous credits television and film credits include Early Edition and Baby On Board, sharing the screen with Kyle Chandler and Heather Graham repectively. Joe is a graduate of Loyola University in Chicago with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. He studied acting and improvisation at io (formerly ImprovOlympics), Center Theater, Victory Gardens, and The Second City Training Center, graduating from The Second City’s Professional Conservatory Program. Joe also taught improvisation for over eight years at The Second City Training Center. Joe is married with three children.