An Interview with Playwright Livian Yeh

Meet Livian Yeh, award-winning playwright, translator extraordinaire, and just one of eight playwrights working on ATB’s new documentary theatre project This Place/Displaced, to give voice to stories of displacement, gentrification, and housing inequity in Boston.

We chatted with Livian to find out a little bit more about her play, What Happens in this House, and what this project means to him.

Join us at Charlestown Working Theater August 17-25 to see What Happens in This House and seven more new plays!


What is your connection to the Boston area and how has it impacted your life?
I was born in the city, but left the country entirely shortly after. I moved back to attend grad school. I’m fascinated by Boston; it’s a liberal city with a conservative heart. It’s segregated, and it hates outsiders. You can’t change the mind of a Bostonian unless they let you. The city has forced me to grow up. It’s where I found my voice as a writer, lived on my own for the first time, moved in with someone for the first time, got my first big girl job. You aren’t given things in Boston, you have to earn it. This city has changed me for the better.

Have you ever worked on a play based off of interviews before? What has this process been like for you?

Yes. I did the Milton Project, which was about people in a retirement home in Milton, MA. The process of This Place/ Displaced is completely different, in the sense that I was much more involved. Writing with real people as inspiration is always interesting. It gets you out of the playwright bubble, and forces you to let go of a little control.
How is writing for a rehearsal process different from writing in solitude?
I don’t know. Rehearsal, for me, is where the real writing begins.
Your play takes a hard look at, as the title says, “what happens in this house.” What do you see as the relationship between abusive environments and housing inequity?
I think that if you’re worried about keeping a house and about your livelihood, you’re much less empowered to stand up to abuse. And you’re much less likely to believe that your voice matters. Justice, unfortunately in many cases,  is a privilege.
What have you learned through this project?
To be kinder to everyone, because you don’t know what their stories are.

Learn more about Livian!

Livian Yeh is a playwright and translator based in Boston, MA. Her play Nightfall was co-recipient of the Paul Stephen Lim Playwriting Award from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and was part of Fresh Ink Theatre’s Ink Spot reading series. Memorial, her second full-length play, received a workshop production at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre in October, 2016, won the Paul Stephen Lim Award from KCACTF in 2017, and received an honorable mention on the 2017 Kilroys’ List. Livian is a fellow at Company One Theatre’s PlayLab. She was born in the U.S. and raised in Taiwan. She studied Dramatic Writing at NYU and playwriting at Boston University.

This Place/Displaced is performing at the Charlestown Working Theatre on at 8pm August 17, 18, 24, and 25. Tickets from $10. Join us to hear the stories of our eight amazing community partners from across the city of Boston. Plus, check out an exhibit of our community partners’ own artwork and writing in the lobby and pick up ATB’s original zine about the history and current climate of gentrification in Boston.

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