November 18, 2018

4 Questions: Andy Cheng


50 Years of Disruption
This article is part of our series 50 Years of Disruption, in celebration of the Department of Theatre’s 50th Anniversary. In it, we’ll ask each participant four questions about themselves and their time at York.

1. Who are you?

Andy Cheng
Andy Cheng

Andy Cheng, MFA Theatre—Playwriting and New Play Dramaturgy 2009, is a Toronto based dramaturg, actor, writer, and comedian. He was nominated for the 2014 Canadian Screen Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy for the CBC comedy special Gavin Crawford’s Wild West (2013). As a dramaturg he currently serves as associate dramaturg for fu-GEN Asian-Canadian Theatre Company. His most recent performance was in Hot Cuts by Aurora Stewart de Peña as part of the 2018 SummerWorks Lab. He appears as a panelist on CBC Radio’s Because News, with television appearances on Letterkenny (CraveTV), Popporn, and the upcoming OUTSpoken: Drawn This Way (both for OutTV). Recently, he served as dramaturg for the Dora nominated A Man Walks into a Bar by Rachel Blair, and currently for Yellow Rabbit by the Silk Bath Collective which will premiere as part of SoulPepper’s 2018/19 season.

2. What was your favourite moment during your time in the Theatre Department, and why?

Looking back, like many emerging artists, I was very concerned about the process of others and how it compared to mine. That line of thinking will stop your creative growth, as hard and painful as smashing into a brick wall. Learning to disrupt that thought pattern, and focusing on your own growth is the only way to improve your skills and to maintain your emotional health. Realizing that bravery is presenting your perspective, that feedback is a gift, and the ultimate goal is obtaining knowledge you didn’t have a moment ago. York encouraged me to engage with artists and companies in the field. Not just to write and analyze them, but be part of their ecosystem. I was able to enjoy triumphs and some missteps, that put me on a career path even before graduating.

3. What comment, quotation, statement, or action that a professor—or classmate—offered had the greatest impact on you?

“Always be flexible and hilarious” — Judith Rudakoff. Theatre@York taught me to embrace change, and wear many hats (Even if some are a tight squeeze, or don’t necessarily suit you). In this business of theatre making, one has to adapt on a moment to moment basis both on and off stage. Life as an artist will not always be easy. Almost all theatre artists I know, are never just one thing. You aren’t just a performer, or director, or designer—in fact sometimes you are all of the above, not to mention a day job, not in the arts, that supports your work. Embrace York’s interdisciplinary opportunities, let go of labels that define you. The future will be friendlier.

4. Is there a way you incorporate a particular aspect of your theatre training in your current work?

Training as a new play dramaturg at York taught me to be curious about everything. Especially when engaging a new work, you have to let go of preconceived notions about a topic. Theatre is a unique beast that demands all those involved to question their experiences. To disrupt traditional thinking, and to actively engage with empathy. The minute you find yourself in a box, you must step out. York allowed me to embrace the terrifying.