In our final performance for the second season of Raise Our Voices, Hieu Bui is the first artist to share a dramatic scene written and performed by himself. In this scene titled “Renewal,” Hieu addresses the struggles of being an immigrant in a powerful recreation of a real-life experience he had as an interpreter for his father at the DMV.
“This piece explores the theme of stagnation or the feeling of being stuck that comes with being an immigrant,” Hieu said. “At the time of making it I was very frustrated by these infuriating instances that make life so difficult for immigrants.”
Hieu was born in Vietnam and moved to Kansas City in 2008. Since then, he’s navigated needing to translate for his family in several situations. Vi Tran, Hieu’s artistic advisor for the piece, has shared this same experience in his own life. They connected through Hieu’s playwriting professor and, recognizing that opportunities and access are scarce for Asian American artists, knew it was important to boost Hieu’s work.
“In sharing our and their stories, we activate the inherent empathetic power of storytelling in the hopes that audiences who might not look or sound like us to see the mother, father, brother, sister, and human they see in themselves,” Vi said. “The events of the last several years have reminded all of us that life is so tenuous and fragile and that in times of great difficulty, it was art in its various forms that gave us comfort.”
Hieu hopes to continue to share his stories on bigger and bigger stages. As an actor, writer, and director, Hieu hopes to have his plays open all around the world someday. Vi knows that there will be barriers but is confident that Hieu will persist.
“Hieu's infectious positivity lights up a room,” Vi said. “His optimism and humor belied a deep soulful resonance, and we should all look forward to the transformative work he'll continue to create.”
Vi goes on to recognize the importance of performance, theatre, and art in our community.
“Art is why we all work so hard,” Vi said. “What is life if not to enjoy each other's company, underscored by our favorite song, gathered at a powerful play, dance, or concert, or relaxing to our favorite show. As my mentor, the late, great Dr. Daniel Davy taught me: ‘Art is not an escape FROM life; Art is an escape INTO life.’”