By Elise Chase
Ninako “Nina” Donville is playing ‘Jasmine’ in Nice Nails, an original work by IU playwright Aaron Ricciardi. The daughter of Korean-American salon owners, Jasmine, in Ninako’s words, “pretty much entirely adapted to the culture and the country.” Playing the role of a first generation American came easily to Ninako as both of her parents are immigrants.
“Well, my dad is from Canada,” said Nina, laughing, “so it’s a little different, but my mom is from Japan. She came here in ’82 and I see a lot of similarities. I see a lot of my mother in what the two parents do.”
One moment that particularly hits home for Ninako is between Jasmine and her mother, Ariel (played by Heping “Irene” Yang) when Ariel is struggling to do something on her iPhone and she begins yelling at Jasmine in Korean, playing tug-of-war with the iPhone, and screaming at each other in two languages. The identity with language and the sense of self that comes from that is a prevalent theme in the play.
“That’s definitely something I can relate too, that resistance to submit to Mom’s culture or Mom’s language: ‘I am American and I will speak English, dammit!’ And my mom will speak to me in Japanese, ‘oh this is stupid, why are your grades like this’ and I’ll scream right back at her in English.”
Through this process of working on Nice Nails, Ninako has gained some insight into her own family life and contemplates, for the first time, what it is to be first-generation American.
“It helped me realized why she does the stuff she does. And that also come with being in college for two years, and being away from home a little bit. I’ve been able to appreciate my mom for pushing that culture on me, especially now that I’m in Indiana. There are so many people here who are just from American families, who, you know, eat corn dogs and pasta for dinner. I remember taking lunches to school and people being like ‘ewwww what are you eating?’ and I remember being so embarrassed, like why couldn’t she make me a sandwich like everyone else’s mom? But now all I want is a home cooked meal from my mom. I just want some noodles and tofu.”
“You don’t really know what you have until it’s gone. Which being away from home has really shown me. Jasmine goes through that too…” (she continues into a spoiler, so I guess you’ll have to see the show to fully understand the experience!)
Nice Nails, a new play by MFA Playwright Aaron Ricciardi
March 30 – 31, 2018 — 7:30 P.M.
April 3 – 7, 2018 — 7:30 P.M.
April 7, 2018 — 2:00 P.M.
in the Wells-Metz Theatre
Elise Chase is a graduate student in IU’s Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance, hailing from the notoriously snowy Erie, PA. You might have seen her on the Wells-Metz stage this year in our productions of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and Machinal.
We are fortunate to have had her as a member of our marketing team this year, and look forward to seeing her on stage as she continues in the Acting MFA program over the next two years.