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Working it Out: Playwright Alex Lin on Chinese Republicans

by Alex Lin

The NewSCRipts play-reading series—part of The Lab@SCR—has provided a forum for talented writers for more than 35 years. NewSCRipts gives patrons the opportunity to be a part of South Coast Rerpertory's play-development process. NewSCRipts readings are free and open to the public. Past NewSCRipts readings include Donald Margulies' Collected Stories, Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain and Amy Freed's Freedomland—all of which went on to New York productions and were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize—as well as Wit, which won the Pulitzer for author Margaret Edson. Other notable NewSCRipts readings from recent seasons include Nomad Motel by Carla Ching, A Doll's House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath and Office Hour by Julia Cho. Commissioned by SCR, Chinese Republicans by Alex Lin, directed by Chay Yew, was performed as a staged reading in early December to an enthusiastic SCR audience, including the playwright. Here are her notes on the origin, writing, and revision of the play, generously shared with Citric Acid. ---eds.

When high-flying finance it-girl Katie Liu loses the promotion of a lifetime to a nepo-baby colleague, she embarks on a treacherous endeavor to make a labor union out of her Republican work aunties. Welcome to the world of Chinese Republicans, where the best bags are Birkin, the best shoes are Prada, and the best president is Reagan.

Chinese Republicans is a play I’ve had in me for over ten years. Growing up, I was surrounded by strong, powerful, emboldened women who shaped much of the way I engage with womanhood. High-flying, working, extremely successful women who led successful careers in business, medicine, and technology. They were elegant, all-knowing and, God, did they have the best freakin’ shoes.

They were also Republican.

It’s complicated, my relationship to the women in my family’s politics. I’m definitively not a Republican. I’ve been voting blue ever since turning eighteen — as well as getting into those classic holiday dinner fights that seem to transcend all race, ethnicity, and creed. I can recall the fight that started my Alice in Wonderland-like rabbit hole descent into the evolution of Republicanism and conservatism in the US among Asian-Americans with a painful clarity.

One Thanksgiving, I was verbally warring with one of those elegant, all-knowing, best-freakin’-shoe-wearing women. At a fever pitch in our debate, she yelled at me, “I just don’t understand what you believe.” I replied, “I believe in treating people equitably and giving everyone a fair chance.”

Lightning quick, she replied, “Well I believe in protecting my family.”

Suddenly, things were getting interesting. As I questioned more and more, I discovered that this woman in my life had actually been a registered Democrat until age 35 and even believed in several policies that could be considered socialist. Then it hit me — this woman who I’d known my whole life, who I thought I knew inside and out, had an entire life before I was even born. And it had changed her. 

I started to wonder: What even is ideology? How do we determine its labels? And what starts to happen to us when our voting system demands drawing a hard line between one and the other?

Thus, Chinese Republicans was born. As an idea, at least. It wasn’t until I would receive the Elizabeth George commission from South Coast Rep in 2021 that I would put pen to paper. Two years (and a stint at Second Stage in New York and the O’Neill) later, I bring you this revolutionized, newly minted version of the play. This homecoming to South Coast Rep is years in the making, and I’m excited to work again with phenomenal visionary Chay Yew (director of SCR productions Cambodian Rock Band and Coleman ‘72).

With each revision, I’ve further explored the lives of these women who I grew up with — who I don’t agree with — and who I’m afraid of, even. I’ve found the further I dive in, the more I confront that fear, the more I can reach some kind of understanding.

It’s a comedy, by the way. You’ll laugh. If you don’t, come find me after the show. We’ll work it out.



Alex Lin is just a girl from Jersey. Plays developed at Second Stage, Roundabout, NYTW, MTC, the O'Neill, South Coast Rep, Playwrights Realm, Central Square Theatre, and Theater Mu. Guest lectures at CMU, Rutgers, and Union College. As an actor, Actors Theatre of Louisville (The Wolves), New Victory (In the Land of Mauve & Gold), HVSF (Julius Caesar, Pika the Hawaiian...), Ma-Yi (The House of Billy Paul), Jewish Plays Project (Zionista Rising), and Commonwealth Shakespeare (Henry VI Part III, Richard III). Susan Smith Blackburn Prize nominee and Weissberger Award nominee. TheatreWorks musical theatre commission.

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