Director Nana Dakin Draws On Personal Experiences to Promote Cross-Cultural Understanding

 The Last Gasp of a Mournful Heart

Theater director Nana Dakin grew up adapting to different cultures and embodying diverse identities as a half-Thai and half-American who moved across international borders frequently. It wasn’t until she moved to Bangkok at the age of 25 that she found her roots and a sense of self. While experiencing the world taught her the factors that make people different, this also showed her the universal needs that bring us together. Dakin’s childhood drives her passion to promote common aspects of the human experience that transcend cultural differences.

In “The Last Gasp of a Mourning Heart,” a performance she co-directed with Vidura Amranand, four dancers explore one of the rawest human emotions. They give shape to loss by drawing on their own personal experiences. While one of the dancers uses anger to express mourning, another holds on tightly before quickly walking away forever.

Below, Dakin explains the influences behind her work and reveals how she deals with loss herself.

 The Last Gasp of a Mournful Heart
Still from "The Last Gasp of a Mournful Heart"

What brought you to leave New York for Bangkok to work with the B-Floor Theatre?

I was 25 years old when I moved to Bangkok. Up to that point I had visited and spent some significant periods of time in Thailand, but I had never actually lived there. It was important to me that I spend time in Thailand improving my Thai and my understanding of Thai culture and society. I was searching to understand myself as a Thai and as a Thai-American.  

What are the dancers letting go of?

When we created this piece we didn’t specifically discuss what each person was letting go of, rather we focused on each individuals’ process of letting go. For example, one person’s process was to use anger, another’s was to hold on tightly then quickly “walk away” without turning back.  

 The Last Gasp of a Mournful Heart (animation)

How do you think your identity as half-Thai, half-American affect your worldview? Does it influence your art?

I have been deeply influenced by my experience of being half-Thai and half-American, as well moving around internationally. I grew up with a profound sense of rootlessness: navigating vastly different economic realities, philosophies, and cultural codes of behavior; speaking multiple languages; and embodying distinct social, cultural, and political identities depending on the country in which I was living. I have alternately experienced both advantages and discrimination in regards to my gender, culture, race, ethnicity, and class.

I believe it’s important to understand what makes people different and what causes societal strife, but also what brings us together as human beings. Having interacted closely with people from many different backgrounds has led me to conclude there are universal needs and experiences among humans that transcend culture, race, ethnicity, class and gender. As a theatre director I want to show how universal aspects of the human experience can be portrayed in my performances to promote cross-cultural understanding and social justice.

 The Last Gasp of a Mournful Heart
Still from "The Last Gasp of a Mournful Heart"

You have said that you strive to make work that promotes social justice. What social justice issues are you thinking about most now?

Income equality, the right to vote, and freedom of expression

How do you say goodbye?

Very slowly.

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