Leung hopes to share some of her heritage as one of two Yvettes in 'Café Daughter'
BY DENNY SCOTT
April Leung, a Toronto-based artist who originally hails from Hong Kong, will be one of the actors taking on the role of Yvette Wong, the titular character of Café Daughter, a play penned by Kenneth T. Williams.
Wong is a nine-year-old girl living in Saskatchewan being born to her Cree mother and Chinese father. Leung said she’s very excited to work on the play and share the part with PJ Prudat, who originated the role.
“It’s incredible,” Leung said. “Getting to work with someone with a rich history with the piece will be great, and hopefully I’ll be able to bring my knowledge and perspective into rounding out the role.”
Leung is excited about the play because she has a connection to it, being from Hong Kong.
“I’m so excited with the material,” she said. “As an Asian Canadian it’s exciting to find yourself or your culture mirrored in theatre and art, especially being performed in Canada. I’m looking forward to bringing my perspective and sharing some lived experiences for the play.”
Leung only found out about being named to the part a month before rehearsals started, which was a quick turnaround for her, but she was anxious to be involved and put her own mark on the celebrated play.
Leung is very excited to be part of the Blyth Festival, saying that she is hoping to “jump in” and get to know the area and the team behind the play. She said she is very excited to take advantage of the outdoor space, which she called an incredible achievement in such a short time period.
“I’ve heard so many wonderful stories about the Blyth audiences,” she said. “I feel privileged to be a part of the community for a month and a bit, and encourage everyone to come see the show, and see it twice because there will be two performers.”
Leung is a graduate of a University of Toronto - Mississauga/Sheridan College joint arts and acting program and says she originally entertained the idea of acting after attending a special camp in which she and her fellow campers had three weeks to mount a full musical performance.
“That got me into theatre and musical theatre, specifically,” she said.
It was a good thing she had that inkling, she said, as when she emigrated from Hong Kong to Mississauga with her parents, she was thrown into Grade 12 and had just a few months to figure out what to do with her life.
“I thought about wanting to be in acting, but that really solidified when I started applying to [school] programs,” she said.
Leung grew up in Hong Kong, after being born in Canada, and attended an international school, which she said made her ready to integrate into life in Canada. She said she was very lucky to find friends who welcomed her to the country and, for the past seven years, has been able to pursue her dream of acting.
Leung has worked with theatre companies like the Carousel Players, Fu-GEN Theatre Company, Factory Company, Cahoots Theatre Company and Solar Stage as well as Soulpepper Theatre. The latter, alongside the Silk Bath Collective, mounted Yellow Rabbit, a play with which Leung said she was very happy to be involved.
In 2019/2020, Leung was awarded the Ellen Rose Stuart Opening Doors Award, an Ontario Arts Foundation initiative that encourages young playwrights to “actively engage their craft in association with Hart House Theatre, Tarragon Theatre and Blyth Festival.” The award recognizes artists in their 20s who have production credits to their name. Leung is working with the three theatres on a piece called Inside the Claypot Rice.
Café Daughter is the second show of the Blyth Festival’s 2021 season, with the show starting on Aug. 25 and running to Sept. 5.