Author's Note: My intent for the piece was to recreate and dramatize the tragic murder of Lily Wang. My inspiration for using this specific painting was actually the story that came with it. Without any background on the image it seems harmless, but the note that came with the picture brought both of the characters to life. The story is terrifying, yet not a onetime occurrence. I wanted to write about Asian-American women who are often the victims of abuse and harassment but in turn are blamed for and accused of the actions of others entirely out of their control. The play is fictional.
LILY WANG is a second-year graduate student studying Mechanical Engineering (one of the only women in her major) at the University of Washington. She moved from Beijing, China two years prior speaking only enough English to get her into the university. She is quiet and soft spoken, but incredibly intelligent. LILY works a night shift at a diner called Stella's, where she waits tables and does the dishes. After work each night she returns home around two a.m and stays up until the morning working on school work. Last year in her chemistry class she chose, at random, a partner for the lab experiments whose name was RICHARD ANDERSON. He smiled at her often and throughout the year showed up in her life more and more. She feels uncomfortable but has no solution. When she finds out CALLIE has called the police, she is relieved yet nervous to talk to the authorities.
RICHARD ANDERSON: A fourth year student at the University of Washington who is studying
mechanical engineering, he originally became interested in LILY the year prior when they had been lab partners for their physics class. He found her diligence in work and school fascinating, but frustrating. His hatred is confused with infatuation by other students and the police officers. He begins photographing her and following her after class, plotting an unthinkable revenge for her and her culture. His hate is rooted in his childhood, when he was told that the Japanese and all who looked like “them” were the enemy. In his head there was American and then there was Asian, and the two could not correlate. His unhealthy obsession grows stronger and his goal becomes to take her life.
OFFICER BRAND: One of the police officers who questions LILY and RICHARD after they are brought in for the investigation. Upon meeting LILY he assume she is not the victim but instead an ignorant immigrant.
OFFICER REYNOLDS: One of the police officers who questions LILY and RICHARD after they are brought in for the investigation. He lived through the persecution of the Japanese and hold prejudices towards Asian Americans as well as other racial and gender prejudices.
CALLIE JOHNSON: A Seattle native who is studying with LILY in the Engineering department. They bonded because they were two of the only women in their classes. When CALLIE finds out that RICHARD has followed LILY home on multiple occasions as well his other suspicious and obsessive actions, she decides to call the police and have RICHARD investigated.
Setting: Roosevelt Street Police Department (1956), Officers BRAND and REYNOLDS are both in the interrogation room with LILY. Lighting is dim, a small overhead bright lamp hovering above a single metal table. On one side of the table there are two metal chairs and on the other side there is a single chair (where LILY sits). On the table is REYNOLD’S pad of paper and a cup of coffee for each officer. The rest of the stage is empty, all grey and black tones painted on to the floor and backdrop.
BRAND: (pulls back a metal chair and sits across the interrogation table looking at LILY and down at investigation file) So please tell me Mrs. Wang, what are your relations with Mr. Anderson? (looks up at LILY)
LILY: (quiet timid voice with strong accent) I go to school with him. He is in my math class and he is in my physics class. (hesitates and then quietly adds on) He takes pictures of...
BRAND: (raising his eyebrows to ask for clarification) He what?
LILY: (looking down in her lap) He photographs me.
BRAND: Why do you think he takes photos of you?
LILY: (shifts uncomfortably in her chair) Callie told me to come in. She was the one that called.
BRAND: (to REYNOLDS) Does she not understand what I’m saying? (officers laugh at Lily)
BRAND: (to LILY) Who the hell is Callie? I asked, (over annunciating and speaking more loudly) Why does he take photos of you?
LILY: He said I’m different... He said I make him curious.
(The two officers make eye contact and give creepy smiles)
REYNOLDS: (focuses attention on LILY) So, on the night your friend (looks down at note sheet), Callie I believe her name is, found him following ya both home, had ya told him to come to your house?
LILY: (speaks forcefully) No! (embarrassed from her forceful response, looks down into her lap)
BRAND: (interjects and asks accusingly) Were you wearing revealing clothing?
LILY: (tilting her head in confusion) No?
(REYNOLDS nods and writes a note in file)
BRAND:(over enunciating each syllable in the word “re-veal-ing”) Do you know was re-veal-ing means?
LILY: Umm yes sir.
(REYNOLDS shuffles through his file, pulling out a piece of paper)
REYNOLDS: So, the day he photographed you after class, did you ask him to take your picture?
REYNOLDS: Okay, okay, let’s start from the beginning to make the story clear. Tell me about the first time you and Mr. Anderson talked.
LILY: We were lab partners last year.
BRAND: Tell me, are lab partners assigned?
BRAND: How did the two of ya end up as partners?
LILY: I asked him because he was smart. (pausing and quietly adds) Callie told me to step out of my comfort zone, so I asked him.
(BRAND and REYNOLDS look at each other with suspicious eyes)
BRAND: So you lead him on?
LILY: (furrows brow) What? No? He was smart. He sat next to me so I chose him as partner.
BRAND: Did you ever smile at him in class? Talk to him about anything other than school?
LILY: Yes, but only...(under her breath) if he smiled first.
BRAND: (interjects) Miss, I think you're just confused (Pointing at LILY). You have in fact lead this boy on. He's got a harmless crush. (Points to himself and REYNOLDS) We Americans actually find that flattering. Now I don’t know if that happens where you’re from but you might want to take it as a compliment that a white boy would pay attention to you.
BRAND: (sips his coffee and sighs with frustration) (to LILY) Ms. Wang why are you here today?
LILY: Callie said I needed to come to be safe
REYNOLDS: (to BRAND) Sounds like this Callie girl is making something out of nothing. Since when does a boy with a stupid crush need to be investigated by the police? Let’s drop this case. We’re wasting our time.
LILY: (desperate high pitched voice) But...
BRAND: It was nice talking with ya, Ms. Wang, but we're going to have to ask ya to leave. And by the way, once again, here in America if a boy smiles at you, it means he’s got the hots for ya. No need to call the police in the future. (laughs with REYNOLDS)
REYNOLDS: (to BRAND) Might as well tell the boy he doesn’t need to come in later today (stage lights fade to blackout)
Stage is relit by street lamps, LILY walks out onto stage, she has just left work, she is taking off her apron. She looks around nervously. Lily holds her bag close to her body. The sound of footsteps comes from behind the curtains, she swivels her head around to where the noise is coming from. She begins to pick up her pace, walking off of stage as the street lights go out.
(bright industrial lights illuminate the stage; Officer BRAND is at the police station in an office standing by a filing cabinet putting paperwork away.
Officer REYNOLDS walks in holding a file.
REYNOLDS: Hey Brand, look at this (passes file).
BRAND: (pulling his glasses onto his nose, opens up the file, reading) “Chinese university student found dead along Delaware Blvd.” (Skims article aloud) “Suspected killer, and victim’s former classmate, approached her from behind, repeatedly shooting and killing the victim. Police found her hours later with the weapon on site.”
BRAND: Huh, go figure, that guy did seem like a creep.
REYNOLDS: What can ya do? She must have done something to make him that angry.
(Stage lights fade to black)