By Xu Daozhi and Lynn Yau
Ms. Lynn Yau is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Absolutely Fabulous Theatre Connection (AFTEC http://www.aftec.hk/). She has a Master of Education in Curriculum Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in English Studies & Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Bristol. Ms. Yau has also been the Hong Kong Scholar to the Clore Leadership Programme 2010-11, and is an Advisor to RTHK, and an Examiner in Literary Arts, Drama and Arts Criticism for the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.
In an interview with the postgraduate student Xu Daozhi, Ms. Yau spoke about her love for arts and learning, her current work and projects, and the memory of her days at HKU.
From reading your profile, I know you’re passionate about arts and literature. Could you please tell us what inspired you to pursue the arts as a life-long career?
I didn’t start my career in the arts, although the performing arts have been very much a part of life since childhood. In the mid-90s, I decided to transform my hobby into a career and focused my time and energy on arts and education. I decided this is a field that I can immerse myself totally in until I’m 100, or until I lose my marbles, whichever is the earlier.
Now you are the head of AFTEC. Could you tell us a little about what your job entails?
The Absolutely Fabulous Theatre Connection (AFTEC) is a bilingual learning theatre with productions and Learning & Participation programmes. By theatre, I mean the broad sense of it, including visual arts, design, movement and literature etc. AFTEC is committed to inspiring young talents to realise their artistic potential through the various programmes on offer year round. It aims to engage participants so as to rediscover their curiosity in life, recreate the mind, and to rework meaning in such a way that we build on quality of life, rather than just life’s material aspects.
Now at AFTEC, I am responsible for overall strategic planning, fund-raising, and arts teaching and learning. Lots to do!
You have an exceptionally colorful life, being an educational advisor, examiner, doctoral student, and actress! Among so many roles, if you have to name one, which part of your life do you enjoy most?
Definitely arts and education, specifically the correlation and connection between the two supposedly disparate sectors. I firmly believe the arts can transform life, in particular the meaning and spirituality (not religious) of life. Second, I think the arts can definitely support more in-depth learning in education overall and not simply arts education.
You are currently a doctoral student at the University of Bristol. Could you please tell us what your research interests are and what topic you’re working on?
I am doing a degree in education. I’m working towards women and the arts—women who are involved in arts education. I would like to give a voice to women who have dedicated their lives to this field. And I would like to investigate the fundamental question of “understanding.”
What did you find most interesting when you studied at HKU?
The space to relish reading. I was a bookworm as a child. Even now I would frequent my “intellectual spa,” which is HKU’s library. Far from the madding crowd!
When I studied at HKU, I really had the luxury of time. I miss our tutorials. There were no more than 6 students per session, so we were able to know each other and our professors very well. We could discuss a single play or a collection of poems by a single poet in-depth for a long while until we felt we knew, say, Tennessee Williams or Keats or Eliot personally. I was very lucky to have been born a few decades ago when we could still savour literature and not sip it. HKU should really build a proper theatre to continue its pioneering days in drama.
As a lead actress, you have played many roles in major classics. May I ask which role and which play you like best?
I haven’t performed on stage for many years now and acting is really only a hobby. Because of literature, I love the classics. I am often overwhelmed by well-written plays and poetry. As to specific roles and plays, there are quite a few: Cordelia in King Lear, Lilian in Brecht’s Happy End, the Mother in Stoppard’s After Magritte, Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the list goes on.
Ms. Yau’s stage photo with some of the young people in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Hiawatha,” an epic poem turned play that was produced last August.