The Bunny Rocket is a five-day process drama I co-designed and co-facilitated with Jessica Cermak for our thesis requirement in the City University of New York’s School of Professional Studies’ Applied Theatre Program. We implemented this programme in a pre-kindergarten in Brooklyn whose students were mostly composed of English as New Language learners from mainland China. My research focused on how Jonothan Neelands and Tony Goode’s dramatic conventions helped support emergent literacy. You can read more about this here.
Jessica and I wanted to create a process drama that was relevant to the community we were entering, so we didn’t only consider the academic goals of the teachers involved in the project, but also the cultural context of our participants. According to the school’s site coordinator, most of the students could be described as “satellite babies”; these students were born in the United States and were sent back to China when they were merely months old, and then shipped back to the United States when they could attend pre-kindergarten. Experiencing such disruptions at an early age manifested in different kinds of vulnerable behavior. Hence, Jessica and I created a narrative drawing from the Chinese mythical character of the rabbit on the moon. All the participants were cast as moon rabbits (I was also a moon rabbit named Jade) having an adventure in New York City with our new friend, Roberta the Brooklyn Bunny.
During my thesis defense, one of my panelists, a professor from Singapore teaching in Hampshire College named Mei Ann Teo praised our work because it supported the decolonization of the immigrant experience. Although Jessica and I weren’t in any position to address whatever psychological trauma some of the children were experiencing, I personally aimed to create a space the participants can connect with and also have them experience co-creating with a performer who was also of Asian descent, because—even if I’m not an immigrant myself—representation matters.
Below is a video excerpt from our second day in the pre-kindergarten. In this excerpt, we get into the role of moon rabbits and review what had happened in the previous section.