The Black Lives Matter movement has opened a Pandora’s box, shining light on the injustices resulting from systemic racism, ingrained not only in our society, but around the world as well.
Of late, Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote, “A riot is the language of the unheard,” has been repeated frequently, and the media has responded with increased coverage of minority voices. In that spirit, I have made it my goal to share the stories of BIPOC artists in the performing arts, when listening to them is more critical than ever.
Adam Tran is a gifted, versatile performer, whom I have seen in such productions as “You Can’t Take It with You,” at Indiana Repertory Theatre, Zach & Zack’s “Rocky Horror,” and “Silent Sky,” presented by Summit Performance Indianapolis. A Greencastle, Indiana native, Tran is quarantined in his home with his wife and fellow actor, Kelsey Leigh Miller, and their two cats Gwen and Ellie. Reaching out to him by phone and email, we had the following exchange.
Tell me about your background.
As far as my ethnicity, I’m half Asian, mostly Vietnamese, and half white, predominantly Welsh.
Tell me about your parents.
My father passed away about seven years ago. He was a fancy chef! My mother raised me solo and has worked hard for everything her whole life. Ultimately, it’s that struggle that pushed me to pursue my dreams because I recognized that life is laborious and I may as well labor away at something that I’m passionate about.
Have you experienced racism or discrimination resulting from your bi-racial ethnicity?
Oh, yes. The blatant stuff (slurs and threats and in some instances, violence) is mostly a memory. It’s the little things now that irk me (stereotypes, comments about casting, etc.)
How has it impacted you as an actor?
The odd thing is that I’ve mostly played roles that are traditionally Caucasian, and usually it was commented on as “an interesting choice.” But, I generally have the strange issue of half-ness, “too white” to play the Asian characters, “too Asian” to play the white characters.
What do you think about the Black Lives Matter protests?
I think it’s amazing. It’s a movement for injustices that have gone unsolved for too long. And we can’t make progress as a nation until all of our people have the same power.
What do you hope the BLM movement accomplishes?
It’s already accomplishing things! It’s slowly dismantling the system of oppression that has long governed in this country. It’s shedding a light on the intrinsic prejudice that persists in our government and the way that prejudice affects policy. It’s the revolution.
How has the pandemic affected you?
Work stopped and shows were canceled. But it provided me a lot of time to be more artistically minded and gain perspective on goals going forward.
What were you working on that was interrupted, postponed or canceled?
I was cast in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Indy Shakes, which was just moved to next summer, so for me, I just think of it as something to look forward to further down the line!
How have you spent your time in quarantine?
Working out and video games, mostly. Though I do have a couple of artistic projects in the works that I’m keeping under wraps for now.
Have you stayed in touch with your friends?
Lots of Zoom hangouts, FaceTimes, and play readings!
What do you miss the most?
People! In the 3-D world! And going places without the tension of a looming pandemic.
What have you learned from the pandemic?
I’ve learned that I don’t have all the artistic agency I’d like to have as an actor and that has sent me into a couple other veins of artistic expression.
What do you think the “new normal” will be?
I don’t know. All I can hope for is that it’s more mindful and considerate than the old one.
Who are you represented by?
Agents galore, have I! Helen Wells Agency here in Indy, Heyman Talent in Cincy, and Grossman & Jack in Chicago!
Tell me about your TV/film work.
It’s varied and sporadic right now. I shot a pilot with Rae Dawn Chong several moons ago, and did a short film with writer/director Chris White in my hometown of Greencastle, Indiana, and most recently, had a guest-star spot on “Chicago Med” in their big crossover event with the other Chicago shows!
Why did you choose acting as a career?
Honestly, it likely boils down to two things. I’m a born show-off and there’s a deep storytelling tradition in my family.
What are your short and long-term goals?
Phew. Well, the short-term goals are a bit up in the air at the moment since everything is shut down. Acting is a very uncertain profession at present. But long term, I want to make a living spending half my time on stage and half in front of a camera.
Tell me about your one-man show.
Buried the lead here! Ha-ha! I’m developing a one-man show, with the Know Theatre of Cincinnati, about Genghis Khan. (And that’s all I’ll say for now.)
What impact do you wish to make as an artist?
That’s a layered question. In some ways, I hope to just keep working. The more work I get, the more kids who look like me see themselves in society. I also want to be as authentic as I can because I think that allows for a more-rounded scope of people of color and of masculinity.
As a human being?
Phew! This one is deep. I hope to be a force for hope and love. I hope that anyone I come in contact with, leaves feeling more loved than before they met me. I hope that I can give just a margin of the grace I’ve received over my life back to the world. And I hope to be an embodiment of resistance to oppression. Ya’ know, little things like that.
Follow Adam Tran on his Facebook page and Instagram @itsadamtran.