Theater student explores new avenues at ELAC

Lighting technician speaks on experience in Hong Kong riots

By Vicky Nguyen

Gigi Yue was afraid to breathe. She was hit by tear gas fired by Hong Kong police into a crowd of pro-democracy protesters, and all she could do was try to avoid inhaling the white smoke, which creates a burning sensation in the eyes and lungs.

“You just hear people. They’re shouting ‘Move! Move! Go away!’ and then smoke starts to come, and then you know you got to run, because it’s coming at you,” Yue said.

“I covered my nose and mouth to try and help, but it didn’t really do anything. At that time, we didn’t have much gear. We were just wearing the normal face masks.”

This was in August. As far as Yue knew, the actions from the police were not in retaliation to any violent behavior.

“In August, things were quite peaceful. We were normally just shouting slogans,” Yue said. 

Now, as Hong Kong enters its 21st straight week of protests, Gigi Yue, whose full name is Yue Yat Gi, continues to support her Hong Kongese comrades from afar while she studies tech and theater at East Los Angeles College. 

But it’s not easy to dealing with the uncertainty and frustration of not knowing how her hometown is doing from so far away.

“If I know some of my friends are going (to protest), I check in with them, make sure they’re all right. I’ve heard about people getting caught and suffering. I just hope that no one gets hurt,” Yue said. “I sometimes feel like I can’t do much.”

Yue worries that her pro Hong Kong views might offend her Chinese friends, so she blocks them from seeing her Instagram stories when it has political content.

She tiptoes around political conversations with her mother, who dislikes the chaos the protesters have brought to Hong Kong. “I don’t want to start any arguments or anything,” Yue said. 

Standing five feet tall and weighing less than 100 pounds, she is overlooked despite the strength of her convictions. 

Yue said she doesn’t have many friends at ELAC. Sometimes, she feels lonely.

“You’re a newbie here. You kind of wander around, and you don’t get people’s inner jokes,” Yue said. However, she said that she’s independent and carefree.

“I feel more independent compared to others, and it’s also great that I don’t have to depend on others. You don’t have to force yourself to fit in.”

After living in New York, Yue came to ELAC, because she wanted to explore different paths before jumping into university.

Yue felt pressure to study a practical set of job skills that could translate into the real world, but she said she was never interested in business or management the way her mother hoped she would be.

“I never got into practical stuff,” Yue said. Instead, Yue enjoyed theater. At eleven years old, she played the lead in a play about the legendary warrior Hua Mulan. “Mulan is a great play. The costumes were magical,” Yue said.

When she came to the U.S. at 15, she was excited to participate in theater again, as there were no drama programs in her school when she started secondary education in Hong Kong.

After coming to ELAC, Yue began taking lighting courses. 

When she first saw how people could program and design lighting for the stage, something clicked.

“Oh, that’s cool!” Yue said.

“I feel like there’s a high chance I can go to good schools for lighting and it’s involves theater.” It was the perfect melding of her love of theater with her search for a practical career.

Most recently, Yue was in ELAC’s production of “Dracula” as both an orderly and, with her small stature, a boy child.

Zoe Mardini is a fellow theater student who impressed with Yue on stage. “The first time I met her, I immediately liked her. She was just this nice little ball of nervous energy with a giant smile on her face,” Mardini said.

“Gigi always gets the best notes, because apparently everything she does, my director (Kelly Hogan) loves.”

While enjoying her time at ELAC, Yue’s thoughts continue to stay steadily on the events in Hong Kong.

She attends rallies for Hong Kong in Los Angeles and tries her best to spread information on social media.

“We’re fighting for what we used to have, and we don’t want to lose it,” Yue said. “Hong Kong is fighting a revolution. Thank you for the concern from the world. I hope people will support the protesters, because we fight for things we deserve.”

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