THE INSPIRATION: In the summer of 2020, as the world was gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) increasingly became the victims of incidents of violence. Philadelphian Katie Lu was frustrated and angry about the rising anti-Asian violence, and the fact that some people were wrongly blaming Asian Americans for the pandemic. “I had never experienced a mass movement of hate against my race,” says Katie, who is Chinese American. In response, she decided to write a play that she hoped would not only help her work through her sadness, but would also raise awareness of violence against Asian Americans.

THE ACTION: Katie wrote a three-act play titled Pandemic. The title refers to both the virus itself and the anti-Asian hate that seems to have become a contagion all its own.

Katie found material for her writing in conversations with her AAPI peers, as well as older Asian Americans like her parents and grandparents. She discovered that many of her peers felt pessimistic about the years to come, while older people like her grandparents retained optimism for a more inclusive future. “I wanted to reconcile those two perspectives, one of feeling discouraged and one of having hope,” she says. 

In Pandemic, one storyline takes place in the 1930s, as a pregnant Chinese immigrant settles in the U.S. In a second, present-day storyline, a Chinese American college student checks on her elderly grandfather after he’s injured in a racially motivated assault. The Grandpa character is based on Katie’s own happy-go-lucky grandfather.

THE OUTCOME: Pandemic won first place in the 2020 Philadelphia Young Playwrights’ Annual Playwriting Festival and was selected to be produced onstage. Because the actual pandemic caused cities to close theaters, making live performances impossible, Pandemic was broadcast as a radio play instead. Since the play’s debut, Katie has spoken to many audiences about her work. She plans to keep writing plays, and she hopes to see Pandemic made into a film someday. “I want as many people to connect with it as possible,” she says.