Alien Citizen: Third Culture Kids, from Everywhere and Nowhere

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Are you a Third Culture Kid (TCK)? You know who you are - having grown up around the world, you're comfortable anywhere in the world. Sometimes you have itchy feet, while at other times you long to put down roots (if even for a bit) - but maybe with people, not necessarily with a place. If you aren't a TCK, maybe you've traveled enough, or worked in international education for so long that everyone you know has this worldview - that of cultural marginals - unique, global, and definitely the epitome of intercultural understanding. Well, have I discovered a resource for you. I first read of the one-woman show by Elizabeth Liang, entitled Alien Citizen, over at Displaced Nation. In her show, Liang talks about language, belonging (or not), and telling the story of life as a Third Culture Kid. She has shared some clips, and answered some questions about Alien Citizen for our Wandering Educators. Let's hope her show gets on the road, and we can see it! I love Alien Citizen - and hope that I can see it all sometime, instead of in tantalizing glimpses on youtube.

Elizabeth Liang - Alien Citizen

Please tell us about Alien Citizen...

Who are you when you’re from everywhere and nowhere? Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey is a funny and poignant one-woman show about growing up as a dual citizen of mixed heritage in Central America, North Africa, the Middle East, and New England.

Alien Citizen: Third Culture Kids, from Everywhere and Nowhere

What inspired you to create Alien Citizen?

I wrote it for my fellow TCKs and people of mixed heritage because we rarely see our stories portrayed on stage or screen. I also kept being asked if I was from the Midwestern USA, which was discombobulating after a childhood and adolescence of being seen as "other," and I wanted to set the record straight: my story is unusual.  The play is about identity, which everyone grapples with, but I think that everyone who has lived a cross-cultural life--anyone who has felt like a bridge or an island or both--can especially relate to it.  And I wanted to talk about the hard parts as well as the good stuff.

What's so different abt TCKs?

I think the main differences between TCKs and everyone else is that we don't consider home to be a place, and we don't feel full ownership in any culture. We feel that we belong with others who have had similar life experiences and/or have similar interests -- it's usually not based on nationality or race or religion, etc.

Elizabeth Liang - Alien Citizen

Cultural marginals - those who feel at the margins of almost all cultures - often have unique coping abilities to be able to adapt to and understand different cultures. As a cultual marginal, do you feel that anywhere in the world is home? Where do you like to be, most?

I feel at home when I'm traveling for pleasure, interestingly.  But my husband is my home, and so are my parents and brother.  I like most to be with them and with friends, wherever they may be.  Still, I've lived in Los Angeles, CA for a shockingly long time--since right after college--so it's almost like home simply because I've lived here so long.  At least, it's more familiar to me than any other city.  But I yearn to work internationally, with a couple of home bases. That's my dream.

ALIEN CITIZEN: An Earth Odyssey - On losing language

How can people see Alien Citizen?

Alien Citizen will be at Princeton University in New Jersey in February, and I'm in talks with a few universities in the L.A. area to do the show on their campuses this fall.  I'm also hoping to take it to festivals around the country and world.  Meanwhile, I'll be posting more excerpts on the site over the next few months:

The show has been invited to open the Women at Work Festival at Stage Left Studio in NYC.  

ALIEN CITIZEN: An Earth Odyssey - On (re)gaining language(s)

What's up next for you?

I'm gearing up to teach a class on writing one's solo show or memoir here in L.A., starting in mid-September.  I've also got other solo shows in my head that I want to write and workshop, but one thing at a time. :)


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All photos and video courtesy and copyright Elizabeth Liang