Vermilion Theater’s second production of “Constellations” highlights the importance of queer love on stage


By Shannon Garrido, Editor-in-chief

The legacies of queer love stories on stage have been breaking barriers for theater since Broadway’s 1983 production of “La Cage.” This weekend, Boston’s Vermillion Theater is taking queer storytelling a step further in the form of multilingual performances. 

Inspired by the success of its first production of “Constellations” in December, Vermilion Theater is back with a queer edition of the same show, which will be held April 8-9 at the Boston University Fitness and Recreation Center. 

Vermilion Theater is a non-profit multilingual theater group that was founded at Yale University in 2021, and expanded to Massachusetts earlier this year. They provide multilingual versions of plays originally written in or translated to Chinese, and are now embarking on queer multilingual stories featuring all-female casts.

Founding member and Managing Director Wisteria Deng said that  “quite a number of the core team members and board members are sexual and gender minorities. So the most straightforward answer is that we personally care about the cause,” when asked what motivated this new version of “Constellations.”

In addition, an overwhelming majority of Vermillion Theater members are of Asian American or Pacific Islander descent.

“We also have intersecting minority identities being AAPI and queer,” said Deng. “We see how those intersecting identities can both bring about unique resilience, protective factors, and at the same time can give us unique challenges.” 

Written by Nick Payne, Constellations” follows a love story through the multiverse between an astrophysicist and a beekeeper. The show explores themes of mortality, reminiscence, free will, and the weight of death. 

According to Artistic Director Yuning Su, translating this play sparked the realization that “[the play] has the potential of telling you about love stories in any form. Basically it’s the relationship between two people and we have already had one version … [we decided] to do this about [queer] love in a different universe.”

They went on to explain that in translating a story that follows a love between universes, it seemed completely rational that the connection be portrayed through a queer eye. However, they soon realized that this natural response to queer representation in theater is not common and would prove to be difficult in its execution. 

“There is a lot of stigma when it comes to queer identities, especially queer love on stage, which is a very visible way of presenting queer love,” Su said. “There has been a lot of stigma deeply rooted in Asian culture, or [specifically] Chinese culture. And so in that sense, we probably shouldn’t be surprised when we have difficulties finding sponsorships.”

Su goes on to mention that in putting together this performance, businesses they have worked with in the past may suddenly turn them down, while others may share a general confusion or misunderstanding of the performance itself. 

According to Su, these businesses assume that a lack of male actors to fill these roles is what led Vermilion to change this adaptation to two women. There is also an indication that a queer story would be too controversial for businesses to attach their names to, making it hard for Vermilion Theater to find supporting entities. 

When asked if they have found a more accepting community at Emerson to promote the Vermilion Theater’s work, Kaye Huiyuan Hu, senior public relations major at Emerson—and Vermilion secretary and main actress in their latest production—explained that the experience is two-fold.

“It’s kind of complicated,” said Hu. “Emerson is very supportive to the queer community but in terms of the AAPI community, I don’t know. I’m actually working with another Chinese Student Theatre Group at Emerson, and we’ve encountered some subtle racism in putting on our [own] productions.”

While Vermilion has confronted hardship in trying to find communities that support a multilingual queer love story, Deng reflects on the importance of putting on sapphic shows through a multicultural perspective. 

“Because of all these challenges that we’re facing, we were forced to reckon with the fact that there isn’t any pure [queer] love on stage in the Chinese language,” says Deng. “To have something that’s this visible that forces audience members to reckon with the fact that this is love between two human beings on stage.” 

Deng believes that audiences are passive receivers. For the short amount of time that they experience “Constellations,” they build connections and refine an ability to convey a message—one that proves that queer love stories are meant to be portrayed unapologetically on stage.

Vermilion Theater hopes to amplify the voice of minority populations, including but not exclusive to racial, sexual, and gender minorities, using artistic expression and cross-cultural conversation

Tickets for this weekend’s production can be found below and on their website.