The chemist and the stage
Senior chemistry major, athlete, and artist Audrey Pillsbury creates a musical about life as a second-generation Asian-American.
“Being at MIT has given me access to a lot of resources. I have this platform where people will sort of care about what I’ve written or what I’ve done."
— Audrey Pillsbury '19, Course 5
Audrey Pillsbury has many different identities on campus: She is a musician and composer, she rows for the women's openweight crew, and she studies chemistry (Course 5). Now she is exploring her identity as a second-generation Asian-American through her first collaborative musical, "The Jade Bracelet."
Encouraged by a group of friends and professors, Pillsbury channeled her lifelong passion for music and dance to tell a story about cultures, family dynamics, and interracial relationships that are part of Pillsbury’s reality, being half Chinese and half Caucasian.
"The Jade Bracelet" is about members of the Wong family, who immigrate to America to escape China’s one-child policy. Later, the Wong sisters Jaden and Amy are seen dealing in high school dealing with stereotypes from both Asian and American cultures, interracial dating conflicts, and trying to balance different, and sometimes conflicting, identities. Pillsbury was able to connect with students from Harvard University, Wellesley College, the University of Massachusetts at Boston, Berklee College of Music, and other area schools who had experienced similar issues growing up in multicultural families.
“I want to feel close to my Asian roots but what does that mean?” says Pillsbury. “I’ve never been to Asia. I love Chinese food but what does that mean? I think those are the moments I had with my own mother and trying to figure out her past and to see things from her perspective.”