Mika Johnson was inspired to write their first solo show after becoming frustrated with a lack of casting opportunities. Johnson tells Giverny Masso how Pink Lemonade explores queerness and masculinity.
What inspired you to write your first show?
I was just tired of not seeing myself represented on the stage in any way. So I was like: ‘I need to write a show that’s for me.’ But I also want other queer people to see it and know it’s okay to be them, and that we do exist. When you’re marginalised, it’s hard to get your foot in the door for castings. I felt like I was presenting myself in a way that wasn’t me, and in the end I thought: ‘I’m just going to be me.’ Before Pink Lemonade I hadn’t been doing anything for a few years. I almost gave up on it all. But I’m very passionate about performing, and I just had to write something that was about me.
Tell me about the show you are performing in Edinburgh?
Pink Lemonade is about accepting yourself and growing from past relationships. For my character it’s about them navigating their masculinity and kind of embracing who they are. It is based on me, so it’s autobiographical. I wanted to write a show about my queerness in some way. The inspiration came after a conversation with my grandma about butch women back in the 1950s, and it got me thinking a lot about masculinity and myself.
How did you make the show?
Pink Lemonade is a co-commission between the Queer House and HighTide. It’s been about a year and a half in the making. My background is in devising. When I was younger I went to a small young actors company for black and brown kids and we would devise work. There would be a lot of movement-based stuff and writing in the space, then working from that. With Pink Lemonade, I first started making movement and writing poetry, and from that came the script.
What has the response to Pink Lemonade been like?
I was very nervous about it, as it’s my first solo show. I’d never written anything before, so this is my baby. It was a great response: audiences have been really supportive and have really connected with it. They were curious about their own thoughts and said how the show might have helped them see things a little bit differently. The hardest part is knowing that the work is based on myself and being exposed and vulnerable. But also it challenged me to write a story, and now I feel more comfortable saying that I am a writer, because it’s gone beyond movement and poetry.
What are you doing next?
After Pink Lemonade I’m going to start development on another solo piece. This is going to look at pre-colonisation and how gender binary didn’t exist in a lot of the indigenous cultures until the Europeans came and implemented all these things. I would also love to write, not for myself, but other pieces that I’m not in. I’d love to go into TV and write more plays.
Agent: The Queer House
First professional role: Trojan Horse/Rainbow Flag by Ian Giles (2019)
Pink Lemonade is running at Assembly Festival at Edinburgh Festival Fringe until August 25 and at HighTide Festival in Aldeburgh on September 12. For more information, click here