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Deborah Lee Fong: A Decidedly Post-Modern Performer

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Quarantine and the Covid-19 pandemic needless to say has shaken everything to its very core. To a certain extent, looking at the pandemic from a pure and artistic perspective, it has forced one to shed all the superficialities and intricate layerings to go back to one’s base essentials. Base essentials either entailing one’s work in an artistic arena, or simply on a personal level rekindling a connection to what really matters. With people who work in the former category, often these two are interlinked.

They certainly are for a one Deborah Lee Fong, a proud Panamanian-American actor who has continued to audition frequently in spite of the continual hiccups in normal life as Covid-19 dissipates, then reappears with each new variant. Fong already boasts an impressive resume, having appeared in the PBS projects Footsteps and its sequel, Footsteps 2. She is also an acclaimed theater actor, having appeared in multiple productions through the years across the nation. She had a noteworthy role in the feature film project You and Your Decisions. Being a woman of color in a male-dominated, mostly white homogenous filmmaking industry already can present innumerable challenges. But you add the aftereffects of the ever-continuing Covid-19 pandemic to the mix, and everything can be downright impossible.


But Fong and others like her are utilizing a specific angle. Similar to other independent performers, Fong is initiating her own projects with starring roles for herself in them, killing two birds with one stone and in the process forcing herself visibility during a time when the competition has become democratized. Thanks to the internet and the concept of so-called Going viral, established talent and production companies are finding themselves bested by, and challenged, by independent and self-produced peers in the marketplace for viewership and entertainment. If nothing else, stories like Fong’s have an especially pertinent place in the pop culture purview today, where not only her work but her tenacity to continue as a performer is highlighted and receives appreciation.

Fong is notable for being bilingual, and possessing numerous performative abilities besides just experience in professional acting milieus. Her page notes that she also specializes in Salsa dancing, and even (unapologetically) pole dancing! That kind of irreverence and sense of fun is pertinent in her enthusiasm for her craft, along with her ability to create complex, dynamic, and memorable characterizations. It’s clear Fong draws from the chameleonic and varied aspects of her own life, as much as from her learned ability. Her story likely is one of overcoming adversity, but possesses a richness of experience clearly that she can channel into each and every production.

Some people who act one gets the sense are escaping the mundane nature of their everyday lives, taking ordinary feelings and communicating them through extra-ordinary conduits. With Fong, it’s the other way around. One feels she can communicate her hard-earned wisdom through the fictitious avatars she inhabits, and you’re witnessing something both performative but also intensely personal.

Timothy Ball

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