In the world of Chinese adoption, Sarah Mitteldorf stands at the edge of the known universe.
She came first - or among the very first, landing in the United States as a baby in early 1986. That was five years before the People's Republic loosened its laws to allow foreign adoption, and a decade before it began sending children here in large numbers.
She has always been an outlier.
Now, at 26, Mitteldorf is pushing that frontier further, creating one of the first serious works of art by a Chinese adoptee that is based on the Chinese adoption experience - a theater performance that promises to be by turns probing, funny, and searing.
"It's time," said Mitteldorf, of Mount Airy, who is currently directing a festival play in New York City. "I'm finally ready. But I'm still terrified."
More than 81,000 Chinese children, almost all of them girls, have been adopted to the United States during the last two decades. Researchers and parents have wondered how those girls would interpret their hard beginnings - often abandoned at birth because of their gender, swept into state orphanages, then spirited across the sea to new homes in white families. They wondered if the girls would explore the duality of their lives, not just in the high school poetry or pastel self-portraits that have begun to emerge, but in major pieces of sculpture, painting, dance, and music.
In Mitteldorf, they have the beginnings of an answer.