I am a trained playwright and self-taught director and producer. My plays are poetic, dramatic writing that are intensely personal, violent, and steeped in stark, psychological realities that stem from my visceral experiences growing up in a poor, North Korean, immigrant household in Santiago, Chile during Pinochet’s military dictatorship. I discovered my voice journaling in the fifth grade. My journal became the only safe space where I could express myself. A few years later, theater taught me how to wear a mask that allowed me to be heard and seen. Since then, I’ve worked as a playwright, director, and facilitator in order to live in my skin. I’m still healing from complex PTSD; if I don’t do this work, my memory fades into darkness. The way memories manifest in my plays is my way of processing the traumatic events of my past and my inherited, intergenerational trauma.

DISORIENTED (2011) chronicled how my North Korean family’s matrilineage was permanently severed from land by war, through a non-linear, family drama intertwined with post-modern interpretations of Korean fan dancing; TALA (2015) was a surreal, interdisciplinary performance that interweaved my childhood in Chile, my immigrant experience post-9/11, and the history of Chile’s CIA-backed, military coup of Sept. 11th, 1973; PILLOWTALK (2018) was a gay bedroom drama about an interracial couple whose internalized racism and homophobia were transformed into a balletic pas de deux. I’m currently writing and directing NERO, a reflection of my struggles reconciling truth, memory and history, as I become part of an American Empire.

Directing my work, I collaborate with diverse artists from different cultures, working in different disciplines, to theatricalize invisible systems of oppression through text, performance, movement, music, visual and sound design. While developing my work, I organize my local community to collectively problem-solve social issues addressed in my plays. These conversations fuel my developmental process, which lasts several years, as theater-making becomes a catalyst for advancing social change in my community.

My stagecraft is experimental; each play I create has a distinct dramaturgical form to stage the questions I am investigating. In the theater, the synthesis of performance, visual, musical and kinetic work results in unique live experiences that illuminate the architecture of emotions on-stage. My community-based work, on the other hand, is a flexible social art-practice responsive to the desires of my community. Over time, my playwriting becomes the sum-total through which I integrate my artistic and community-based practices into one.

Self-production was a necessity when I started my career. As an immigrant with no Greencard, I had no access to professional opportunities to pursue my writing. I needed to learn how to write, direct, and self-produce my work if I wanted to see my plays on-stage. Systemic racism and aesthetic biases were also barriers to my career path; so as an artist, my work is deeply invested in changing the systems that have restricted my work as a playwright. More importantly, I came out of the closet at the age of 27. The plays I’ve created ever since have been about living in my truth as an artist, no matter what social repercussions there might be.

Photography by Tahir Karmali