After a year and a half of absence, it is awesome to share with you the latest Kyoung Update. This period of time has been of tremendous growth, leading to some of the most amazing changes in my life.
This year, I have finally established my own theater company—Kyoung’s Pacific Beat, a peacemaking theater company—and our company has found its first home as Artist-in-Residence at the Performance Project @ University Settlement. This landmark institution has served immigrants for over 130 years and is the first Settlement in America.
The Performance Project @ University Settlement will present my play, TALA, this January 8th – 23rd, 2015 and this production will mark my debut as a writer, director, and producer. TALA blends my semi-autobiographical story as a gay, Korean-Chilean playwright living in America with the tale of Pepe and Lupe, two lovers inspired by Chilean poets Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. This surreal tragicomedy delves deep into the absurdities of being an artist while trying to write within the margins of so many broken systems. You can read more about the production on Broadwayworld.com.
TALA stars Daniel K. Isaac (Anna Nicole: the Opera, at BAM), Flor De Liz Perez (Pericles at The Public Theater) and Rafael Benoit (Magic Kingdom at The Connelly Theater). The production features original music by Svetlana Maras (Serbia), choreography by Yin Yue (China), video by John Knowles (USA), and installation art by Jason Krugman (USA). The creative team of TALA includes sound design by Chris Barlow and Lawrence Schober, lighting by Chuan-Chi Chan, costumes by Elizabeth Barrett Groth, dramaturgy by Sarah Rose Leonard, and sets by Marie Yokoyama. I am so thrilled that the incredibly diverse and talented group of artists that originated TALA with me is here two years later to bring this project to completion.
From January 8th – 23rd, 2015, during the hustle and bustle of New York’s downtown, experimental theater festivals, we will be like a little guerrilla theater company making noise, raising awareness and visibility of the immigrant experience. TALA tells my story, but it is greatly shaped and informed by the diverse, immigrant stories from the University Settlement. As a way to listen more closely to the community, I led “Immigrant Poets of New York“, a community-based theater project in which I worked with senior, Chinese-American immigrants in the writing and performance of their own stories through short poems and monologues. Their writing was inspired by Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Poet in New York,” a seminal anthology of poems written by Lorca when he traveled to New York and witnessed Black Tuesday, the crash of Wall Street in 1929.
Purchase tickets: Tickets are $18 ($10 for students and seniors) and they’re on sale now!
Support our show: For the past three weeks, we have been fundraising through direct appeals and social media and managed to raise $1,750 (35%) of our fundraising goal, but we are still far away from our $5,000 goal. I hope you will consider making a tax-deductible contribution to TALA through our Indiegogo campaign. Every little bit makes a difference and we have great perks for your donations!
As this is Thanksgiving, I now give thanks to the amazing changes that have happened since I last wrote this newsletter, and offer this as a way to bring you up to speed with all the ways I have personally changed during this time.
I am grateful to have found love. While I still shudder to think about the countless, horrible experiences I encountered last year, Daniel Lim was there through the ups and downs, and there were many, many downs. When the spiraling down didn’t seem to stop, Daniel held my hand and said yes when I proposed.
I am grateful to be married. Danny and I married in secret August of 2013 before we told his parents, and between August and May of last year, our families have gotten to know each other and understand that not only are we gay, we are in love and want to build a life together. We had a small, intimate wedding in New York for close friends and family as a way to acknowledge those who helped us stay together as a couple.
I am grateful for New York’s queer community. While organizing in support of equality, safety against street violence, and raising our voices against the immigration-detention-prison complex, I went through my own woes facing the system and lost everything I had. When this happened, an angel scooped me up to help me stay in the country, and it was the queer community that came together and held a fundraiser in secret to support me, and surprised me with the news at a time in which I quite frankly, no longer knew what to do.
I am grateful for my Green Card. Now that I’m a permanent resident in America, Danny and I have been able to find a place of our own to start a home, and I’ve been able to find the most amazing, flexible, job outside the theater that allows me to continue doing the work that I love, without having to make of the theater the way I make a living. Now that I no longer fear from financial anxiety, I have been able to slowly establish my own company as a vehicle to raise the support I need to make the work that I love and pay the artists that collaborate with me to make this work come true.
I am grateful for change. My family, my friends, and my peers have watched me fall and make a complete fool of myself, and I am grateful that intolerance and ignorance have been overcome by compassion, trust, and love.
I am grateful for the theater. Even though I felt that I “quit” the theater, I didn’t quit as much as found artistic freedom.
– Since April of last year, I joined The Brooklyn Commune, a grassroots organization for independent, performing artists and led a research project on Cultural Democracy and Representation. Based on artist interviews, surveys and data polled from the community, we were able to identify the financial realities of performing artists along lines of race, gender, and class. Writing the report, “Creating Outside the Box,” was a daunting reality check.
– In January, I was selected as one of five inaugural fellows for Target Margin Theater’s Institute for Collaborative Theater-Making. This was the first time I was welcomed into an artistic community as a theater-maker–not just a playwright–and over the course of the year, I’ve been able to learn from my peers how to be an artist in a way that’s been both fortifying and challenging. Many new projects and ideas have developed from this opportunity, and I feel like this program has helped me rebuild my confidence to keep making the work that I do. You can read more about this experience through my three-part blog post for Target Margin Theater (parts 1, 2, 3).
– Since last year, I’ve been invited to participate in Howlround’s Latino Commons and have found my way to connect with the Latin@ theater community in New York, which has led to my facilitation of a Latino theater artist gathering at The Martin Segal Center at CUNY, where I was also interviewed by PhD students in their amazing theater program. Through this process, I’ve made excellent new friends, directed my first play in Spanish (“La Mala Clase” by contemporary Chilean playwright Luis Barrales), and even received my first regional theater commission to write about being Latino in America!
There are many things to be thankful for, and this will hopefully be the beginning of more, exciting and positive things in life. While I’m still working like a dog and burning the candle at both ends, I am learning to say thanks as much as I’m learning to say no, and finding a way to keep this going in a way that is sustainable, balanced, and less lonely.
To that effect, I must now also thank the many people who have helped me keep dreaming for this moment!
Extra Special Thanks!
For the World Premiere of TALA, many thanks to the Performance Project @ University Settlement (Alison Fleminger, Lisa Clair, and Emma Rivera), the incredibly talented artists collaborating with me, and the teachers and students of the University Settlement.
For the development of TALA, many thanks to the Vermont Studio Center, Ma-Yi Theater Company, Lark Play Development Center, HERE Arts Center, Columbia University, Lee Breuer and Mabou Mines, Amanda Crater, and Keren Toledano.
For Kyoung’s Pacific Beat, many thanks to our Champions: Joe Henriquez McNearney, Mia Jeong, Jesse Longman, Wave Makers: Robert S. Foust, David Lee, Jacob & Marcia Toledano, Timothy Tompkins, Trouble Makers: Clover Chambers, Judith & Dick Crater, Kikki Ghezzi, Advocates: Lucrecia Briceno, Max Dana, Genevieve Dreyfus, Kathy Kowalski, Maude Mitchell, Joan & Shawn Sheehan, Eduardo Toscani, Patrick Wang (in memory of), Mo Zhou, Agents: Jason Chan, Dennis Chin, Dustin Chinn, Naveen Choudhury, Pietro A. Gonzalez, Lilian Haney, Kerry Huang, Soomi Kim, Daniel Lim, Don Nguyen, A. Rey Pamatmat, Angela Reed, Fernando Saucedo Lastra, Movers: David Conison, Geraldo Lopes, Scott Nogi, Jiehae Park, Jelena Radovic, Coco M Schneider, Nandita Shenoy, Ari Tabei, Jason Tseng and nine Anonymous donors.
Kyoung’s Pacific Beat is a peacemaking theater company. In collaboration with artists from different cultures and disciplines, KPB researches and transforms personal and communal experiences of oppression into challenging new works of theater. KPB’s work radically experiments with form to give voice to marginalized voices and engages with local communities to create theatrical productions that promote a culture of peace and non-violence.
Kyoung’s Pacific Beat is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the purposes of Kyoung’s Pacific Beat must be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.