Things have been hectic since I graduated from Columbia, as I’m preparing to launch my theater company Pacific Beat Collective (PBC) this fall. Pacific Beat Collective has been my dream since I started graduate school, and it’s become more and more of a necessity as I stabilize my career, and my life, in New York.
In the spring of 2011, I founded Pacific Beat Collective with Amanda J. Crater and Keren Toledano, and we began our work by organizing two panel discussions to serve Theater C’s production of my play “disOriented,” which focused on political theater and North Korean politics, and an artist talkback to discuss the production of the play. Later that year, we launched PBC Underground–a quarterly, interdisciplinary arts salon for NY based artists–to nurture collaborative relationships as an alternative to specialized training and industrialized practice in the arts.
In the meanwhile, we began the development of TALA, PBC’s first original show, which I devised in collaboration with our actors Rafael Benoit, Daniel K. Isaac, and Natalia Miranda-Guzman; composer Svetlana Maras (Serbia), choreographer Yin Yue (China), video designer John Knowles (USA), installation artist Jason Krugman (USA), theater designers Chris Barlow (Sound), Chuan-Chi Chan (Lighting), Elizabeth Groth (Costumes), Marie Yokoyama (Set) and Stage Manager Ashley Rossetti.
After a sold-out workshop of TALA at the ToRoNaDa Theater this April, I’m happy to announce that we’re remounting the show for a second workshop at the HERE Arts Center on July 28th-31st, which will help us refine the work we’ve created, address the dramaturgical questions of our audiences, and better craft the production’s design with technical support from HERE.
TALA is a meta-theatrical play that merges my autobiography with the story of Pepe and Lupe, two lovers caught on the Chilean island of Chiloé, the night before Pinochet’s military coup on September 11th, 1973. The script collages satirical sketches based on Samuel Beckett’s works, letters and poems written by Chilean poets Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, and autobiographical monologues about my experience being a Korean-Chilean immigrant.
Poets Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral are the source of inspiration for Pepe and Lupe. Gabriela Mistral, Latin America’s first Nobel Laureate, mentored Neruda as a young poet and they kept a life-long relationship through written correspondence. Throughout their careers, both Neruda and Mistral served as Chilean diplomats and they traveled worldwide to take part in local and international politics.
Gabriela Mistral, who is rumored to be a closeted lesbian, spent her last years in New York after spending much of her life in self-exile, working as an educator in Mexico. On the other hand, Neruda’s poetry and politics garnered him a nomination to Chile’s presidency through the Chilean communist party. Neruda offered his nomination to Salvador Allende, which lead to the first democratic election of a Marxist president.
Twelve days after Pinochet’s military coup, and Allende’s assassination, Pablo Neruda died. While there are conspiracy theories as to whether Neruda was murdered by Pinochet’s regime, the popular story is that Neruda died of a broken heart.
During Pinochet’s regime, Mistral’s image was co-opted and made into a motherly heroine of the Chilean people; in fact, Mistral was put on the 5,000 peso note, even though Mistral received very little recognition in Chile while she was alive. Meanwhile, Neruda’s houses in Santiago and Valparaiso were ransacked by the police and Pinochet smeared Neruda for his Communist beliefs. In TALA, which is titled after Mistral’s second book of poems, I’m giving these two Chilean poets another chance to be together, and adapted their poems and letters to capture the turbulent times they experienced.
I’m personally proud of the work we’re accomplishing with TALA, as it’s provided me with the opportunity to re-construct a history that was censored during my childhood. Having witnessed the last eight years of Pinochet’s military dictatorship and Chile’s transition to democracy, I’ve deeply considered the way neo-liberal capitalism affected Chile’s socialist movement in the 1970’s. These are the same ideological conflicts that separated my family from their country (I’m a third generation North Korean), and I wonder what these historical lessons can provide to our understanding of post-9/11 politics in the United States.
I’ve written a manifesto called “An Aesthetic Meditation” to further describe my experiences and questions. While the manifesto is a mash-up of different cultural theories, it provides a critique on the limitations of theater and reinforces aesthetic ideals on how Art can better function in society. At the core of the Manifesto, and central to PBC and the creation of TALA, is the investigation of how artists can explore conflict through theater and creatively collaborate to connect theater and peace.
I hope you’ll come see TALA and support us at the HERE Arts Center on July 28th-31st. We’ll have evening performances at 7:00 PM, and an artist talkback after a 2PM matinee performance on July 29th, moderated by Randy Gener.
If you’re not able to come, but would like to help, please consider making a donation to our Indiegogo Campaign. We are a new company and our access to public funds and grants is limited, so we need the support of charitable individuals to continue our work. You can make tax-deductible donations here.
Thank you for your support!
Kyoung H. Park