It is my pleasure to invite you to Kyoung’s Pacific Beat’s workshop production of PILLOWTALK at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center’s Rough Draft Festival. Currently, we’re developing the show in residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center and our next, public performances of PILLOWTALK will take place this April 4-6 at 7PM at LPAC’s Little Theater in Queens.
PILLOWTALK is an intimate two-character drama centered around Sam and Buck, a newlywed interracial gay couple. Using inventive staging incorporating elements of ballet’s pas de deux, the play examines the evolving values of gay marriage and asks whether queer communities of color can truly celebrate marriage equality in times of #BlackLivesMatter?
PILLOWTALK is written and directed by Kyoung H. Park and performed by Daniel K. Isaac (Kyoung’s Pacific Beat’s TALA) and Raja Feather Kelly (Reggie Wilson’s Citizen, BAM). Our workshop production will feature live music by Helen Yee and Lawrence Schober, set design by Marie Yokoyama, costume design by Andrew Jordan, and lighting design by Chuan-Chi Chan. PILLOWTALK is being developed in collaboration with Katy Pyle (Movement Consultant), Jess Applebaum (Dramaturg), Sooyoung Hwang (General Manager), Luis E. Santiago (Stage Manager), Patrick Surillo (Assistant Stage Manager), and Dana Greenfield (Assistant Direction).
PILLOWTALK’s development began last October, when Kyoung’s Pacific Beat hosted a long-table called “PILLOWTALK—Post Gay Marriage Politics” in the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies’ “After Marriage Conference,” which brought together scholars, activists, and members of the queer community to discuss what’s next in the queer movement. During our long-table, moderated by Prof. Stephanie Hsu, we shared an excerpt of the play to discuss how gay marriage has affected, or neglected, the needs of the queer community.
It is not surprising that marriage equality barely scratched the surface of what’s truly affecting the LGBQT community, as the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class provide a complex system of social, legal, and political inequities that have yet to be resolved. During our long-table, we compared marriage equality with the shift in public perception when interracial marriages were legalized in the 60’s, but we also acknowledged the racism and prejudice that prevented these rights to be granted until they were fought for.
Heterosexism, and the minimization of queer issues into the private sphere of domestic partnerships, and marriages, wants to perpetuate the status quo by re-enforcing heteronormative values and sociopolitical, legal, and economic structures that reflect the patriarchy. And in these terms, marriage equality does not address the needs of queer individuals that by gender/sexual identity, or world-views, do not align with the patriarchy.
As complex as these issues are, PILLOWTALK focused on the intersections of race and gender since its inception, tackling how queer communities of color could—or do not—celebrate marriage equality in times of #BlackLivesMatter. While the show was created a year prior to 2016 election, it seems to me that the conversations of race, and class, held by the characters of PILLOWTALK feel more relevant, and understandable, now that the anti-gay, conservative backlash has attacked marriage equality once again.
As a peacemaking theater company, and as artists, we have decided to mirror the dialogue of PILLOWTALK with an artistic conversation that has challenged us to examine a new art form—ballet’s pas de deux. While as a concept, this was a quirky, risky, and intuitive choice, the more we dug into the ballet world, the more we found ourselves in the same kind of heteronormative, gender-based, conservative world views that limit our understanding of gender identity, and the beauty of the male, body of color.
Through a Creative Mellon Fellowship at the University of Washington, I dug deeper into my questions about ballet in partnership with the university’s departments of theater and dance. This fellowship in Seattle was a phenomenal opportunity for me to address an endless laundry list of questions related to ballet, its composition, and annotation, which were answered through creative collaborations and conversations with both students and professors from the university.
As a playwright, I’m obsessed with structure, and in the room, we were able to re-create from previous existing material a dance outline which was fleshed out in rehearsals, focusing on physical characterization, and the translation of dramatic tensions such as power dynamics into physical terms, such as weight transference, and in the room, my collaborators and I identified the many gaps in our work.
These gaps are now being addressed in residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, where we have the luxury of work every day to re-address choreography, music composition, set and costume design, as a company. After many months of preparation, scheduling, fundraising, and waiting, we finally have the chance to work on PILLOWTALK once again, something which makes me feel quite grateful every day.
I hope you’ll join us to see the results of our work. We’ll be at LaGuardia’s Performing Arts Center Rough Draft Festival this April 4-6, at 7pm. $10 tickets are available now online via our website, www.kyoungspacificbeat.org, and LaGuardia’s Performing Arts Center’s site: www.lpac.nyc.
If you cannot join us, please consider making a donation in support of our work. You can make tax-deductible contributions to Kyoung’s Pacific Beat via our website: www.kyoungspacificbeat.org. Your donations will be accepted via our fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas.