Written and Directed by Kyoung H. Park
Performed by Rafael Benoit, Daniel K. Isaac, and Flor de Liz Perez
TALA blends the semiautobiographical story of 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.
Choreography: Yin Yue
Composer: Svetlana Maras
Set Design: Marie Yokoyama
Lighting Design: Chuan-Chi Chan
Sound Design: Chris Barlow and Lawrence Schober
Costume Design: Elizabeth Groth
Video Design: John Knowles
Installation Art: Jason Krugman
Dramaturg: Sarah Rose Leonard
Stage Management: Luis E. Santiago
"Tala tackles large, almost mythical dilemmas, such as the burden of inheriting a national identity and the complexities and confusions that arrive when we inherit more than one. Park explores what we must accept and how we can grow, pushing beyond what is expected of us as obedient sons, daughters, and citizens. Kyoung is fearless in his willingness to leave his life and the trials of his past out in the open, and by merging the story of Pepe and Lupe with that of the playwright, he shows the intersection between the personal and the political, exploring the implications of following a cause to the extreme, given the potential that in doing so you may have to give up on the hope of 'normalcy'... Park tells his story, perhaps the first about a “gay Chilean-Korean terrorist,” and escalates his hope and belief one step further, leaving us with the possibility that perhaps the pen is indeed more powerful - far more powerful - than the sword."--Emily Gawlak, StageBuddy
"This is a play of ideas and poetry collaged together; at times, it felt dream-like with its fluid, animal-like choreography by Yin Yue and music by Svetlana Maras. The sparse set by Jason Krugman suggested the idea of a modern installation piece you might find in a warehouse in Williamsburg. And the trio of performers -- a breathe of fresh air to see such diversity on stage -- were all impressive, especially when they switched into different roles. At one point, all three performers inhabit the persona of Kyoung (Benoit’s is particularly heartbreaking to watch) and the fluidity of that role-switching fits nicely with the overall messy journey of uncovering identity."--Teddy Nicholas, Theater is Easy
“Casting its net across time, place, culture, the search for self and the need for a greater purpose, playwright Kyoung H. Park’s script for Tala is as tangled and conflicted and contemplative as you’d expect from that messy melting pot of thematic ingredients. Dashes of surrealism may sweeten the dish, but their presence has no ambition to overwhelm the bitter taste that lingers on the palate of every righteous fighter or melancholy searcher in the cast — even the ones who seem poised to find what they’ve been looking for. First-born son Park bases much of Tala on a fictionalized version of his own experience as a Korean-Chilean in America during 9/11, whose emerging identity as a gay man and an artist parallels our country’s defensive shift into a new era of military aggression abroad and paranoia at home… Never mind that only portions of that assessment have any basis in fact. Kyoung, like countless other immigrants and struggling artists, is in for a world of hurt when he charts a course for home, then dares to stray from the set path.” --Scott Stiffler, Chelsea Now
“Watching Kyoung Park’s TALA was a lesson in defamiliarization. An epic tale of the historical, hysterical, and personal, this multimedia play takes the audience on a psychological journey around the subject of alienation. It’s a story whose specific and almost esoteric details about a sweeping scope of topics strikes a chord of universal detachment and disorientation… The canvas used is a transgenerational meta-theatre blend of Park’s personal struggles with immigration after the September 11th terror attacks, the Chilean September 11th tragedy of the American-backed military coup that deposed President Salvador Allende, and somewhat mythical and comedic tale about two wayward in the wilderness before the 1973 coup that would murder thousands. The result is a stirring show that can be seen multiple times from different viewpoints… Park turns theatre’s artifice into something that is both ridiculous and transformative…” --Aurin Squire, New York Theater Review
"Trauma is confusing. Disorienting. Colored deeply with shame. Navigating memories of trauma, whether you are a nation or a person, is a messy thing, and honoring that messiness, witnessing it without falsely tucking the edges into tight little hospital corners, is part of the play’s ambition. The process of writing from trauma is the process of staring at a vast clusterfuck mess, wading in, and trying to put it in order one memory piece at a time. TALA has that—the feeling of raw struggle as its characters try to make sense of their shifting worlds, as well as palpable tension between that desire for order and the shame that tries to hold things under the surface."--Jiehae Park, Culturebot
“Kyoung H. Park’s Tala is an ambitious patchwork of autobiography and history, poetry and dance, humor and melancholy… Park, who also directs, tells their story with symbolism, toy props, video projections, incendiary and finely executed choreography by Yin Yue, and the poetry of Chilean Nobel Prize winners Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral… Simple but surprising effects – the sound of splashing water as the characters walk along the shore, a clear plastic box turned into a water torture device – catch the eye and ear and mind… “ --Jon Sobel, Blogcritics
“Enthralling…comically metatheatrical. The three actors are all compelling performers. Isaac is particularly enthralling, with a mischievous quality that helps to sell some of the more comic moments in the script. He adopts a Southern drawl when speaking as Matt, Kyoung’s ex-boyfriend (Benoit performs as Kyoung during these scenes). And there’s a poignancy to the couple’s breakup that brings a welcome complexity to their relationship dynamic.” --Dan Bacalzo, Dan Bacalzo’s Asian American Performance Site
World Premiere: The Performance Project @ University Settlement, January 8th-23rd, 2015.
Workshop Production: Pacific Beat Collective @ HERE Arts Center, Summer Sublet Series. Jul. 28-31, 2012.
Workshop Production: Pacific Beat Collective @ ToRoNaDa Theater, Columbia University New Works Now 2012 Festival. Apr. 8-10, 2012.
Developmental Workshop: Pacific Beat Collective @ ToRoNaDa Theater. Dec. 19, 2011
Developmental Reading: Lark Play Development Center. Nov 8, 2011
Public Reading: Ma-Yi Theatre Summer LABFest. July 9, 2011
TALA was written under the mentorship of Lee Breuer with support of an Artist grant from the Vermont Studio Center. It was later developed at the Ma-Yi Theater Company and Lark Play Development Center, and workshopped at HERE Arts Center and Columbia University’s New Plays Now 2012 at the ToRoNaDa Theater (all New York City). The workshop production of TALA was produced by Amanda Crater with dramaturgy by Keren Toledano. The World Premiere of TALA was presented at the Performance Project at University Settlement (New York City) as an Artist-in-Residence project with support from a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant.
Read more about TALA in New York Theater Review and Theater in the Now. Learn more about our Immigration History Timeline, featured in TALA’s production and our Time Out NY Critic’s Pick. Follow us on Tumblr for TALA's Scrapbook.
Production Stills by Talya Chalef and Andy Yao