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‘Wild Goose Dreams’ Is About Making Connections
Play makes world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse
Friday, September 15, 2017
South Korean playwright Hansol Jung entered the theater world by way of translating Broadway musicals into Korean. As you might expect that provided a skewed lens on the western world.
"That’s what I thought America was like, 'My Fair Lady,' 'Oklahoma,' 'Cabaret,'" Jung said. "Plus, I spent my sophomore year at NYU as an exchange student seeing Broadway plays, and I thought this is America. And then I translated like 30 of them."
Doing that taught her a theatrical language and how to recognize the different beats of American and Korean theater.
"Because I’ve done the work of analyzing what each moment is so I can translate it culturally for Korea. So I am in this weird in-between place, which is where this play takes place," Jung said.
The play she is referring to is "Wild Goose Dreams."
"It’s like a weird hybrid. It feels like an American aspiration story and almost a rom-com but set with the cultural values of Korea. So I feel really weird and personal and close to this play in a way that I haven’t with other plays I've written."
The play is set in Seoul and looks to a North Korean defector (Yunjin Kim) who has left her family behind and a lonely South Korean father (James Kyson) who has sent his family to America for a better life.
"Wild Goose Dreams" is having its world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse but it began with a provocation from The Royal Court to write a play set in Korea.
"I’m from Korea," Jung said. "So being here was a bit alienating. I was aware that I was a Korean in America. I think writing about home, which I have never done before sort of brought on that thinking about those feelings of being alone in a community that you live in but you’re not really are from."
Each character feels alone and displaced, but they end up starting an unlikely romance online.
Leigh Silverman directs the play and has worked with Jung before.
"She understands deeply the thing that we are all striving for, which is connection and better understanding of ourselves," Silverman said of Jung.
The Internet is like a character in the play and rather than making it a cold impersonal thing, Silverman has actors scattered around the stage to breathe life into online conversations. Within this digital realm, the two characters find a space to meet and connect.
"I think that this story of longing and loss and missing your family and wanting to feel at home in both yourself and your country is something that we can all identify with," Silverman said. "That sense of dislocation that her characters feel, while they are Korean, could also be American, and I think that is the gift of really great writing that the more specific it is to a different culture, the more you feel it in your own culture and your own heart."
At one point the Internet buzzes with breaking news about a missile launched by North Korea.
"The topic is about North Korea because I play a North Korean defector," Kim stated. "But we’re talking about two people lost in a world and trying to find a place. We’re talking about two people who do backflips trying to connect, to try to fall in love. Trying to figure, find a little tiny home for themselves."
Jung began writing the play years ago, but its themes about displaced people feel particularly resonant in today’s political climate.
"I would like there to be complicated feelings," Jung said. "And an invitation to look into the same struggle they are having in their lives in terms of identifying people that you will fight for, that you have taken for granted and also in the large political scheme that you will look around at outsiders versus insiders and try to find a commonness within each other."
Kim agrees: "It’s something that we see on the news everyday, refugees risking their lives trying to find a different home, a home where they don’t have to wake up to find the next day their loved ones killed. They are just trying to build a safe home and that is all they want at the end of the day."
"Wild Goose Dreams" takes flight at La Jolla Playhouse with the hope that it can connect with audiences in a meaningful way.
"Wild Goose Dreams" had its world premiere earlier this month at the La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Forum. The play looks to a pair of displaced people looking to make connections.
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