This essay will explore the representative Korean American playwrights and their plays. The rise of Korean American playwrights is closely related with the rise of Asian American theatres. East West Players is the first Asian American theatre started ...
This essay will explore the representative Korean American playwrights and their plays. The rise of Korean American playwrights is closely related with the rise of Asian American theatres. East West Players is the first Asian American theatre started in the 1960s. After this group, other groups were founded such as Asian American Theatre Company in San Francisco, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre in New York, and Northwest Asian American Theatre in Seattle. All these groups aim to promote Asian American plays and to produce them. Nowadays more Asian American companies such as Lodestone Theatre Ensemble based on Korean in L.A area, Ma-Yi Theatre based on Filipinos in New York, Silk Road Theatre Project in Chicago, Mu Performing Arts in Minneapolis, Asian American Repertory Theatre in San Diego, and Second Generation in New York are working for Asian American theatre.
Soon-Taek Oh joined the East West Players as one of founders. He regarded himself as an actor, but he also wrote plays in English. When the East West Players received funds from the Ford foundation, he suggested a Playwriting Contest every year and won the first prize with the play titled Tondemonai-Never Happen in 1970. Many Asian American playwrights such as Frank Chin and Edward Sakamoto came to be known through this contest. In 1979, Soon-Taek Oh organized the first Korean American theatre group called Korean American Theater Ensemble and produced the bilingual (Korean and English) play of Have you Heard. Indeed, he was the first generation of Korean American playwrights.
The representatives of the 2nd generation playwrights are Sung Rno, Diana Son, Philip Chung, and Julia Cho. Sung Rno is probably the first playwright widely known to Asian and American main stream theatre. Debuted with Cleveland Raining in 1994, he continues to write many plays such as Gravity Falls From Trees, wAve, and Yi Sang Counts to Thirteen. All his plays are related to and reflect Korean culture. Diana Son’s plays speak for the women of color. Her representative plays are R.A.W. ('Cause I'm a Woman), Boy, Stop Kiss, and Satellites. All her plays convey minority women’s social protest and reveal their perspectives, though there is some reflection of Korean culture. For example, in Stop Kiss, the prejudice toward Lesbian is well portrayed. Philip Chung tends to be more Korean ethnic playwright than any other playwrights. He also represents the west coast and produces most of his play though Lodestone Theatre Ensemble, the only Korean American theatre group today. The plays such as Yellow Face, Home is where the Han is, Asiatik Nation heavily reflect the ethnic history and its problems. However, Chung also writes plays that are not ethnic based. Julia Cho, the youngest among the four, writes plays about Korean Americans mingled into the American society. Her representative plays are 99 Histories, B.F.E., The Architecture of Loss, and Durango. She is a talented narrator and freely interweaves memories and facts regardless of the chronological time structure of her plots. In B.F.E., the Weissberger Award play of 2004, she portrays the Korean Americans who are outside of American norm of beauty and protests against it.
In addition to these playwrights, Iloyd Suh of the 2nd generation group and Edward Bok Lee in Minneapolis are fairly well known, and Jean Yoon, Kimber Lee, Kyong Park are newly emerging to recognition. In addition, Nic Cha Kim and Young Jean Lee are noteworthy for their new trends of plays. Nic Cha Kim portrays the universalities of everyday lives rather than emphasizing the characteristics of Korean American lives, while Young Jean Lee extends the theatrical experiments with exaggerations and satires.
All these Korean American playwrights are the diaspora of Korean, and their plays are parts of the globalization of Korean theatre. Exploring their plays would enrich Korean theatre and contribute to true globalization.