Saturday, May 11, 2013

I Interview Playwrights Part 580: Kimber Lee



Kimber Lee

Hometowns: Pyungtaek, South Korea; Nampa, Idaho; Seattle, Washington

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Playwriting: Getting ready for the Lark Playwrights Workshop reading of my play brownsville song (b-side for tray), working on new pages for another new play that I'll take into our last Playwrights Workshop meeting this coming Monday, and doing some prep for upcoming workshops of the Brownsville play this summer at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference and Bay Area Playwrights Festival.

Boxing: Trying to re-tool my jab and right cross. Learning to fight in the pocket and go to the body. Footwork.

Other: Catering gigs, when I can get them. Ongoing assessment of my internet habits - addiction or useful engine of engagement?

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  Jeez, I dunno. I was a weird kid, but I guess I am learning that a lot of people feel/have felt that way; maybe they just figure out how to hide it better than I did. Was I weirder than the average kid? Who can say. I do know that I was the only Asian American kid in my neighborhood, at my school, in my parents' church - in the whole town, basically. I guess that'll do something to ya, to be the only one of something, and I wonder how much of my ability to absorb an environment is a direct result of being the only Asian person in a small Idaho town. Actually, this is a lie. There were occasionally other Asians. There was a Japanese exchange student in my high school for our junior and senior years. But for the most part, walking into any situation, I was the only one. And I kept thinking I could blend in by feathering my hair and wearing blue eyeshadow and watching Hee-Haw. Live and learn - Hee-Haw is not the key to racial integration. I know this now.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I wish we had multilateral (multi-operational?) channels of access, rather than the fairly vertical paths we all currently traverse - for both theatre-makers and audience members. For theatre-makers, I wish the "system" could recognize and embrace a much broader recognition of what theatre can be. For audience members, I wish ticket cost was not prohibitive, and also that there were artistic community-organizers who could lead meaningful cross-community engagement in the work - not just by inviting the "Asian audience" to the one "Asian play" in the season, but by creating an ongoing relationship across an entire season of plays. I wish theatre could stop insisting on silos of "identity" in the way they select, produce, and package work for marketing, and instead engage in the complications and contradictions that exist in everyone's experience.

Have I said too much? This is more than one thing. So. If one thing? That fear would cease to be a significant motivator for any artist, administrator, or audience member.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Anyone who has been knocked flatsplat and then gets back up and keeps going.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  You know, I don't have a genre or form or type. Anything with guts. Moments that hold me in the palm of their sweaty hand, tickle me, then punch me in the face. Bravery. Fuck-expectations-this-is-who-I-am writing. Willingness to risk being thought of as uncool. Ambition riding hell-for-leather toward the edge of current ability.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Aigooahhh...I am just starting out myself. And I find that my writing time consists largely of me telling myself "It's okay. You can do this. Go ahead. Okay, maybe eat some boneless pork and jujubes first, then go ahead." And then I flail around. One bit of sanity I could offer is a quote from Melissa James Gibson, "Be kind to your impulses." That has helped me immeasurably, cuz I don't know about you, but for some reason, my tendency is to jump all over my impulses and bludgeon them to death with rancid dead fish thoughts like "YOU CAN'T WRITE THAT IT'S STUPID AND EVERYONE WILL KNOW THAT YOU ARE A MORON IN PLAYWRIGHT'S CLOTHING." Not helpful.

Being kind to impulses doesn't have to mean you end up using all of them, but the practice of kindness can make a sort of slip-n'-slide from your soul to your typing fingers, and once the flow is going, that's the sweet spot. You can sort it out later.

Q: Plugs, please:

A:  My pal, the great Chisa Hutchinson has a play at the Wild Project May 4-18th, 2013 called ALONDRA WAS HERE - get there if you can! I am going tomorrow and I am so excited! Go here for tickets: http://www.thewildproject.com/performances/index.shtml

The other Lark Playwrights Workshop Fellows have readings coming up too:
PING PONG by Rogelio Martinez
DEAD AND BREATHING by Chisa Hutchinson
SKELETON CREW by Dominique Morisseau
All free but ya gotta reserve a spot there's a link on this page: http://www.larktheatre.org/playwrights-workshop-2013/

brownsville song (b-side for tray)
@ Lark Play Development Center Playwrights Workshop reading on Tuesday May 14th 7:30pm
@ Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, June 2013 - if you're in Idaho (heh), check out the free reading
@ Bay Area Playwrights Festival, July 2013 - if you're in the Bay area, the BAPF website has info about reading time/dates.
 
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