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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Sep 2, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 980: Celine Song

Celine Song

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea (ages 0~11) & Markham, Ontario, Canada (ages 12~22)

Current Town: New York City

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Endlings, a play about elderly female divers called "haenyeos" (해녀) in the Southernmost islands of Korea. A couple other projects too, none of which are ready to be talked about yet, but I am trying to write bigger and more spectacular things.

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

A:  When I was in kindergarten, everybody wanted to know where babies came from. I started reading a little earlier than my classmates, so I learned in a children's science book the words "sperm" and "ovum". I figured out the secret, so I told my classmates all about it -- that sperm is in a man, and ovum is in a woman, and they come together to become a baby. My friends had a follow-up question: How does the sperm and the ovum come together? Instead of admitting that I didn't really know, I told them, if a man and a woman sleep next to each other, the sperm swims out of the man and swims across the bedsheets to find the woman and her ovum. So when the kindergarten nap time came, my classmates didn't want to sleep next to a member of the opposite sex, which caused a commotion in the class and I got into a little bit of trouble. My mom thought it was so funny, so she asked me to educate all our neighbors on how babies are made.

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

A:  I would be produced all the time. And I would love every play I see.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A:  Bertolt Brecht for his clarity, Caryl Churchill for her discipline, María Irene Fornés for her language, Eugene Ionesco for his lightness, Edward Albee for his love of human beings, Wallace Shawn for his militant sense of purpose, and Chuck Mee for his joie de vivre. I will go see anything Sam Gold and Ivo Van Hove direct. I also think right now, all across America, theatre administrators/artistic directors/literary managers are being asked to be heroic. They are theatrical bettors, and it's really inspiring to watch those who bet big.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  Theatre that is more committed to accurately describing a human experience than to creating something that will look good on a brochure. Theatre that both takes care of you and lets you sit alone in the rain. Theatre that giveth and taketh away. Theatre that both fosters understanding and asks you to take sides. Theatre that is honest about how difficult it is to live. Theatre about love, rather than dating. Theatre about war and violence. Theatre about the future.

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

A:  Quit, if you can. Reconsider. Reconsider again. It's not too late.

If you still want to become a playwright, remember: You are entering into an occupation with very few rewards besides spiritual ones. You have to accept that, or you will be miserable. If you CAN accept that, the spiritual rewards will be plenty.

The world doesn't owe you anything for doing this, but you owe the world your whole life every time you sit down to write. You are just a bum until you unhinge someone's soul -- and once you do, you have served your purpose in life, and you can die knowing that you've really spoken to another human being.

Be good to your family, smile at the rich people, and be honest with the arts administrators. Be kind to other playwrights, even the ones whose work you don't like. Buy your director a drink often. Hug your designers.

Also, when you have an interview or a meeting or a rehearsal: Show up on time. Pay attention. Speak from the heart. Don't have expectations.

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