Kyoung H. Park (NYC) rigorously explores sources of violence and engages with local communities to develop an empathetic understanding of underrepresented perspectives. His intimate two-character drama PILLOWTALK examines the evolving values of gay marriage in the time of #BlackLivesMatter.
BAC Space Resident Artist
Kyoung H. Park was born in Santiago, Chile and is the first Korean playwright from Latin America to be produced and published in the United States. He is author of Sex and Hunger, disOriented, Walkabout Yeolha, Tala, Pillowtalk, and many short plays including Mina, which is published in Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas by Duke University Press.
For over a decade, Park has worked internationally in Brazil, Chile, England, India, and South Korea in search of contemporary theatrical models that integrate his passion for peace studies and playwriting. Park writes and directs his own work as Artistic Director of Kyoung’s Pacific Beat, a peacemaking theater company.
Park is currently a 2016-2017 Field Leadership Fund Fellow and recipient of an Edward Albee Playwriting Fellowship, Theater of the Oppressed International Exchange Fellowship, Target Margin Theater’s Institute for Collaborative Theater-Making Fellowship, grants from the Arvon Foundation, GK Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, TCG Global Connections Grant, Princess Grace Foundation Special Projects grant, and was named a 2010 UNESCO-Aschberg Laureate.
Park is co-founder of The Sol Project, serves volunteer positions in The Dramatist Guild’s Devised Theater Committee, Performance Project @ University Settlement Advisory Board, Indie Theater Fund, and he is a proud member of the Ma-Yi Theater Writer's Lab, Soho Theatre's Writer's Hub (London), New York Theater Workshop Usual Suspect, and is alum of EST Youngblood. Park lives in Brooklyn with his husband, while continuing his self-education in Buddhism, following his refuge vows with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. MFA: Playwriting (Columbia University, Dean's Fellow.)
BAC Story by Diep Tran
June 8, 2017
Kyoung H. Park had some new costumes for his actors: bright neon green tights, which he hands to actors Daniel K. Isaac and Raja Feather Kelly, both dressed in pajamas. “Why are we going now from pajamas to tights?” asked Isaac. Park paused before shrugging, “I don’t know yet.” It’s a rainy Tuesday and the three are developing a new work, PILLOWTALK, at the studio at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, as part of a three-week residency.
Pajamas to tights...it’s part of a larger question that the team is grappling with during this residency: how to best integrate the realism of the bedroom drama, with the surrealism of the dance sequences. “This process informed how we should actually choreograph the show when we premiere,” Park told me later, at the end of the residency.
Pillowtalk is a play for two men, about an interracial gay couple, navigating the ups and downs of marriage. It was inspired by Park’s own marriage, and the fight for marriage equality. During that time, Park was “really wondering what marriage meant and what would happen to the queer movement after the legalization of gay marriage.” And crucially, what do such institutions mean to queer communities of color, whose struggles go beyond that? Those musings became PILLOWTALK, what Park calls a “gay bedroom drama,” though the piece isn’t completely naturalistic; it also incorporates dance sequences modeled on a traditional pas de deux.
Like marriage, the pas de deux is a form that is traditionally between a man and a woman. In turning that form into a dance for two men, PILLOWTALK is also making a commentary on modern marriage itself. “Marriage has changed; what is that change and how can we theatricalize that?” Park explained.
For the PILLOWTALK team, the BAC Residency has been a time to learn the rules of a pas de deux, and then break it. “The male and female dancer tropes are so codified,” said Park. “The female version is always very helpless and always looking graceful...and male dancers always have to combat this idea that male dancers are gay or feminine, by doing various athletic, powerful movement.” So, having two men do a pas de deux becomes a way to “play around with those gender norms and gender roles,” he explained. “When you've got two men, and asking men to butch it up or femme it up or be more dommy or be more subby, it's kind of playful if we're intentional about.”
By the end of the BAC residency, the PILLOWTALK team created two different pas de deux: “one of it was adhering to the classical and iconic balletic movements,” recalled Park, “and then a second version that was a little more pedestrian and gestural, sort of anchored more into a body vernacular of the ordinary person.” Both were presented to an invited audience on the last day of the residency. Afterwards, the consensus was that the second version was more powerful (one person even said the traditional version made them “cringe”). This was bolstering for Park, who is currently doing one-more rewrite of PILLOWTALK before the piece world premieres in January.
“Classical ballet is kind of an oppressive sort of cultural paradigm, why would you want to replicate it if you are anti-oppression?” he posited. “So, I think that was one of those things where it was like, ‘okay we need to learn it to know what it is and then we need to undo it.’ It was twice the work, but it’s important work.”
Diep Tran is currently the associate editor of American Theatre magazine. She has a monthly column with the magazine focused on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. She is also the founder and producer of American Theatre’s biweekly Offscript podcast. In 2014, Diep led the creation and launch of AmericanTheatre.org, the first official website for the magazine. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Playbill, Time Out New York, TDF Stages, Backstage, and Salon, among other publications. Her Twitter handle is @DiepThought.